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Aquemini Is One Of The Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All-Time Part 1
In Hip-Hop the word “Classic” has become a bit overused (kind of like the phrase “Keeping It Real” was in the 90’s). We all deep down know what an album has to contain to be a Hip-Hop Classic without any gimmicks or promotional machines telling us what’s what. When we think of Hip-Hop Classics there are a few albums that come to mind; Illmatic, Ready To Die, The Low End Theory, Paid In Full, and The Chronic just to name a few. These are albums that not only were great albums song for song but they shaped our culture and painted the clearest picture of how life was during the period these time capsules were created. These albums and artist inspired us and turned Emcees that people just thought were nice on the mic into Iconic Figures. In these situations the Emcee made the album and then the album made the Emcee. But when I think of the perfect Hip-Hop album with range, lyrical ability, lyrical content, musicality, creativity, flow, concept, and originality Outkast’s third offering Aquemini stands in a world of it’s own. I’m not going to try to convince you that the album Aquemini has the folklore impact on the Hip-Hop culture that Illmatic, Paid In Full, or Ready To Die has but I will say that Aquemini is possibly the greatest all around Hip-Hop album I have ever heard in the CD era. It’s blasphemy I know but don’t tune me out yet hear me out please. I separate the album Era of music into 3 Eras. You have the Album/Vinyl Era, The CD Era, & The iPod Generation. Vinyl could only carry a certain amount of space so albums were held to 8 to 10 songs giving them less room for error ultimately giving the consumer more bang for their buck. When the compact disc (hence the word “compact”) became the way of the music industry artist had to fill up these CDs with songs that wouldn’t have made their album in the Album/Vinyl Era because now you have 75 minutes to work with and the consumer wants you to give them more tracks for their $10 to $15 now. More tracks on one CD ultimately opened the doors for more filler songs that took away from the overall quality of projects. Saying that to say Illmatic for example was made with an Album Era mentality in the CD Era using 39 minutes 51 seconds of play time. Aquemini is a perfect album start to finish that used 74 minutes 47 seconds playing time to it’s fullest with no mistakes. Musically this Hip-Hop album brought a great balance of live instrumentation and hard hitting live and synthetic drums and wonderful instrumental solos and solos from the rhythm section. I’ve never heard an album that flawless be that long in length, the skits were even entertaining yet carefully places at the end of tracks so you heard them if you listened to songs all the way through and if you wanted to skip around for some reason you wouldn’t have to skip through any talking. The major personnel includes; Andre 3000 (Vocals, Drums, Xylophones, Keyboards, Production), Big Boi (Vocals & Production), Mr. DJ (Production), Organized Noize (Production), Cut Master Swift (The Cuts), George Clinton (Vocals), Erykah Badu (Vocals), Sleepy Brown (Vocals), Debra Killings (Vocals), Cee-Lo (Vocals), T-Mo, Khujo, Gipp, Cool Breeze, EJ The Witchdoctor, Backbone, and Raekwon (Guest Rhyming Vocals) & Slick Rick Vocals (If You Have That Version Lol), Andre 3000 & Erykah Badu’s son Seven who was a baby at the time even did some whining and crying on the album at the end of “Slump”. With a personnel like this at hand the table is set for some real magic to happen and with Outkast being one of Hip-Hop’s most talented acts ever this moment became more than magic.
With the first song to start the album off after the intro being “Return of The G” Andre 3000 & Big Boi answer many of their critics that questioned their musical vision being so far out and so much different from one another. The Outkast break up rumors were in full effect in 1998, the biggest change people saw was in Andre’s appearance but his ability to rhyme was never in question as he speed over live lush strings “ Return of the gangsta thanks ta’ them niggas that think you soft and say y’all be gospel rappin’ but they be steady clappin’ when you talk about bitches & switches & hoes & clothes & weed let’s talk about time travelin’ rhyme javelin somethin’ mind unravelin’ get down. Return of the gangsta thanks ta’ them niggas who got them kids who got enough to buy an ounce but not enough to bounce them kids to the zoo or to the park so they grow up in the dark never seein’ light so they end up being like yo’ sorry ass robbin’ niggas in broad ass daylight get down. Return of the gangsta thanks ta’ them niggas that get the wrong impression of expression Then the question is Big Boi what’s up with Andre? Is he in a cult? Is he on drugs? Is he gay? When y’all gon’ break up? When y’all gon’ wake up? Nigga I’m feelin’ better than ever what’s wrong with you you get down!”
“Rosa Parks” – Incredible song that referenced the name of an Iconic figure in the Civil Rights Movement for it’s song title. Other then just telling people to get up out of their seat and head to the dance floor while telling other Emcees to move to the back because Outkast is back, Outkast took the time on this banger to talk about a few different things. Big Boi uses his time to speak on being back on the scene with a new album and new sounds that is going to blow your mind. Andre uses his time to talk about the pressures of following up albums that are well received and how the music industry is a “what have you done for me lately” type of business. “You only funky as your last cut you focus on the past your ass will be a has what” – Andre 3000. Andre is taking advice from a “Rosa Parks” type figure on the bus in this song that is telling him the past is great but focus on your future.
