June 7, 2009

Reader Review: Outkast - Aquemini (September 29, 1998)



(I'm still kind of recovering from May, so in the meantime, here's a Reader Review of a previously discussed album. SLG takes on Outkast's Aquemini from the point of view of someone who hasn't necessarily grown up around Southern hip hop. Enjoy!)

Ah, Aquemini. To be completely honest, I don’t have a funny story about this album to start off this review. I didn’t leave it out of my magical 5-album opening day haul like a douche (nice dig), I didn’t grow up listening to it: hell, I didn’t even listen to it until this year. However, I still have no problem saying that it’s my pick for the greatest southern rap album of all time. I mean, fuck, it’s just soooooooooooooo good! UGK? Geto Boys? Screw ‘em, I want some Outkast! That's not to say the competition isn’t fierce, but I’d say Aquemini is my favorite rap album from the Dirty South.

Now, just a preface about Outkast themselves. Just about everyone knows the group is made up of Big Boi and Andre 3000, but I’d say the collective knowledge often ends there (but then again, I’m an adolescent white kid at a school made up of at least 40% Asians, so I could be misreading the pulse of America). Many people seem to just think of Andre 3000 as a weird, sexually ambiguous singer-type, which is a bit unfair, considering his singing career constitutes about 1/12 of all of the group’s total album time, but that’s what happens when groups make it big, I guess. I mean, he’s an even better rapper than Big Boi! Speaking of Big Boi, a lot of people think of him as this southern-fried “piyump” alone, but he can get pretty deep and mature when he wants to, especially on Aquemini. All in all, both give a pretty gosh darn good performance, and come correct on just about every song.

I hear a lot of people debating between this LP and ‘Kast’s previous, ATLiens, as to which is their best work (some people say Stanktonia, but fuck ‘em, that disc is not even close to the former two). ATLiens is great, of course, but I think Aquemini is just more varied, and while it’s not QUITE as consistent, its peaks are much higher.

So, uhhhh, what does that leave, hmmmm…uhhh, jumpin’ like kangaroos, uhhh…oh yeah, the production! The record’s produced by Outkast themselves, Organized Noize, and David Sheats, and the work they do is so damn incredible that I have to justify not naming this odd group as my favorite production team by saying that collective production teams don’t count (and then I get to feel guilty about shafting the Bomb Squad, yay!!!). (Excited much?) Still, each song has its own unique backdrop, and the beats perfectly compliment Andre and Antwan as they take us through a couple days in their lives and talk about residue and busting nuts and shit like that.

Oh, and unlike most publications, which went solid 5 out of 5 or 10 out of 10 with this one, Rolling Stone gave this album a mere 4 out of 5. Incidentally, I can’t stand Rolling Stone.

1. HOLD ON, BE STRONG
Sure, it’s just another rap album intro, but…well…okay, it’s just another rap album intro. Next!

2. RETURN OF THE “G”
Now HERE’S what I’m talking ‘bout! I mean, Giorgio fucking Moroder? Organized Noize clearly knows their samples, and Outkast rhymes effortlessly over this track. I especially like Andre’s lines about how people think he’s just some sort of gay crackhead when he’s really just a fly mothafucka. Big Boi comes correct too, with his talk of blowing bubbles and Mel Gibson. (Huh?) And, of course, a shameless Goodie Mob plug at the end (the first of many)!

3. ROSA PARKS
Man, I can’t help but think about that crazy lawsuit that came out of this one, with Ms. Parks herself suing the boys from Atlanta with the help of Johnnie Cochran. Well, whatever the case, this song was the first single, and for good reason - it’s a fucking classic. While it’s true that Andre does way better over this beat, Big Boi’s lyricism might actually exceed his for a change, which is pretty cool. The beat is good, the rapping is great, the chorus is catchy as all hell, and the harmonica bridge is just genius. Who doesn’t like this song? (Rosa Parks, for one.)

4. SKEW IT ON THE BAR-B (FEAT RAEKWON)
An educational song about Australia? Maybe Wu-Tang really is for the children! Yeah, okay, it’s just one of those “we fucking own shit” songs with an unusual theme, with the beat taken from, of all things, Police Woman. Of course, Andre really does beat Rae on this one, despite the latter sounding surprisingly well-rested and ready for battle.

