On my slow ride back from Washington D.C., the Sirius radio station, Backspin, that specializes in hip-hop, devoted one long segment to the classic Arrested Development album, “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of…”
In the pantheon of hip-hop music, it is one of the more interesting album releases as well as one of the most daring. Speech, the leader of the group, explained each song on the album and the story behind the songs. It was the kind of program that is so lacking today for many artists.
The album is full of various extensions of the hip-hop ethos into folk, blues, rock, and literary excursions, but all the time, it is an album of great creative energy and artistry. Arrested Development’s leader, Speech carries the album but Dionne Farris, a lead singer on the album, is dymanite as well as are all other members of the groups.The album sold millions of copies and shot up every chart imaginable. The videos to the album received heavy rotation and even to this day, the songs from the album, hit songs such as “Tennessee,” “Everyday People,” and “Mr. Wendal,” continue to get airplay and I would like to imagine, continue to influence music.
Arrested Development came along at the end of my initial hip-hop experience. I was a avid listener of the music ever since the days when people would just play DJ tapes in D.C. I remember “King Tim III” by Fatback and “Rappers Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang. So by 1992, I was well into rap music.
But not long after Arrested Development’s first album blew up and they blew up, I stopped listening to much of what hip-hop was offering. I was tired of the sick tracks about violence and decadent behavior. There were, at least to me, not enough groups like Arrested Development or De La Soul or Tribe Called Quest or Gangstarr or Public Enemy and some others.
It seems no accident that Arrested Development’s subsequent releases never rose up the charts like “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of…” Perhaps the music is bad but hip-hop went in another direction anyway in the 1990’s; Arrested Development’s aesthetics were not suited for that era anyway.
For those who don’t know, the group continues to tour today and they are doing well. However, there will never be nothing like that first album for me when I think of them. When I heard the song, “Tennessee” for the first time I will never forget how enthralled I was at the chances taken by the group. This is why the Backspin feature on the album was so extra special