One of the major success stories of 1992, Arrested Development are a progressive rap collective fusing soul, blues, hip-hop, and Sly & the Family Stone-influenced funk with political, socially conscious lyrics. The group was founded in the late ’80s by rapper Speech and DJ Headliner, who decided to make the transition to a more positive, Afrocentric viewpoint after hearing Public Enemy.
Arrested Development‘s debut album took its title from the amount of time it took the group to secure a record contract; 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of… produced the hit single ‘Tennessee’, a strongly spiritual track that hit the Top Ten and sparked the album to sell over four million copies. Its two follow-ups, ‘People Everyday’ (a rewrite of Sly‘s ‘Everyday People’) and ‘Mr. Wendal’ did likewise. Accolades poured in; Arrested Development won Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best New Artist, and was named Rolling Stone’s Band of the Year.
The group returned one year later with Zingalamaduni, which some reviews hailed as a major work, though overall response was more ambivalent. In 1996, contrary to Speech’s earlier assertion that the group would be around for ten or 12 years, Arrested Development officially broke up. Speech went solo, though his debut album failed to make an impact. In 2006, the band reunited and released Since the Last Time in Japan. A year later the album saw release in the U.S.
Words: Steve Huey