5. AQUEMINI
Jesus, is this song ever awesome: first Big Boi comes on and just totally rips shit up, then Andre shows us just how capable he is at coming up with lines bloggers are legally required to quote ("Is every n---a with dreads for the cause?/Is every n---a with gold for the falls?/No, so don't get caught up in appearance/It's Outkast Aquemini, another Black experience"). The beat starts out nice and spacey, ala ATLiens, then completely changes up with a bit of fanfare as Big Boi comes in again and rhymes about his Escalades and shit. Overall, the song fucking knocks.

6. SYNTHESIZER (FEAT GEORGE CLINTON)
Man, that’s a name you don’t expect to see in rap anywhere other than in West Coast liner notes and Del The Funky Homosapien album titles. Personally, I have no idea what Max is talking about, as this song is great (maybe he just hates drums and mini-skits on principle?) Andre in particular steps correct on this one.

7. SLUMP (FEAT BACKBONE & COOL BREEZE)
Of course, the weed carrier song; most great rap albums need one of those! Problem one with this song is the lack of Dre Benjamin. Backbone sounds really lazy and boring, which is pretty bad for the opening verse (compared to, say, Ghostface or Inspectah Deck on any Wu-Tang song they kick off, or Kurupt on Snoop's “Serial Killa”). Big Boi does well, which is to be expected, and Cool Breeze gets a distant silver medal. The song has a nice soulful beat, but that’s it, pretty much.

8. WEST SAVANNAH
Ah yes, the Southernplayasupercalifragilistic outtake song, made apparent by Big Boi’s high voice. Organized Noize’s beat is pretty darn funky fresh, and the song is the closest to an introspective, mature solo rapper type song that Outkast has. Overall, pretty damn good.

9. DA ART OF STORYTELLIN' (PART 1)
And here we go, the beginning of the six-and-a-half minute uber-epic awesome climax of the album known as the “Storytellin’” Suite. For the first part, Big Boi takes us through a day in the life of a playa, featuring a sexy groupie, a baby mama, a beeper, and Darth Vader similes, while Andre decides to take the high route and rap about a chick in a bad relationship who dies of a heroin overdose. While Big Boi clearly has the better rhymes (especially when he mentions that said groupie wants to take him out to the parking lot so she can "sick your duck": that's a brilliant way to court fellatio on the radio, and for that, Antwan, we salute you), Andre’s lyricism has really improved, and his verse is the reason this song is so damn sad (it sure as hell isn’t Ricky D’s verse on the remix). The video with the Muppets is also pretty much the best thing ever. (I'm still questioning why that video wasn't included on the official Outkast video collection.)

10. DA ART OF STORYTELLIN' (PART 2)
Oh man, if you thought the first part of the suite was good, here’s where it really gets amazing. While this is the shortest real song on the album, its amazing piano beat perfectly compliments Andre’s surprisingly awesome distorted vocals, and Big Boi surprisingly destroys the track with possibly his best verse ever. Then, the chanting comes in - oh, good Lord, the chanting. This is probably the closest I’ve ever come to a religious experience. A fucking incredible track.

11. MAMACITA (FEAT MASADA & WITCHDOCTOR)
Well, since nothing could follow the last song, Outkast decides to insert one of their worst songs into the mix. Nothing about this song is anything less than cheesy, melodramatic bullshit: Masada is awful, Andre sounds surprisingly terrible (although his lyrics are all right, I guess), Witchdoctor is pretty laughable (I still love the plug for Stouffer's lasagna), and Big Boi swoops in too late to save the song.

12. SPOTTIEOTTIEDOPALISCIOUS (FEAT SLEEPY BROWN)
In vast contrast to “Mamacita”, which was pretty much as over-the-top as Outkast could get, this song is pretty damn chill spoken word poetry. But that’s it, really.

13. Y'ALL SCARED (FEAT T-MO, BIG GIPP, & KHUJO)
And so, (three-fourths of) Goodie Mob gets their big chance to shine, and comes off pretty damn well: T-Mo kicks things off nicely, Gipp slightly underwhelms, Dre and Big Boi destroy the track just like everyone expected, and Khujo does very respectably as well. A great posse cut that shows just how linked the two groups are…but wait, where’s Cee-Lo? I love that amusing little fella!