“Skew It On The Bar-B” – It’s a Dungeon Family Wu-Tang Collaboration with Organized Noize on the track. I don’t think I need to say anymore than that. If you haven’t heard it I don’t know what to say about you lol.
“Aquemini” – The title track showing both Emcees putting their zodiac signs together to come up with this melo groove that not many artist in Hip-Hop can perfect. The live bass in this is hypnotic the lyrics in this are very rapid and intelligent. I could pull out every line of this song and it would be a quotable. The Gemini on this song chooses to show you two sides of him in two different verses as if he were two different Emcees. Sound confusing I know but try to follow, on the last verse Dre seems to be speaking to himself “Sin all depends on what you believing in Faith is what you make it that’s the hardest shit since MC Ren. Alien can blend right on in wit’ yo’ kin look again ’cause I swear I spot one every now & then. It’s happenin’ again wish I could tell you when Andre this is Andre y’all just gon’ have to make amends”
“Synthesizer” – This is the first time Outkast really gave us a taste of the futuristic side of Outkast that you were about to see in years to come. At the time the year 2000 was closely approaching and the world was changing fast. For some people they thought it might have been too fast for our own good “Are we digging into new ground or digging our own grave?”. This song deals with everything from technology, cloning human beings, marijuana being illegal, online dating, fertility drugs, plastic surgery, liposuction, lets just say for 1998 this song was WAY ahead of it’s time. Great appearance by The Great George Clinton by the way.
“Slump” – This record features Backbone & Cool Breeze and talks about something that we can all relate to and that’s feeding your family. In Hip-Hop great artist are able show you both sides of a situation and not glorify illegal activity like it’s all good, because it ain’t. The Dungeon family has always done a good job of not preaching to the youth but more like sayin “Look man, I know what you goin through. I’ve been there but there is another way and here it is” think “Git Up Git Out”. Big Boi keeps it all the way real as he raps “I used to work at Steak ‘N’ Ale, Old Gold off in the kitchen Had determination and graduated Now I got the whole rap world fascinated I wanted a piece of the pie for me and my family so I made it. Continue to sell dope, it’s payin the bills so you gon’ do it. But legislation got this new policy Three strikes and you’re ruined.. now where your crew at?”. Cool Breeze quickly follows with “Niggaz talkin cause they makin some flow But still ain’t did nuttin that ain’t been done befo’. You can’t be tryin to showcase, just put it down for your spot. And improvise and work with that little you got. So I think when I finish sellin my last sack. I’ma take some of this money, go and give some back. Cause people won’t forget about the time you gave, knowmsayin? And start thinkin bout a path to pave”.
“West Savannah” – Songs like this are rare because this was a record that was recorded for Outkast’s 1994 debut album and didn’t make the album for some odd reason. This song is a biography on Big Boi and where he is originally from and who he is, the sound of it is so vintage and real. The then 18 year old Big Boi talks about the stereotypes of southern folk and the trouble he use to get into as a kid when his Mom wasn’t around to watch his every move. The magical thing about this song is how you can hear the chemistry that Big Boi and Sleepy Brown had even way back in 1993. Big Boi tells you a little about the southern scene at the time and you can see how they have always been trendsetters “niggaz in the South wear gold teeth and gold chains. Been doin it for years, so these niggaz ain’t gone change. They comin around the ghetto so you might call em soul. Been wearin furry Kangol’s, so that shit is old. You might slang a rock or two just to pay the rent. Five dollars for a table dance so now your money’s spent. You listen to that booty shake music in your trunk as long as there’s that “tic tic” followed by that bump”.
“Da Art of Storytellin Pt 1” – Wow where do I start? The track from Mr. DJ amazing, the hook with Big Boi and Sleepy Brown amazing, the way both stories that Big Boi and Andre told came together amazingly, the stories themselves are amazing, the melody amazing, Slick Rick’s appearance AMAZING! I’ll just leave it at that.
“Da Art of Storytellin Pt 2” – Might be and don’t quote me on this (because it always changes) my favorite song on this incredible album. The track Mr. DJ put together sounds like Armageddon, it sounds like this is it. I read an article where Andre said that if it all went down and it were the last day on earth what would the final song made in the history of the world sound like? The sense of urgency, the topic, the flow, the track itself what would that sound like? He said that’s what he wanted this song to convey, he wanted it to sound like it was the last song made on the last day of the earth. I honestly can hear all of that in the way Outkast attacked this track. I can never say enough about this song with Andre ripping through lines like “Baby did you hear that yea baby I heard it too. Look out the window golly the sky is electric blue. Mamma Earth is dyin and cryin because of you. Rainin cats and jackles all shackles disintegrate, to residue. Silly mortals haven’t a clue as to what the fuck is goin on I’m on the telephone, dialin the Dungeon “Hello?” This Dre, bring the MP and the SP Meet me at the center of the earth and travel carefully. Baby grab the baby cause baby it ain’t much time Mamma Earth is tossin and turnin and that’s our sign”. Total end of the world type stuff.
Part 2 coming soon……