Tennessee (Arrested Development song)

"Tennessee" is the title of a number-one R&B single by alternative hip hop group Arrested Development, from its album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of.... The song contains a sample of Prince's "Alphabet St." It peaked at number six in the United States and won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1993. The music video for the song was directed by Milcho Manchevski and shot in Georgia, with friends of the group and people from the local area appearing in the clip.

Arrested Development - Tennessee.jpg
Single by Arrested Development
from the album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of...
ReleasedMarch 24, 1992
GenreHip hop
LabelChrysalis/EMI Records
Songwriter(s)Todd Thomas, Aerle Taree, Prince
Arrested Development singles chronology
"People Everyday"
Music video
"Tennessee" on YouTube

A 2007 poll of VH1 viewers placed the song at number 71 on the list of the "Greatest Songs of the 90s" and is listed as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was ranked number 78 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. The song also served as the theme to the short-lived Malcolm-Jamal Warner sitcom Here and Now.


Speech was inspired to write the song after meeting up with his brother at his grandmother's funeral in Tennessee. Shortly afterward, his brother died suddenly from a bad asthma attack,[1] and Speech wrote the song about the experience of losing two loved ones so close together[2]

"Tennessee" uses a sample from Prince's "Alphabet St." that was not cleared ahead of time. Prince's lawyers waited until after the song sold well and then charged the group $100,000 for the use of said sample.[2] Speech later said he felt Prince gave him "a break" by demanding a single payment instead of co-writing credit on the song, which would have entitled Prince to a share of all royalties in the future.[3]

Critical receptionEdit

Larry Flick from Billboard wrote, "Melodic, sing-song rap possesses a modern spiritual quality. Female vocalist Dionne adds heavy, soulful element to the proceedings. Socially relevant, thought-provoking lyrics lead listener into a hook-driven, memorable chorus. Track has a unique appeal and would add a new dimension to the average urban playlist."[4] Cashbox said that Arrested Development "straight blew up on the scene" with "Tennessee". They noted its "rapping-while-singing approach".[5] Andy Beevers from Music Week gave it five out of five, adding, "arguably the best track on the LP".[6] James Hamilton from the magazine's RM Dance Update described it as a "familiar jiggly roller".[7] People Magazine stated that "the half-sung, half-rapped delivery of the band’s leader, Speech (Todd Thomas), suggests a hayride with Sly Stone and Prince on the buckboard."[8]

Chart performanceEdit

"Tennessee" topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks for one week and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the United Kingdom, the song spent a seven-week run on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number forty six, but after the top ten successes of both "People Everyday" and "Mr. Wendal" on the chart, it was re-released in 1993, charting for a further six weeks and peaking at number eighteen.

Impact and legacyEdit

Slant Magazine listed "Tennessee" at number 98 in their ranking of "The 100 Best Singles of the 1990s" in 2011, writing, "Perhaps no other track from the early ‘90s provided better (or catchier) proof that hip-hop was more versatile and capable than prevailing gangster-rap themes than Arrested Development’s "Tennessee", its stuttering drumline ably providing a clean backdrop for expositions on civil rights, genealogical discovery, Southern culture, the devastating legacy of slavery, and the nature of God. A pained but uplifting narrative struggles at times to catch up with the song's driving gait, but "Tennessee" satisfies nonetheless, mixing raw, percussive power, quirky sampling, and inspirational imagery into one cerebral whole."[9]

Bob Dylan played the song on the "Tennessee" episode of the first season of his Theme Time Radio Hour show in 2006, noting that Arrested Development had "kind of updated the Sly and the Family Stone sound for the hip-hop generation”.[10]

A 2007 poll of VH1 viewers placed it at number 71 on the "Greatest Songs of the 90s" list and was also ranked as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll" by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was also listed at number 78 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop". The song served as the theme to the short-lived Malcolm-Jamal Warner sitcom Here and Now.

Track listingsEdit

US Maxi-CD

  1. Tennessee (The Mix) – 4:33
  2. Tennessee (Remix) – 4:40
  3. Tennessee (For DJs Only) – 2:15
  4. Tennessee (Dubb Mix) – 4:40
  5. Natural – 4:19


  1. Tennessee (Edit)
  2. Tennessee (Remix)
  3. Fishin 4 Religion (Live)
  4. Mama's Always On Stage

Australia Maxi-CD

  1. Tennessee (Remix) – 4:48
  2. Tennessee (For DJs Only) – 2:18
  3. Tennessee (Dubb Mix) – 4:45
  4. Natural – 4:19


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Unsungmusical documentary program on TV One cable channel, airdate Monday 13 August 2012
  2. ^ a b "Speech of Arrested Development Interview". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  3. ^ "Why Arrested Development wouldn't exist without Prince". Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  4. ^ Flick, Larry (15 February 1992). "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. p. 78. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Music Reviews: Albums" (PDF). Cashbox. 2 May 1992. p. 5. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  6. ^ Beevers, Andy (20 March 1993). "Market Preview: Dance - Pick of the Week" (PDF). Music Week. p. 6. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  7. ^ Hamilton, James (3 April 1993). "Djdirectory" (PDF). Music Week, in Record Mirror (Dance Update Supplemental Insert). p. 2. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of..." People Magazine. 17 August 1992. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  9. ^ "The 100 Best Singles of the 1990s". Slant Magazine. 9 January 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Episode 31: Tennessee". Theme Time Radio Hour Archive. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  11. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Arrested Development – Tennessee". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  12. ^ "Top RPM Dance/Urban: Issue 2014." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  13. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 9 no. 34. August 22, 1992. p. 23. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  14. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Arrested Development – Tennessee" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts.
  15. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 34, 1992" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40
  16. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Arrested Development – Tennessee" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  17. ^ "Charts.nz – Arrested Development – Tennessee". Top 40 Singles.
  18. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Arrested Development – Tennessee". Singles Top 100.
  19. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Arrested Development – Tennessee". Swiss Singles Chart.
  20. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  21. ^ "Top 60 Dance Singles" (PDF). Music Week. May 23, 1992. p. 20. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  22. ^ "Arrested Development Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  23. ^ "Arrested Development Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard.
  24. ^ "Arrested Development Chart History (Dance Singles Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  25. ^ "Arrested Development Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard.
  26. ^ "Arrested Development Chart History (Hot Rap Songs)". Billboard.
  27. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 10 no. 16. April 17, 1993. p. 27. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  28. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Tennessee". Irish Singles Chart.
  29. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  30. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  31. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1992". Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  32. ^ "American single certifications – Arrested Development – Tennessee". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 7, 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External linksEdit