Hardwork Movement: Lyrics in Lineage

Philly’s Hardwork Movement to open for Arrested Development on Silver Anniversary Tour.


  The early 1990s are often touted as a “Golden Age” of hip-hop, a time when the crews that had formed the foundation of the genre came into their own. And while it’s known as a time where hip hop transcended from primarily New York and L.A. to a worldwide movement, it was, for the first time, being influenced by different styles and regions.

  Within a decade of its early ‘80s B-boy breakout, the industry had made hip-hop a gold chained caricature of itself. It was already time for an alternative. And that would come from Atlanta in the form of the world beats and life-affirming lyrics of Arrested Development. With Speech MC’ing, Headliner on the turntable and an array of vocalists and accompaniments, it was positive and Afrocentric. Their freshman release, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… was widely accepted across subcultures, embraced by varied audiences at the same time rock music was going through its own significant revolution.

  It brought a spirituality and consciousness that had been previously overshadowed by what the media dubbed the “gansta” sounds of the time. “Tennessee,” “People Everyday” and “Mr. Wendal” became house party favorites and did well on the charts. Arrested Development collected two Grammy’s, including Best New Artist. The record was widely acclaimed by music writers as they set off on the Lollapalooza tour in ’93.

  The follow up, Zingalamaduni, didn’t have the same fire, but Arrested Development had already reshaped hip-hop, the buds of what would become branches in all sonic directions.

  Arrested Development is celebrating the 25th Anniversary on the road and will start their tour at World Café Live in Philly on April 12 and then the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway on April 14.

  The Philly show will feature openers, Hardwork Movement, a nine-piece, live-band hip-hop outfit that has been getting a good bit of attention lately, with some significant parallels to what Arrested Development did back in the ‘90s. They’ve recently played with the likes of GZA, Talib Kweli, and graced the stages of SXSW and Firefly.

  The line-up consists of Sterling Duns who handles MC duties and guitar, Jeremy Keys with vocals and cello, RB Ricks as both MC and DJ, Rick Banks as MC as well as production, Marty Gottlieb-Hollis on trumpet and arrangement, Becca Graham handling additional trumpet, Dani Gershkoff on flute and vocals, Jeremy Prouty on bass, and Angel Ocana on drums.

  “Hardwork is looking to be the best Hardwork we can be. Our mission statement says it all, and that really guides us and helps to keep us focused on what we hope to accomplish,” says MC Sterling Duns. “Of course, there is wisdom we can glean from looking at other groups’ successes, other folks’ choices and intentions. But we are a group of individuals looking to be in true, deep community with each other, to use hip-hop, an art form rooted in liberation and connection, to speak our truth and make people feel and move and believe. We are hoping to live authentically and make music that inspires others to live authentically.”

  If ever there was a perfect band name, this is it, oft-maligned millennials, preaching work ethic and a positive message. And hip-hop with a full band can’t be touched.

  If you follow a musical lineage from Arrested Development, Hardwork Movement is right there.

  “AD was slightly before my time, but I remember listening to ‘People Everyday’ and ‘Tennessee’ on the radio with my parents,” says RB Ricks, “We really try and learn as much as we can about the past in order to help us make sense of the future. AD won two Grammys. That’s no small accomplishment.”

  Banks is the elder statement among the group’s MCs.

  “I’m probably a little closer to Arrested Development, and I remember ‘Tennessee’ really being a cool song. It was just very honest and open about another reality in a way that many songs that were popular at the time weren’t. It was definitely more relatable to me than most of what was on the radio. Later, I remember hearing Heroes of the Harvest and thinking, ‘Wow, that sounds a lot like Speech,’ and then being surprised that it was indeed AD. This Was Never Home didn’t get the shine it deserved, but I’m so excited to get this opportunity to show AD some love.”

  The Hardwork Movement recently released a clever video for “Living Legend” set at a ‘90s house party. In February, WXPN recorded HWM playing the station’s “Free at Noon Flashback,” at World Café Live, which is in University City.

  “I think something that I immediately recognized as a kid, hearing songs like ‘Mr. Wendal’ and ‘People Everyday,’ was that Arrested Development has their own style. They didn’t conform to what people assumed hip-hop was supposed to be, but instead used it as a tool to share their message. That’s a beautiful thing man, and shows the expansiveness of the genre. The ability to use such a powerful form of music to communicate with people and connect on another level. Arrested Development made that possible for hip-hop acts like us. The ability to create your own space in a world of same.”

  Banks puts it most succinctly.

            “From flow and feel to mantra and message, without Arrested Development, there’s no Hardwork Movement.”