Whether art should be a reflection of reality or a perfection of it is a little out of my scope at the moment, but I do want to recall how utterly alien the Afrocentric “conscious rap” of Arrested Development sounded to these ears in early ’90s, when the album for which they will always be known, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of…, dropped into the middle of a world obsessed with gangsta rap on the one hand and the inflammatory politics of Public Enemy on the other.
Speech’s moral, spiritual and Afrocentric persona – amplified by the band’s gaudily colorful image and celebratory clan atmosphere – was so shockingly against-the-grain that it almost seemed incendiary for that reason alone. Yielding hits like the powerful “Tennessee” and the cheeky didacticism of “Mr. Wendal,” subtly lampooning gangsta rap in various ways, the album was nowhere near as pious as it was often made out to be. There was playful and even acidic dimension to it, but it was noted mostly for its hard-earned contrarian positivity.
The legendary hip hop collective, Grammy-winners, hitmakers and originators of conscious hip hop in the heart of the era of street myth, Arrested Development performs in the intimate confines of Colony in Woodstock on Sunday, April 15 at 8 p.m. Still fronted by Speech, one of rap’s most unlikely heroes, Arrested Development is back in the studio after a long recording hiatus. Ticket prices for this unique show range from $45 to $75. For tickets and additional information, visit www.colonywoodstock.com. Colony is located at 22 Rock City Road in Woodstock.