3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Outkast's two most recent releases, 2000's Stankonia
and 2003's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
, were successful both commercially and critically. What the casual Outkast fan may not realize is that, before those albums were even sparkles in Andre and Big Boi's eyes, the duo had already released three undeniably strong efforts, 1994's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
, 1996's ATLiens
and 1998's Aquemini
. Both Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
were solid, but neither was quite the masterpiece Outkast's fans knew the duo was capable of making. And that's where Aquemeni
that long-awaited masterpiece, the moment when Andre and Big Boi finally put everything together and made something that, ten and even twenty years down the line, should still be viewed as one of the finest hip-hop albums of all time. Describing what it was about Aquemini
that made it so much better than its predecessors is a difficult task, but I suppose I have to start with the rhymes and subject matter. Outkast's lyrics have never been lame or generic (their very first hit single, "Player's Ball," was about pimps gathering for a Christmas party!), and they both flow incredibly well, but Aquemini
finds both emcees taking their games to a higher level altogether "Return of the G," for instance, finds Andre answering all the critics that said Outkast wasn't true rap anymore by delivering one incredible verse after another. And then Big Boi takes over, defending Andre by saying they're "Brothers from another mother/ kind of like Mel Gibson and Danny Glover." That, however, is just them having fun with one song. The entire album blends wit with serious issues, and Andre seems to become a more proficient rapper with every verse he spits. All of this makes the rapping on Aquemini
better than it is on any other Outkast effort.
Another reason Aquemini
was such a step forward for Outkast was the production. While the Organized Noize production team was never bad, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
found everyone involved not quite aware of what they were capable of and ATLiens
was a little too formulaic. Aquemini
, on the other hand, finds the producers realizing that not even the sky is the limit. Just dig the fun they were having: "Rosa Parks" features one of the funkiest harmonica breakdowns you'll ever hear, "Spottieottiedopaliscious" starts off with a smooth snare drum and quick horn stabs and "Liberation," well "Liberation" is so good it gets its own little section. Friends, if you can only track down one song from this album, make it "Liberation." I don't care if you hate hip-hop with all of your being, you must
find this song. At almost nine minutes long, it's flat-out epic, starting with a slow piano part before Andre sings the first lyrics. Then, Big Boi drops a verse and Erykah Badu and Cee-Lo both
drop guest verses. And if that isn't enough, you then get a spoken-word piece from Big Rube. Just check this out ...
I must admit, they planted a lot of things
In the brains and the veins of my strain
Makes it hard to refrain, from the host of cocaine
From them whores, from the flame
From a post in the game
Makes it hard to maintain focus
Theyre from the glock rounds, and lockdowns, and berries
The seeds that sow, get devoured by the same locusts
'Cause it's a hard row to hoe
If your ass dont move, and the rain don't fall
And the ground just dry
But the roots are strong, so some survive
... there is more, but I don't want to give you all of it now. You must listen
. It is an outstanding track and easily the best thing on the whole album.
I suppose now would be a good time to list the flaws on this album, since I probably sound like some 12-year-old fanboy, so here I go. There are two songs on Aquemini
that fall flat, "Mamacita" and "Y'all Scared." "Mamacita" simply suffers from one of the worst vocal hooks I've ever heard and "Yall Scared" just never comes together. If those songs had just been dropped, the album would be a solid 10 minutes shorter, which isn't always a bad thing, and then I could honestly say there isn't a poor track on the whole disc. In fact, without those songs, this would be a 5/5 for sure. One other problem I have with Aquemini
is the interludes. On Stankonia
, the interludes are fairly entertaining, enhancing the overall listening experience more than taking away from it. But here, they are awful, usually nothing more than people talking back and forth. The worst part is that some of the interludes are just tacked on the end of songs instead of being their own tracks. This way, you can't even put some of the album's best songs on a mix-CD without screwing around with editing the song down. And that's just a pain in the arse.
Even when considering these flaws, Aquemini
is a hip-hop masterpiece. More focused than Stankonia
and more consistent than Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
, it might just be the best Outkast album out there, so make sure you check it out!
"Return of the G"