There's just something about early-90's hip-hop that is so friggin' F-U-N. The beats seem more lively and crisp, the flow seems more lyrical, the image so clean cut: the early 90's truly saw hip hop at its final peak before the drudgery that gangsta rap would impose throughout the rest of the decade.
3 Years, 5 Months... came in a year where it was all about to change. While Speech and the crew had us all grooving to revisions of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" (despite the fact that the version we all know and love is the Metamorphis mix and not the album version), Dr. Dre was slowing brewing The Chronic later that year, bringing about a West Coast mindset that had hip hop in a death grip for much of the next five years.
But no matter - until that time, Arrested Development was so overtly positive, and in such an infectuous way, that it was hard not to get caught up with them and ride on the good vibes...albeit neo-African American hippie ones, at that. While PM Dawn were too new age-y, corny, and sensitive not to raise suspicions, Arrested Development were earthy, roots-driven good folk, if the roots were comprised of 70's San Fran funk and earthy meant traditional African robes. Arrested Development made soul-searching such a comfortable thing, and, when packaged with punchy beats, complete with late 60s JB funk breaks, positive insight seemed like a party all could, and would, want to attend.
That's, of course, neglecting that Speech basically laid way for what would become Wyclef Jean a few years later. Take Speech, add reggae and an element of extreme corniness, an acoustic guitar and voila! Wyclef. Arrested Development's political and spiritual consciousness wasn't and isn't in itself a deterrent, but when packaged with some of the 'alternative rap' that followed in its wake - Wyclef, Michael Franti, etc - it becomes clearer that there will be a disinclination to Arrested Development's place in the hip hop hall of fame.
While Arrested Development certainly did it a lot better than some of these latter bands (caustic without being preachy about it), its lack of self-irreverence will always make it pale in comparison to the revered status of the Native Tongues in the heads of the headz. De La Soul's Daisy Age was a lot more digestable to your avg. kid in Long Island because, while De La went on at lengths about some of the same issues that Arrested Development touch upon, they spent just as much time making fun of themselves.
3 Years, 5 Months is still massively enjoyable, though, because it still hadn't gone overboard with the message. While the sub-genre might tumble down the path of being overwrought with sermons later on, Arrested Development, at the time, still held back enough to render the music thought-provoking, and not a force-feeding.