Offering a rootsier take on the Native Tongues aesthetic, Atlanta's Arrested Development made waves in the early 1990s with its Afrocentric, musically diverse approach to hip-hop. With group leader Speech front and center, the collective's debut album, 3 YEARS, 5 MONTHS & 2 DAYS IN THE LIFE OF..., generated several hits and won two Grammys. The band continued to release albums into the 2000s, but the popularity of gangsta rap, the very antithesis of AD's sound, kept them out of the charts.
With their feel-good humanism, uniquely rural perspective, and melodic blend of funk and rap, Arrested Development seemed like the next big thing in 1992. The group hailed from Atlanta, which was not then a capital of hip-hop and R&B, and this, their debut recording, won the Village Voice''s Pazz & Jop critics poll. Speech, the primary lyricist, wrote and delivered eloquent attacks on gangsta rap''s mindless nihilism: the band''s first hit, "Tennessee," spoke of reclaiming Southern black traditions from the racism that sullied their memory, while their second, "People Everyday," deftly updated the Sly Stone classic. Although Speech''s rapping style was not distinctive, Dionne Farris''s keening vocals highlighted the band''s front line. Unfortunately, Speech began to run short of ideas and the band failed to maintain the high standards that this debut set. They disbanded a few years later. --Martin Johnson
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