Arrested DevelopmentWith two decades of quality hip-hop under their belt, Arrested Development is more than ready to jump onto the current scene to once again get people feeling good about hip-hop music and its culture. But the funny thing is that they never really left, flying under the radar for a bit in the States, but hitting the rest of the world harder than ever.

The eclectic hip-hop group, who were huge in the early-’90s for their up-beat, soulful and conscious alternative to gangsta rap that dominated the era, is excited to pick up where they left off with their latest release Strong. With such memorable hits like “Tennessee,” “People Everyday” and “Mr. Wendal,” Arrested Development isn’t trying to recreate their past success, but help move music and hip-hop culture forward to a place where people can once again find quality music with meaning.

Although Arrested Development consists of eight unique members, we were able to get the scoop on their latest happenings from the group’s main dancer, choreographer and vocalist Eshe, as well as vocalist One Love. How have you seen hip-hop music and culture change since you guys first emerged onto the scene?

Eshe: Oh, wow. I mean a lot has changed. There’s the Internet, ringtones — everything is so different from when we first came out. Back in the ’90s there was a lot of variety in terms of artists and, to me now, there’s not much balance as to what’s out there on the radio and what’s considered mainstream. You have a lot of great artists today. However, you just don’t see them a lot on a mainstream level. The game is changing every month it seems like. It’s just crazy trying to keep up.

Of course, the style of music and what people are talking about are going to change no matter what. I just wish we had more balance in the music today. I really, really miss that. I miss turning on the radio and hearing so many different artists instead of always hearing the same songs over and over again. Where do you guys stand amidst what’s currently out there?

Eshe: I think Arrested Development was always kind of different from what was out there, and we stood on our own in terms of our music. Not in the sense of saying that we’re better, just different overall since we are a band and you have a gumble of music. We have funk, soul, hip-hop and R&B, rock and reggae. Then we all these different sounds, you then have different elements like female, man, young and old — all these different energies and aspects form the group, you know? We’ve always had our own style and own lane, but if it weren’t for groups like De La Soul, Public Enemy, Tribe and all those other peoples that came before us, there wouldn’t be Arrested Development, so I’m grateful for those people, as well. What do you think current hip-hop artists have to do to start creating quality music with meaning again?

Eshe: You know, I think that what’s in you is going to come out and, to me of course, you have artists that sing songs about experiences they’ve never had. But the one thing about hip-hop is that it’s so real. What you hear with music, that’s from the artist’s life, what they lived. It was about stories, and I really believe that what is in you is going to come out, so it all depends on the person and where they are at in their life. Life changes all the time. They actually might think that they’re at a place where people will find meaning in their music or the type of music they are putting out. I think it’s really about your mindset and where you are as an artist.

A lot of people say they’re in it for the money then you have others that say they’re doing it for the long haul and really want to make a difference. Then some people say they are just doing it to get their foot in the door and then once they do, they go and change their music it up. How have you evolved as a group over the years would you say?

Eshe: Oh my goodness! Well, one, I was, like, 16 when I first joined the group, now I’m 35 (laughs). We’ve all matured and grown as people. Folks got married, had babies; we’re parents now and have experienced life and just changed. I know for me, a lot has changed over the years and you hear it in the music. We grown folks now; we were young bucks back then. When you started to come up with the concept or tracks for Strong, what themes did you guys want to make sure your music touched upon?

Eshe: Well, you know, it was just like we went into the studio and just started vibing. We didn’t have specific themes that we wanted to do songs on. We all just got in a room and were vibing and feeding ideas off each other. And that’s how the songs came about. We truly built them from scratch.

One Love: It was an awesome recording experience. It was one of the first times we all started recording as the new Arrested Development. I was loving it. We all had a chance to write together. Out of all your tracks on Strong, which one is your most favorite and why?

Eshe: For me, I like “Greener.” “Too Much Woman For Ya” is a funny song and when I think of that song, I see the video with real voluptuous women in it. I like “Bloody” for what it’s talking out, too. I love different ones for different reasons. I think we got a lot cool songs on this new album.

One Love: ‘Greener’ is one of my favs, and “Granola Girl” for sure is another. Are you guys already planning out your next release?

