Arrested Development: 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days In The Life Of… (Cooltempo)


RAP HAS developed as a predominantly urban form. The street is its subject and its culture dish. Its metre is perfect for polemic. It’s a winding-up, vibing-up thing. Rap hits the ground running and does a speed-pan round town. You’re not usually invited to relax, kick off your trainers and feel some clay between your toes.

Until now.

Arrested Development are Southern but not fried. There’s a cool breeze easing all round this brilliant album while rap takes a break from expressing the pressures of the city and gets loose to muse awhile on the cerebral, the sexual and spiritual. So, where innovators like De La Soul chose to hang out in their cluttered imaginations rather than on a street comer, Arrested Development (cumbersome handle that, ain’t it?) are a pensive, warm afternoon in a hammock. But the effect is much the same, an album that forever broadens rap’s boundaries.

There’s a real extended family feel going on. Sly Stone is an obvious reference point, even before you notice that ‘People Everyday’ is a kind of paraphrased version of his ‘Everyday People’. Seventies funk is the major source of the utterly loose grooves. Check the ebullient ‘U’, which recalls Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul period or the party mood of Ramsey Lewis. Try not singing “I could be the u for u, u could be the u for me too,” after just one hearing.

Heck, hanging out on the front porch with AD is a much better way to get serious about life, better than some guy preaching at your face. You’ll notice they talk about it ‘Raining Revolution’, they use proverbial politics: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day/Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever,” and, smarter still, on ‘Mama’s Always Onstage’ they remind us that there “Can’t be a revolution without women/Can’t be a revolution without children”. They manage to convey a sense of community without any of the rotten old “we can live as one” clichés. It’s just deep in the fabric of the record — a broad, unshakeable love and respect for humanity. There’s often a feeling with rap that’s it’s like a sophisticated version of pissing in the comers of your territory. It’s a male thing, a come-on, a brag, always on the offensive, even at its most concerned. AD treat life as more than materialist jostling for space.

Hey, whaddya know, the press release just arrived by fox and it’s full of the stuff I just said. (Proof that what comes across from the record is what exactly what they intended.)

It tells me that they’re from Atlanta, Georgia, that the person responsible for the bulk of this is a guy called Speech, who writes and produces, and that he calls it “cultural-southern-hiphop-folk-ethnic-funk”. So there you go.

Honestly, as soon as you hear 3 Years… you’ll recognise something as original and refreshing as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising or Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. While I’ve been crafting this sparkling bit of copy I’ve had it up loud and about seven people, from Everett, David Stubbs, Ben Turner and SMJ to Nobby The Subber From Another Planet, have come grooving into the Reviews Room and said “Hey, what’s this Jim?” If it can unite the jaded, disparate scum at Makerland, it can brighten anyone’s life. Let it blow through yours real soon.

© Jim ArundelMelody Maker, 23 May 1992

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