Originality is something greatly lacking in today's hip hop community. Many of the trends in today's genre can be traced back to Atlanta group OutKast. Today there is no dearth of Spacemans, KiD CuDis, Lil' Waynes, of Dyme Defs that label themselves as martian rappers, but this trend dates back OutKast's landmark 1996 album, ATLiens. Artists like Drake, B.o.B, and CuDi are credited as innovative rapper/singer hybrids, but the tradition dates back to the Fugees' Lauryn Hill and OutKast's André 3000. Twelve years ago, the ATLiens released one of the most innovative and experimental albums in hip hop history with their third project, Aquemini.
As recently as a month ago when Big Boi's solo debut was still scheduled to drop on this coming Tuesday, I started rifling through some older material from the ATLiens in order to get reacquainted. I started with my favorite OutKast album, Aquemini, and couldn't get stop listening. The duo's 1998 album may not have my favorite individual songs (that honor belongs to ATLiens and Stankonia), but from the outset with "Return of the 'G,'" to the closing shots on "Chonkyfire," Three Stacks and Sir Luscious Left Foot put together an album that secured their legacy amongst the best to ever pick up a mic.
Aquemini proves to be cohesive album that flows perfectly from song to song, while still providing a diverse sound throughout the record. The album has everything from battle raps shot at critics ("Return of the 'G,'" "Chonkyfire") to the classic dancefloor track "Rosa Parks," to traditional tracks sure to please any hip hop head (the Raekwon-assisted "Skew It On The Bar-B") and more politically minded tracks ("Da Art of The Storytellin' Pt. 1"). The one aspect that unites the album is the duo's shared ability to simply tell meaningful stories on each track.
"Slump" is one of my favorite song of all time and is the only track on the album not to feature both members of the duo. Lyrically, Dungeon Family artists Backbone & Cool Breeze fill in nicely for Three Stacks on this beautifully unrepentant, critical, celebration of ghetto life and community (a topic that was always Big Boi's forte among the duo).
Aquemini may have it's flaws ("Synthesizer" and "Mamacita" aren't particularly mind blowing songs), but the album as a whole ranks among the genre. The world is still waiting on an reunion, but sadly it seems unlikely that Big Boi and André will be OutKasting anytime soon. Still, we can still look back at their classic discography as a sign of better days. Enjoy.
Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,
P.S. Hootie Hoo!