OLDIES: Outkast’s Aquemini

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I wanted to make first post about an older album about Aquemini because it’s bar none my favorite hip-hop album of all-time. I think too many people only recognize Outkast for their pop singles with tracks like “Ms. Jackson” or “Hey Ya!”, which are probably the best pop songs to come out in my lifetime so far, but don’t do any justice to Outkast’s first 3 albums. Filled with soulful spoken-word, story telling, and black consciousness, Aquemini encompasses all of the beauty and pain experienced in Atlanta, Georgia. I was only 3 when this album came out and didn’t go to Atlanta (especially the specific places they talk about) until I was a teenager, but I can picture everything they talk about.

I’ll be honest, my ear for hip-hop is definitely primarily for the production than it is for the lyrics. I think it’s extremely tough to pull off wordplay without sounding like a try-hard. Outkast’s wordplay was so impressive that an English teacher at Armstrong University has announced there will be an entire course devoted to studying their lyrics.

Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. I is the only song on the album that also features a music video. It’s a shame because Outkast’s brilliance shined through their music videos such as Hey Ya!, Roses and Prototype. I would love to see other tracks such as Slump or Spottieottiedopaliscious be reimagined as videos, but at least we have Da Art of Storytellin’ which oddly enough tells stories about various girls that the members knew growing up. Da Art of Storytellin’, along with pretty much all of Outkast’s music, balances a fine line between hyper-masculinity and sensitivity. Their feelings towards these girls in this song grow as the song progresses until the song reveals their tragic endings that come as a result of the terrible circumstances that they were born into.

As far as production goes, I don’t think there are many albums that compete with Aquemini. Outkast shows a clear affinity and influence from soul, funk, gospel, jazz and reggae music. Andre said that he primarily listened to Bob Marley while recording Aquemini and I think that’s most evident in Spottieottiedopaliscious which I always thought feature a dub-like bassline and horns. This was Outkast’s 3rd album and they had found much more commercial success on ATLiens than they did with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, so they had a much higher budget for Aquemini and were able to spend much more time in the studio. They were afforded the opportunity to  feature live instrumentation on this album rather than relying as heavy on a sampler. Most of the album was produced by Outkast themselves but Organized Noize and Mr. DJ are also cited in the production credits.

Overall, I’ve tried really hard to find a better rap album than this and have yet to be successful. I couldn’t recommend this album enough and I would put this on my small list of absolute required listening. This album has had a profound people for nearly 20 years now and its messages and sounds remain relevant still.

Favorite Track: Spottieottiedopaliscious (but just listen to the whole album)

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