Friday, Dec. 12, 2008
With Barack Obama about to take charge across the Pacific, what better way to ring in 2009 than with what was once considered the most progressive Afrocentric American rap group?
Arrested Development's Top 40 hit "Tennessee," along with their long-gestating, Grammy-winning debut album, "3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of . . . ," characterized early 1990s hip-hop as definitively as the harder styles that came to dominate pop music. The Atlanta group's overt social conscience, broad musical tastes and spiritual lyrics would have made them commercial standouts in any pop era, but in the days of gangsta they were practically mutants, and their popularity helped brainier crews such as A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets reach a wider audience.
The group's breakup in 1996 remains something of a mystery, and all the more reason to appreciate the fact that their star remained pretty high in Japan during the subsequent decade leading up to their reunion. The solo joints of lead rapper Speech didn't go very far in the States, but he could always count on a warm reception here and toured the archipelago on a regular basis in the late '90s and early '00s. And when he officially reformed Arrested Development two years ago, the group's comeback album was released in Japan a full year before it was put out in the U.S.
Speech, in fact, is releasing a solo album on Avex in January. But it's an Arrested Development show, which means you'll also get "Tennessee," some Sly Stone-style funk, a bit of blues and a lot of soul.
Arrested Development play at Billboard Live Osaka on Dec. 26 (6:30 and 9:30 p.m.) and Dec. 27 (6 and 9 p.m.) (¥6,900-¥8,400;  6342-7722); Billboard Live Fukuoka on Dec. 28-29 (6:30 and 9:30 p.m.; ¥8,400;  715-6666); and Billboard Live Tokyo on Dec. 30 (7 and 9:30 p.m.; ¥6,500-¥8,500) and Dec. 31 (7 and 10:30 p.m.) (¥8,500-¥10,500;  3405-1133).