Arrested Development came on the scene in 1992 and made a huge impact with their debut album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… which sold over 4 million copies, produced a few major pop hits and earned the group a pair of Grammy (you can read my thoughts on that album here). With all of the accolades and commercial success that 3 Years garnered, the hard to impress and always suspicious hip-hop community didn’t fully embrace AD, as they were perceived as soft rap hippy weirdos, similar to how A Tribe Called Quest was received when they first hit the scene (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check!). Regardless of what the heads felt, 4 million units sold pretty much guaranteed Chrysalis Records would give them a follow-up. Arrested Development would return in 1994 with their sophomore effort, Zingalamaduni.
Zingalamaduni, which means “a beehive of culture” in Swahili, would follow the same format as 3 Years, with Speech producing, rapping and singing for the entire album while the rest of the team stood by and watched (j/k). Unlike it predecessor, Zingalamaduniwasn’t a commercial success, as it didn’t even reach gold status, and of course the heads weren’t checking for it.
I’ve never listened to Zingalamaduni in its entirety. Lets give her a few spins and see if the album is as bad as its sells reflected.
WMFW (We Must Fight & Win) FM – Zingalamaduni opens with Baba Oje (the old grey haired/bearded grandfather like gentleman in the group) playing the DJ for the fictitious FM radio station WMFW (see the acronym in the song title), which apparently only plays conscious music. This also doubles as a short intro to the album.
United Minds – Over African tribal drums and chant and emotional keyboard chords, Speech calls for all races to become like-minded so we can collectively make change in the world. He also sprinkles some jewels into his verses along the way (“I try to eat healthy to avoid the cancer, one ounce of prevention beats 100 pounds of cure, pure ways of living is not hippish, it’s not white, not black its just conscious, conscious of your health, conscious of your self, instead of being so damn conscious of your wealth”). Nice way to kick things off.
Ache’n For Acres – Speech speaks (no pun intended) on the importance of owing land which can be passed down from generation to generation, thus creating generational wealth. He raps: “ache’n for acres, plenty of acres, money spent on rent ain’t earning me a cent, Ain’t gettin’ no caddy, no Benz, no Jeep, until I got some money for some land to keep”. Speech and company’s uptempo backdrop has a twangy slightly drunken feel to it that actually works. This is a song I wouldn’t have appreciated in my teens, but definitely respect the message as a full-grown man.
United Front – This one pretty much follows the same theme as “United Front”, only with a more Afrocentric focus, as Speech ends each of his verses shouting out “the red, and the black, and the green”. I didn’t care for Speech’s singy delivery or the music backing him on this one.
Africa’s Inside Me – According to Wikipedia, this was the second single released from Zingalamaduni, although I don’t remember it from back in the day. Speech and company hook up a melodic mid-tempo backdrop that samples the same Joe Sample record (sample of Sample…funny) that would later be used as the musical foundation for 2pac’s classic record “Dear Mama”. Speech and Fulani from a group called Gumbo (and even though I’ve never heard of him or the group, Gumbo is an ill ass group name) take turns spittin’ verses about the African spirit that still lives inside of all of its descendants, no matter how much we African-Americans try to deny or suppress it. Good message, and a great song.
Pride – The African tribal singing and drums set the mood for this one, which continues the African pride theme from the previous song. The message was redundant and I didn’t care for Speech’s delivery of the message, either.
Shell – This song has a great message (“Just a shell, until you decide to rebel”), but Speech’s rhyming, the annoyingly repetitive hook and the underwhelming musical backing quickly bury it.
Mister Landlord – Speech sounds as militant as I’ve ever heard him on this one, as he warns the white man that he won’t standby and passively watch him mistreat black people: “Just to bring peace, do I have to get a piece? And in the break of dawn I guess I’ll pray to the east, Cause I’m not the one to get slapped on the cheek, without my fist curling up to hit you back in your teeth”. I like Speech’s unexpected strong stance, and he and his team’s folk meets hip-hop instrumental was dope.
Warm Sentiments – This song would have had all of feminist Twitter’s panties in a bunch and hanging Speech in a cyber lynching had it been released today. The story line is Speech’s lady decides to get an abortion without his blessing and he spends the entire song politely, reprimanding her for her actions. I personally like Speech’s male perspective on the sensitive topic, and the soulful instrumental is enjoyable as well. Let me know how ya’ll feel about the song in the comments.
The Drum – Short instrumental interlude that pays homage to the foundation of every song…well, at least 99 percent of them.
In The Sunshine – Over quality live instrumentation, Speech sings about a life free of corruption and strife. This kind of sounds like something Bob Marley would have written if he were still alive and recording music today, or in 1994 (Speech’s adlibs on this song actually sound a lot like Bob Marley’s). Not my favorite song on the album, but it’s decent.
Kneelin’ At My Altar – Over a sick uptempo instrumental (I absolutely love the horn loop laced throughout the song) Speech stresses the importance of prayer in order to keep his peace and get him through the challenges of every day life. This was a pretty dope record.
Fountain Of Youth – Speech’s rhymes are too abstract for my taste buds, but I like the big zany horn loop laced throughout the solid instrumental.
Ease My Mind – This was the lead single and the only song I was familiar with before going into this post. Over a beautifully melodic instrumental, Speech addresses the importance of taking time to maintain your inner peace while living in this crazy world. This was dope, and it sounds way better than in did back in ’94. Give it a few spins and let me know if you agree.
Praisin’ U – Speech and company close out Zingalamaduni with this gospel-like joint that has Speech singing praises to God over some pleasant instrumentation. Nice way to end the evening.
Zingalamaduni has a lot more African pride and black upliftment themes than its predecessor (even the Swahili album title is testament to that), which may have scared some of Arrested Development’s white supporters away. That and the fact it doesn’t have any undeniable bangers or big crossover pop hits are probably what caused the dismal album sells. But in my opinion, Zingalamaduni is a stronger project than 3 Years. Speech and company string together a batch of their own unique brand of instrumentals that Speech uses to enlighten the listener through meaty messages. A few of his messages get lost in poor delivery, overly abstract rhymes or mediocre production, but more often than not, he does a solid job behind the mic and the boards. Zingalamaduni is far from a classic, but it’s a solid album that’s aged well.