Eshe: We’ll probably be going into the studio to record some more stuff soon, but right now we’re just really trying to get the word out for STRONG and telling people where to get the album.

A lot of people, too, don’t know that we’ve still been touring and recording and are really shocked to hear that we’re still around or are back. Fans tell us they didn’t know we have an album out or that we are still around, so we’ve been trying to get it out there that we never really left. We’ve been doing it since 2000 and if you go to our website, you can see everything we’ve been recording. We’ve also been releasing a lot of things overseas. As a group, your music hasn’t been as prominent in the States as it has been overseas in the past 10 years. Why do you think that’s so?

Eshe: As far as us going overseas, people been asking us and requesting us to go over. We’ve never been or traveled anywhere before, even in the ’90s. We never had to chance to go before and when you get asked to go, you just go. We found out that we have a whole other market overseas. Japan showed us a lot of love, and we released a lot of songs there. It’s funny because research was done earlier this year and we found out that America is actually trying to find out what we are doing the most with Asian countries next. We were like, ‘Wow, for real?’ That was really cool for us to find out.

A couple years back, we definitely shot through some labels and stuff that at the time were interested but nothing ever happened with them. We’ve been doing the whole independent thing and doing more things overseas since that’s where people wanted us. And, of course, we’re getting mad love for STRONG overseas so far. So what are you guys doing right now to get the word out more on Strong?

Eshe: We’re touring a lot, going to Europe, going to Australia, and traveling the states and more. We’re definitely doing stuff like TV shows in fall, so be on the look out for that.

One Love: We have three videos on YouTube, “Bloody”, “Greener” and “The World is Changing,” so we’re really promoting that, too. Does Arrested Development feel the pressure to conform your music to what’s considered ‘hot’ by industry standards?

Eshe: For me, I honestly don’t feel the pressure. Back in the ’90s, coming from what we did, we felt the pressure because we had back-to-back great albums, so we had to make sure to stay relevant to be on top. Honestly, we’ve been in the business so long that we’ve learned that we have to do what makes us happy and be true to ourselves. Of course you want to do music that’s going to touch people, but you first have to be true to yourself. If you do something that’s not you, it’s going come off as fake and people aren’t going to be able to connect with it. I think that’s what was and is so special about Arrested Development. It’s that that people always connected with our music and us since we all came from a real place that people could easily understand.

One Love: I think we also try to address that issue with our Strong album. We have songs that have messages like “Bloody,” but then we also have fun-loving songs like “La La La” and “Granola Girl” that I would consider to be like club cuts to give more of a balance to the album and show that we can do deliver messages within our songs while still bringing those fun-type songs. What would you say you’d like to achieve with your music over all, and what type of legacy would you like to have in both music and hip-hop history?

Eshe: Oh, man, for me I would say life changing. We did a show in Winnipeg, MB Canada and it was so beautiful. This lady came to talk to us and told me that her daughter struggled with an eating disorder and loved the fact that we were comfortable in our skin as beautiful black women. She made me cry. She was like, ‘I wish my daughter was here to see you guys.’ It blessed me, and I want our music to be life changing in a positive way. I’d like to think that we’d be remembered for making music that made people look at themselves and make a choice to be a positive change in their community, our world and the lives of others.

One Love: I totally agree. I’ve been in the group for 11 years now, and I remember when Arrested Development first came out. It was life changing for me when I first heard the group. They inspired me to learn where I came from and listen to more positive hip-hop music. It’s been an honor to be in the group and make music that is life changing. I love to see the reaction of people in the crowd when we perform certain songs. The legacy has already been laid, and I would love to see the evolution of it even more. What other projects do you guys have for 2010 early 2011?

Eshe: Well, we all kind of have our own side projects outside of Arrested Development. For me, I have a solo record coming out soon, am writing a book and I do choreography for other up- and-coming artists and work a lot in the Christian arena and with a lot of youth. I teach dance and am getting ready to start a dance company, so that’s important for me. I would love to do more acting and writing for other artists.

One Love: The biggest thing right now is promoting the STRONG album and getting videos out right now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re so hot overseas right now.