Arrested Development - Biography
Born of a desire to create a style of hip-hop that was entirely different from the aggressive model of Public Enemy, rapper Speech and DJ Headliner formed the positive and politically conscious Afrocentric collective Arrested Development in 1988 in Atlanta, Georgia. The duo had been influenced not only by the burgeoning sounds of urban music, but also by the soul and funk that had graced their ears in their formative years. Successfully blending these genres, Arrested Development cultivated an original sound and became one of the most influential groups of the 1990’s feel-good alternative hip-hop scene.
A well-known and oft-repeated fact is that Arrested Development did not wrangle a record deal for the first three years, five months, and two days of their official existence. Aptly, the group named their 1992 full-length debut 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life of... (Chrysalis). The album marks not only Arrested Development’s debut, but also their most highly lauded work of their career. Several chart-topping singles rose from 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life of..., including “Tennessee,” “Mr. Wendal,” and “People Everyday.” “Tennessee” had garnered attention prior to the band signing with Chrysalis and is the song for which Arrested Development is best known for to this day. The track is a highly personal piece penned by Speech following the death of his grandmother and his brother, both of whom he had last seen in Tennessee. Speech has described the song as being like a prayer for guidance through an emotionally taxing time. He first wrote the music for it and the basic lyrical structure, then brought in Aerle Taree to add the now-classic line “a game of horseshoes!”, which was reportedly added off the cuff. 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life of... brought great success and exposure for the emerging group, including a Grammy for Best New Artist and Rolling Stone’s coveted Band of the Year designation for 1992.
Attempting to recreate the success of their debut, the band released 1994’s Zingalamaduni (Chrysalis). The album was dealt far less critical acclaim than the debut, finding praise as well as considerable panning in the media. This would be the last album for the original lineup of Arrested Development. The band officially broke up in 1996, citing creative differences. Four years later, the group came back together without Headliner. In the years between the break up and the reunion, Speech had put out a solo album, and had continued to cultivate a sound and a vision. His solo work led to the redevelopment of Arrested Development in 2000.
In 2003, the band released Extended Revolution (EMI), a compilation of remixed classic Arrested Development songs like “Mr. Wendal,” “People Everyday,” and “Tennessee,” alongside a couple of other not-so-classic tracks like the African National Congress’ “Revolution.” The following year, they released a best of album called The Best of Arrested Development (2004 Collectables). In 2006, they finally released an album of new material, Among the Trees (Edel). The LP is thick, with nineteen tracks to its credit, but then again the band did have six years to write the material. The album did nothing notable chart-wise, but worked to continue the sound and vision that Speech has held so dear for the group. Later the same year, the band put out Since the Last Time (2006 Edel), which has often been noted for its jam band qualities and hip-hop hippie ways. As with all Arrested Development material, the songs are crafted to educate and inspire, but they groove too. “Miracles” imbues the album with enough funk to keep the non-hippies riveted.
In 2005, the band appeared on the NBC program Hit Me Baby One More Time and then sued the FOX television show Arrested Development over name rights. It seemed as though the adage “no such thing as bad press” was far from the truth as American fans dropped away while the band seemed to be digging their own grave. This, however, was not the case for Japanese fans who inexplicably kept the Arrested Development engine on track. Speech has been cited as saying that the Japanese fandom for Arrested Development is borne of their resistance to gangsta rap and a demand for positive, uplifting music. Or maybe they just love Baba Oje...
Baba Oje is perhaps one of the most confusing and interesting members of Arrested Development. He was brought into the group by Speech when they met as students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Baba Oje was 57-years-old when they met. Speech, having been inspired by cross-generational fraternity while traveling in Jamaica saw his older friend as the perfect person to spiritually guide Arrested Development while still in its infancy. Baba Oje has continued to stand by the group and has also continued to elude fans as to his place in the band for nearly 20 years.