In 1992 alternative hip-hop group, Arrested Development, stormed mainstream music with their Afrocentric, peace and love brand of hip-hop and debut single “Tennessee.”
Arrested Development’s 1992 debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days was a stark contrast to the gangsta rap (Dr. Dre’s The Chronicle) of the early ’90s which dominated music. Written by founding member Todd Thomas (Speech) following the deaths of his grandmother and brother in a short time, the single’s rich poetry spoke of deep, spiritual crisis that harkened back to the soul of Marvin Gaye. Mixing funk, southern hip-hop with gospel and sampling Prince’s “Alphabet St,” “Tennessee” struck a chord with fans and critics alike.
Peaking at No.3 on the Canadian RPM Dance/Urban Chart on July 11th, 1992, the single would go on to earn the group two Grammy Awards in 1993 for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The classic black and white cinematography captures the group dancing and performing against stark landscapes, leaving much of the video’s relevance in the song itself.
- The No. 1 Single in Canada on July 11th, 1992 was Mariah Carey’s unplugged single “I’ll Be There.“
- The single peaked at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and No. 18 upon re-release on the UK Singles Chart.
- Arrested Development’s follow-up single “Everyday People” would go on to peak at No. 1 on the Canadian RPM Dance/Urban Chart, and No. 64 on the Canadian Singles Chart.
- Following the single’s success Prince would sue the group for $100,000 for using an unauthorized sample.
- “Tennessee” continues to earn wide praise, making many best of lists including The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.