Arrested Development: Positive Southern Hip-Hop

Arrested Development is an American hip-hop group from Atlanta formed in 1988. It was together from 1988 to 1996 and from 2000 to present day. Its mission was to keep the more positive and Afrocentric themes of hip-hop from being replaced by gangster rap. It was one of the first hip-hop groups from the south to reach critical success, and paved the way for later southern hip-hop acts. Arrested Development has released a large amount of albums, but the most notable come from its commercially successful stint in the ‘90s. These included “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in The Life Of…” (1992), “Zingalamaduni” (1994) and “Heroes of the Harvest” (2002). With a mix of catchy rapping ability, and a significant presence of soulful singing, Arrested Development provides an interesting southern-oriented sound.

Arrested Development’s first album “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in The Life Of…” earned the group two Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. It established Arrested Development’s contrast to the rising popularity of gangster rap by having themes of peace, love and self-awareness. It blends a hip-hop song with a twangy, southern rock sound. A notable song from this album is “Tennessee,” one of Arrested Development’s most popular and successful songs. It talks about a person’s complex relationship with God, and starting life anew in Tennessee. Though it’s a hip-hop song, it’s often noted for its influence on the rock genre as well.

Its next album, “Zingalamaduni,” was less positively received and less successful, but this was most likely due to the increasing influence of gangster rap in the hip-hop scene. The album continued its themes of unity among people, positivity and anti-gangster rap. “United Minds” is a very lighthearted song which calls for everyone from all regions, races and backgrounds to come together. It also criticized the gangster rap movement for glorifying violence and proliferating negative and intimidating views of African-Americans. Another song, “Africa’s Inside of Me,” tells African-Americans to embrace their individuality, their looks and to not conform to societal views of how they should look.

Finally, its album “Heroes of the Harvest” was the first album released after its reunification and exit from main success. Nonetheless, this album was great. “In the South” is a track which pays homage to various parts of southern culture. “Love is Contagious” is a catchy song which talks about the positive effects of being positive. Though Arrested Development os no longer commercially popular, it still showed its exceptional talent on this album.

Arrested Development was a groundbreaking force for the southern region, and its entry into hip-hop. Its themes of unity, self-reflection and accountability were a refreshing alternative to the dominant forces of gangster rap.

1 Comment

  1. I remember them playing at Wittenberg’s HPER Center. I believe it was 1994. I was a freshman in HS, so it could have been ’95, but not sure. Anyway, excellent show by a groundbreaking group. There used to be some great shows played at the HPER.

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