“Let’s talk about a revolution!” – I was too young to understand what exactly those words meant at the time, but I would sing along to Arrested Development’s song “Revolution” anyway while feeling a strong sense of empowerment, pride, and respect for my elders. The little solider in me was called into duty and her mission was to uplift, enlighten, and work for the common good of all human beings. That mission would follow me throughout the years, as would Arrested Development’s music. It was inspiring, funky, soulful, and cultural. It felt organic. It felt pure. Most importantly, it felt like home.
1992 was a great year for Hip-Hop. While Gangsta Rap was indeed on the rise, Atlanta, GA-based group Arrested Development offered an alternative antidote to the misogyny, violence, and materialism often heard in its music. They revolutionized Hip-Hop and became known for promoting freedom, empowerment, afro-centricity, feminism, and spiritual evolution. With melodic hooks and intelligent lyrics, Arrested Development made music that was always rich in content, packed with flavor, and built on the history and traditions of their ancestors.
Arrested Development formed as a group in 1988. Fronted by Todd “Speech” Thomas and co-founder Timothy “DJ Headliner” Barnwell, the group had several members that included dancer Eshe, stylist/vocalist Aerle Taree, percussionist Rasa Don and spiritual adviser Baba Oje who was 57 years old at the time. It took the group three years, five months and two days to be offered a record deal by Chrysalis/EMI Records, so they appropriately titled their debut album, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of.… to document the struggle.
3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of.… was released in 1992 and spawned several hit singles. “Tennessee,” the group’s wildly popular first single found Speech having an open conversation with God. The combination of socially conscious lyrics, soulful vocals, and spoken word made this song really stand out. The female vocalist on the track, Dionne Farris, would later go on to a successful solo album in 1994. The group’s second single, “People Everyday,” was a spin on Sly Stone anthem “Everyday People,” with new lyrics. However, Arrested Development’s biggest hit came with the release of their third single, “Mr. Wendal,” which told the story of a homeless man. The song was credited with bringing attention and awareness to the problem of homelessness in America. The group donated half of all the royalties from “Mr. Wendal” to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Later that year, they were approached by filmmaker Spike Lee to compose a song for his upcoming biopic based on the life of Malcolm X. They recorded the track, “Revolution” which became popular based on its edgy lyrics and association with the film. In 1993, Arrested Development recorded a MTV Unplugged album. In 1994, they released their second studio album, Zingalamaduni. While the album received praise from music critics, it was unfortunately subjected to the “sophomore curse” and didn’t match the success of their debut album. In 1996, the group broke up due to “creative differences” and Speech released a solo album that was met with little success.
Arrested Development reunited in 2000. Original members Headliner and Aerle Taree did not rejoin the group but new members JJ Boogie, Za, Tasha Larae and One Love were added. They continue to tour and release records through Speech’s Vagabond Productions and Speech Music label. Just this month, the group performed in the festival first night for the Sydney Festival in Sydney, Australia. Their music continues to be socially conscious, politically charged, and educational. Hailing from Richmond, VA, I can appreciate that they were one of the first groups to put the “dirty south” on the map. They made music for the people and gave back to the community. What else could you ask for from your favorite artists?
For more information on Arrested Development, please visit Arrested Development Music
Image Layout by Katrina
- The Music Link List – 1.12.2010
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Conscious Daughters
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S. – Zhané
- Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Parliament Funkadelic
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S. – Jodeci