14. NATHANIEL
Dot, dot, dot…

15. LIBERATION (FEAT CEE-LO, ERYKAH BADU, & BIG RUBE)
I knew Cee-Lo would come and make me happy! This epic song was probably the first time a lot of people realized how good of a voice Cee-Lo really had (unless, of course, you listened to the Goodie Mob albums prior to this), which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Then, sweet sweet Erykah impresses, and Rube does some very impressive spoken word, all over a haunting piano beat.

16. CHONKYFIRE
Every great album must end eventually, and “Chonkyfire” makes sure people stay excited at this point. A fucking awesome riff ushers us out, along with some impressive rapping from both guys, and a clip from Outkast’s acceptance speech for the Best New Artist at the 1994 Source Awards (of course, more love for Goodie Mob).

FINAL THOUGHTS: Aquemini fucking rocks, there’s no half-stepping that. It should be at least in everyone’s top two Outkast albums: it is definitely number one for me. While a couple songs in the third quarter of the album (how oddly specific) may falter a bit, it’s overall one of the very best rap albums, and anyone who disagrees with that has done enough to earn an ass whooping in my professional opinion. Now, someone pass the tissues! (I like how he essentially takes the piss out of himself before anybody that's reading this can do it for him. However, I don't know many hip hop fans that would disagree with the general assessment. In saying that, though, I'm sure somebody will prove me wrong.)

BUY OR BURN? Buy repeatedly, preferably at least 10 copies, and make some sort of collage with the extra sets of liner notes. Send me your best design, and I’ll give you a shoutout in my next review! There’s some incentive for you, right!? Well, fine, just buy one, whatever…

Best Tracks: Both “Da Art of Storytellin’” parts; “Aquemini”; “Return of the “G”“; “Liberation”; “Rosa Parks”; “Chonkyfire”

-SLG

Bonus video: "Da Art Of Storytellin' (Remix)" featuring Slick Rick:



(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below, and if you have an album that you absolutely need to write about, hit me at the e-mail address in the top right. And for those of you interested, here's a link to the original review.)

11 comments:

  1. I like those massive bars (StOp LiStEnInG to hip-hop) of writing. A bit like a hamburger how you can chomp it down. I kinda admit this album has tons of moods but wish I had your ears to declare this bastard better then ATliens. I mean- ah what the hell thanks for writing!

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  2. I'm sorta embarrassed that I got Big Boi and Dre mixed up for Da Art of Storytellin' pt. 1

    my bad

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  3. I wouldn't worry about it. That's why I try to edit the posts before publishing.

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  4. No, I mean it wasn't a typo, I actually got it mixed up, which led to me saying Andre's lyrical content had improved here- and I mean, he's always been the more lyrical guy.

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  5. This is without a doubt one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums ever made. I even bought it a while back, I asked them to import me the album, that's how special this album is.

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  6. Till this day I still can't believe how good ATLiens and Aquemini was. Its hard to produce a good album with at least 13 good ass track(ATLiens), but to do it again on Aquemini is insane. But the funny thing is, the year 1998 at least 15 album was good. Jay-z's Vol.2 Hard Knock Life, came out the same day as Aquemini. Its 2009, and me being a hip-hop head cant understand how all the garbge I hear get release.

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  7. ProPoGandaJune 15, 2009

    heds keep shitting on slump...back bones vocals sell off if it soun lazy is a fly kina lazyness that works like hell the beat is banging the chorus is a comsingalong affair that makes you wisht you did rep the derty derty...it can't be just me that rate this tune like a mufuh...

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  8. AnonymousJune 23, 2009

    well i think slump is a great track to, so u are not the only one. great review by the way

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  9. AnonymousJuly 19, 2009

    u a fool if u dont realize how fresh spottieottiedopeliscious is. that track and movin cool just show you how far they can go w/o going over the top. its just so chill, so real, so everything.

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  10. Without a doubt such an amazing album!! I commented on Max's but sorry Max i think the reader's blog up'd you only on 'Synthesizer' because that's just another amazing track on an amazing album!! Prolly the album with the best closing tracks!! Need i say more.. this is album is just sick, it's over, my favorite album from outkast, definitely up there for greatest hip-hop albums of all-time... it's the return!!

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  11. And i too can't stand Rolling Stone..

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