The AV Club examines 15 hip hop “movements” that never existed, simply because the flash-in-the-pan artists never had much more success than one hit. Take, for example, conscious hip hop, which leapt to the forefront of media infatuation thanks to Arrested Development.
Critics couldn’t heap accolades upon Arrested Development quickly enough when the group released 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of… in spring 1992. “What distinguishes Arrested Development from other rap groups is their positive, family-oriented themes, a welcome departure from the misogynistic and violent lyrics of hard-core rap acts,” went a typically hyperbolic feature on the group in Ebony. Arrested Development did stand out, though. There were eight members (including 60-year-old “spiritual adviser” Baba Oje), usually decked out in dashikis or other African garb, and the group’s musical style was heavily informed by its social consciousness. Frontman Speech labeled it “conscious hip-hop,” meaning “trying to be aware of what we can change.” Even though hip-hop always offered alternatives, gangsta rap had a habit of dominating the media, so 3 Years offered a positive, unthreatening alternative for people who didn’t know about 3 Feet High And Rising or The Low End Theory. 3 Years became the first major hit of the alternative hip-hop era, selling 4 million copies, earning two Grammys and an MTV Video Music Award, and placing second in Spin’s year-end list, just below Pavement’s Slanted And Enchanted and above Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head. Although Arrested Development had another hit in 1993 with its Unplugged album, the comedown didn’t take long. The massive success of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, released in December ’92, basically ended America’s brief love affair with conscious hip-hop and launched the career ofSnoop Doggy Dogg. Arrested Development’s awkwardly titled second album, Zingalamaduni—Swahili for “a beehive of culture”—sold poorly, and the group disbanded two years later, though it’s since reunited.
G-funk, on the other hand, is a revolution I can get behind.