A proud, black, socio-political consciousness wrapped around a cat-footed, organically funky groove-thang, Arrested Development were an immediate critical and commercial success. Along with De La Soul, P.M. Dawn and several other acts, Arrested Development represented a far more musical approach to hard-core rap--the ramifications of which continue to resonate across the pop charts. Solo star Dionne Farris began her career here, too.
Led by Speech (born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee on October 25, 1968), the male-female, multi-generational quintet--Baba Oje, age 60, was the group's "spiritual adviser"--came together in Atlanta. The title of their 1992 debut (3 Years, 5 Months, And 2 Days In The Life Of) refers to the length of time it took 'em to get a record deal. Spurred by the slice-of-life-down-South "Tennessee" and the anti-hooliganism of "People Everyday" (which incorporates Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People" to help make its point), the album--with samples stretching from Earth, Wind & Fire, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells to Minnie Riperton and Bob Dylan--was a solid smash. While the 1993 Unplugged album was essentially a live reprise of the debut, Arrested Development's contribution to the Malcolm X film soundtrack ("Revolution," built on an African chant) was an outstanding effort.
In 1994, Arrested Development returned with Zingalamaduni (Swahili for "beehive of culture"). They now numbered eight or nine, and the samples came from Al Green, Joe Zawinul, Isaac Hayes and George Clinton. No hits--Speech was too-wordy and self-conscious this time out--but the richer, more complex grooves marked an expanding musical vocabulary. Dionne Farris, who'd sung backup vocals on the first LP, scored a 1995 solo hit with the slide-guitar driven "I Know." The following year, Speech released a self-titled solo album.