published Friday, September 14th, 2012

Arrested Development bring's message-driven rhymes to Track 29


What: Arrested Development 20th anniversary tour featuring F. Stokes.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

Admission: $15 in advance, $17 at the door.

Phone: 521-2929.


Walking through a world where suffering, economic disparity and other troubles are almost unavoidable is difficult for Todd Thomas.

Thomas, also known as the rapper Speech, said he finds it next to impossible to confront an evil without addressing it in a song.

"It's almost like I can't not do a song about it, and then I know it's a song because I can't ignore it," said Thomas, who co-founded the legendary Atlanta progressive-rap group Arrested Development. "That's a gift and a curse."

"To some extent, as an artist, I would love to write just a happy love song sometimes ... but it doesn't move me to my core to do that."

Thomas said moving both himself and fans around the world has been at the core of Arrested Development's mission since he and his friend Timothy Barnwell (aka DJ Headliner) founded the group in the late-'80s.

First album "3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of ..." earned the band early acclaim. The album yielded five singles that remain among the group's best-loved songs, including "Tennessee," "Mr. Wendal" and "People Everyday," a new take on the Sly & The Family Stone song "Everyday People."

Thursday, Arrested Development will play Track 29 as part of a 20th anniversary tour, which will include shows drawing on the first album with a handful of selections from the rest of the band's catalog (the show was postponed from Sept. 6).

In the two decades since the release of "3 Years," the Atlanta group has earned numerous accolades, including an NAACP Image Award, two Grammys, including Best New Artist, and were named Rolling Stone's Band of the Year in 1993.

Like alternative-rap artists such as Public Enemy, Jungle Brothers and De La Soul, Arrested Development used rap as a vehicle for socially and politically conscious messages melded with elements of funk, jazz and reggae music.

Despite appreciating the accolades Arrested Development has received, Thomas said the true measure of the band's success isn't in awards but in serving to sway opinions and point out injustices.

"When you get into a realistic sense, you know that if you're able to affect just some people's lives, that still changes the balance. That's encouraging," he said. "I feel the world is a better place because Arrested Development was here."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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