“Arrested Development was one of the genre’s most promising groups when it released” (DeRogatis) 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of..., named for “the amount of time that it took to secure a recording contract” (DeRogatis). Critically, “its positive messages” (Huey) about “pleas for black unity and brotherly compassion, as well as a devotion to the struggle for equality” (Huey)” “were the chief selling point for many rock critics” (Huey) and the band “claimed an armful of Grammy Awards, including best new artist and best rap group, in 1993” (DeRogatis).
On a commercial level “the band, shot to the top of the Billboard charts [and] sold 5 million albums worldwide” (DeRogatis). “But it was pegged as…‘alternative hip-hop’ – rap’s equivalent to the alternative explosion then dominating the rock world – and that tag would come to haunt the outfit” (DeRogatis).
“Though the group successfully toured as part of Lollapalooza ‘93, rock radio turned a deaf ear. It was branded as ‘too black’ for the white music media, and ‘not black enough’ for many hip-hop outlets” (DeRogatis) due to the band’s “outspoken opposition to the glorification of drug dealing and the violent gangsta pose” (DeRogatis). Instead, the band “addressed prejudice, the need for African-American unity, safe sex and the role of religion in bringing about social change. Speech advocated a revolution, but one that started not with guns, but changing the way that African-Americans think about themselves and their community” (DeRogatis). “The issues the group was addressing had much more common in many African-Americans’ lives than the tales of violence delivered by other rappers” (DeRogatis).
“The group’s instrumental backings were fluid, grooving, absurdly catchy and grounded in a long tradition of soul, funk, R&B, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll” (DeRogatis). “It’s determinedly down to earth, and that aesthetic informs the group’s music as well. Their sound is a laid-back, southern-fried groove informed by rural blues, African percussion, funk, and melodic R&B” (Huey). “The artful craftsmanship of the backing tracks was well suited to Speech’s smooth, laid-back rapping – a mellow style that belied the potent urgency of his lyrics” (DeRogatis).
“All of it comes together on the classic single Tennessee, which takes lead rapper Speech on a spiritual quest to reclaim his heritage in a south still haunted by its history” (Huey). The song, “which celebrates familial roots, is based on his teenage experiences visiting his grandparents in the town of Henning, Tenn.” (DeRegotis).
“Mr. Wendal is a moving portrait of a homeless man encountered on the street, and Give a Man a Fish is a call for positive thinking as the road out of the ghetto” (DeRogatis).
“People Everyday was a sharp rewrite of Sly and the Family Stone's ‘Everyday People,’ and other tracks sampled Earth, Wind & Fire, Minnie Riperton, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Bob Dylan (a snippet of ‘Mighty Quinn’ appears in Arrested Development’s U)” (DeRogatis).
“In retrospect, 3 Years... isn’t quite as revolutionary as it first seemed” (Huey). “There’s a distinct political correctness – even naïveté – in the lyrics, which places the record firmly in the early ‘90s; it's also a bit self-consciously profound at times” (Huey). Nonetheless, 3 Years... is “still a fine record that often crosses the line into excellence” (Huey).
In addition, the album “was a major influence on a new breed of alternative southern hip-hop, including Goodie Mob, OutKast, and Nappy Roots, and it still stands as one of the better albums of its kind” (Huey). Also, “the influence of its music and its positive lyrical message live on in artists such as Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, the Roots and Common, many of whom are part of the so-called neo-soul or natural R&B movement” (DeRogatis).