3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of Arrested Development
In the early 1990s, there were two basic revolutions in popular music. First off, you have the grunge movement, which pushed Glam Metal into the shadows. Secondly, and this is the more relevant of the two, Gangsta Rap would hit an all new peak in popularity. As you'll notice, both of these revolutions shared the same dogma; to eliminate the overly congested, and processed, hip-hop and hard rock/metal scenes with something fresh, something real. As 1991 was coming to an end, Gangsta Rap was about to hit an all new zenith. With the release of Dr. Dre
's debut album, The Chronic, on the horizon, it was safe to say that Gangsta Rap was here to stay. The album solidified Gangsta Rap's place in mainstream music, and undoubtedly forever changed popular music; it was raw, real, and straight to the point. Nobody was really aware of it, but a little known group by the name of Arrested Development was planning a revolution of their own, and, after 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days
of striving for a record deal, their avidity paid off and an album by that very title was released on March 24th, 1992.
What makes 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days
such an important album is that it was right at the forefront of alternative hip-hop. While many were intrigued by the idea behind hip-hop, the realistic story telling and poetic aspects, they were often turned off by the blatant machismo, gratuitously violent lyrics or excessive swearing, and, while that may be somewhat of a stereotype, that's just what Gangsta Rap was offering. Then you had groups come along in the late 80s and early 90s, groups such as De La Soul
, A Tribe Called Quest
and Arrested Development
, who all offered a unique take on the genre. Arrested Development were something unique, for many reasons. Straying from the typical and predictable 1 to 2 MCs and a DJ, Arrested Development was in the truest sense a group, comprised of one main MC (Speech, who also handled production), three additional vocalists (Sister Paulette, Dionne Farris and Terrance Cinque Mason), a guitarist (Brother Larry), and another Emcee who, at the time, was pushing 70 (Baba Oje). Aesthetically, Arrested Development was once again unconventional. The band's style was very ethereal, and the naturist ideals of their attitude and dress more often than not found its way into their music. While the band was heavily based in Christianity, their lyrics were not limited to religion; Mr. Wendal, the second hit single off the album, told the tale of a homeless man, and rather than attacking the situation of his vagrancy, the band chooses to address his freedom, and how he cherishes what he is given, while their smash hit Tennessee talks about reclaiming southern-black traditions, or, on a simpler level, going back to a simpler time.
The album's success is not limited to its ideologies; all the music found on this album is very, very strong, and while it may not seem as revolutionary now as it did upon its release, it still most definitely stands the test of time. Mama's Always on Stage
, the second track on the album, is an upbeat track with a strong blues feel. The track is carried along by a harmonica, and the varied vocals really set the song apart. The next track, People Everyday
, a reworking of a classic Sly and the Family Stone track, begins with strong reggae vibe to start with, and though that sort of disappears further in the track, the song maintains a steady down-tempo, all the while remaining upbeat, as confusing as that sounds. It's not to say the album is comprised entirely of uplifting tracks, either, as songs such as Raining Revolution
come off much darker, much moodier, while Dawn of the Dreads
is carried by a funky, yet almost haunting bassline. Tennessee
, which is undoubtedly the most known song off the album, finds itself smack dab in the middle. While much of the song is seemingly gloomy, there's always a glimmer of hope found within it. The song ends with Dionne Farris' cry for understanding, and while the subject matter is serious, you're instantly given the notion of something better to come, a solution of sorts.
While the Christianity may sometimes weigh a little strong, the album is lyrically inspirational, musically uplifting and thematically stirring. While some may argue the album did not have as much as an effect as say, something by A Tribe Called Quest
, this albums influence and quality is not up for debate. For being the anti-thesis to the burgeoning Gangsta scene, staying true to themselves and their beliefs and putting out an album so consistently awesome it's still regarded as a classic 14 years later, I feel giving this album anything less than a 5 would be criminal. While it could be argued that it's closer to a 4 or a 4.5 musically, when taken in context, the ideas and themes present on the album as well as its influence do their part in securing a perfect score. It would be criminal for any fans of hip-hop to go without hearing this.