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Arrested Development

Arrested Development

Arrested Development are a progressive rap collective whose positive-minded hip-hop incorporates blues, soul, funk, and other forms traced back to Africa. One of the major breakout success stories of the early '90s, their debut album, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... (1992), featured three straight Top Ten pop hits starting with "Tennessee," and was a critical and commercial smash with top placements in polls, a pair of Grammys, and platinum certifications as further evidence. Although they split only a few years later, Arrested Development were reactivated in 2000, and remain led by founding member, lead voice, and producer Speech, with additional albums such as Among the Trees (2004), This Was Never Home (2016), and For the FKN Love (2021) issued on Speech's Vagabond Productions label.

The group started in 1988, founded in Atlanta by rapper Speech and DJ Headliner, who decided to pursue a positive, Afrocentric viewpoint after hearing Public Enemy. Spiritual elder Baba Oje, dancer/vocalist Montsho Eshe, drummer/vocalist Rasa Don, and vocalist/stylist Aerle Taree all joined in 1990, and two years later, vocalist Dionne Farris was in the lineup for a brief stint that primed her for a solo breakthrough (achieved in 1994). Arrested Development's 1992 debut album was titled after the length of time it took the group to secure a record contract. 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of..., issued on major-label Chrysalis, produced the Top Ten pop hits "Tennessee," "People Everyday," and "Mr. Wendal," and scaled the Billboard 200 to number seven. Moreover, fan Spike Lee enlisted the group to record a song for the Malcolm X soundtrack. Further accolades poured in. Arrested Development won Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance, and were also named Rolling Stone's Band of the Year. By the end of 1992, their first album went platinum. (Quadruple-platinum status was reached a few years later.) An appearance on MTV Unplugged was documented with Unplugged, a 1993 release that bowed at number 60 on the Billboard 200 and went gold. The group's second proper album, Zingalamaduni, arrived in 1994 and hit number 55, aided by "Ease My Mind," which narrowly missed the Top 40.

Contrary to Speech's earlier assertion that the group would be around for ten or 12 years, Arrested Development broke up in 1996, the year the MC released his self-titled debut solo album. However, the group reconvened in 2000. Speech has continued to cut solo LPs, but he has been far busier with Arrested Development. They returned with Da Feelin', an EP issued on a subsidiary of EMI Japan, and during the rest of the decade, the length of the group's discography doubled -- and then some -- with The Heroes of the Harvest, Among the Trees, and Since the Last Time accounting for merely the studio work (supplemented with a crop of live recordings). Beginning with Strong and concluding with 2018's Craft & Optics, released shortly after Baba Oje died of leukemia, Arrested Development were even more prolific in the 2010s. They were equally active as they approached their 35th anniversary with Don't Fight Your Demons and For the FKN Love issued respectively in 2021 and 2022. ~ Andy Kellman & Steve Huey

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