OutKast season continues with their 1998 classic 'Aquemini'. Considered by many as OutKast's best album - and one of the best hip-hop albums ever - both André and Big Boi built this off still being disrespected as rappers and the controversies of 'ATLiens' - and they made a masterpiece because of it.
Firstly, the production on this album is great all throughout. With it's funky, groovy beats and catchy guitar bass' and drum patterns - it's genuinely enjoyable from beginning to end. The beat on 'Rosa Parks' is this groovy sound returning before it explodes with this guitar and almost West Side kind of feel as OutKast announce that they are back. The hook is catchy, the beat is such a vibe, the harmonica solo is great too and overall it's an amazing song. 'SpottieOttieDopaliscious' has these incredible horns in the beat acting as a nice interlude between verses, as Sleepy Brown provides nice smooth verses and the rappers provide poetic imagery and detailed storytelling. They both tell stories from a nightclub - with Big Boi's ending up with the birth of his child - it's a great track but would've been perfect if not for André's spoken word verse. It isn't a bad verse, and the idea is nice - it's just what he was talking about wasn't that interesting and would've been better if rapped. It's a nice listen, can't say I ever want to hear them do a track like this again though. The beat of 'Chonkyfire' is iconic with it's rock theme and it's catchy electric guitar and drums, as the rappers talk on how impactful and good their music is. Both rappers do fine and it's a really enjoyable and down right amazing song.
As per usual, both rappers performances are very good all throughout the project. The most noticeable trait here is the storytelling - from André specifically. The main track being the appropriately titled, 'Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1)'. Both verses are very vivid and gripping, while tragic as well as Big Boi tells us the story of sleeping with a prostitute, and André a tale of a girl from his youth which ends in tragedy, "I kept on singing my song and hoping at a show // That I would one day see her standing in the front row // But two weeks later, she got found in the back of a school // With a needle in her arm, baby two months due // Sasha Thumper". André's verse is hard hitting, with an amazing flow, the beat is catchy and the hook is nice so it's a great track. As well as that, André has slick wordplay and heavy bars, while Big Boi's verses were packed full of wordplay and hard lines - storytelling being common as well. The track 'Slump' has some hard lines, with Big Boi providing a solid verse and solid lines such as, "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", as the track talks about selling drugs before fame. Backbone has an engaging delivery but his verse doesn't say much interesting, while Cool Breeze gave us an analytic, introspective verse, "So I think when I finish selling my last sack // I'ma take some of this money, go and give some back", with a classic 90's rapper flow and delivery. It gives us another catchy hook, a groovy and funky beat with a deep guitar bass and another entertaining track on the project. Both as usual have a quick cadences but their flows glide over these beat so effortlessly and they are so entertaining on the ear. 'Y’All Scared' see's André spit some facts to us, "Baboon on your back, but what's sad is that crack // Was introduced to Hispanic communities and blacks // But then it spread to white and got everyone's undivided attention // 'Cause your daughter is on it and you can't hide it // Maybe your son tried it // Rehab too crowded" as the track focuses on multiple topics such as: drug culture, black injustices and being stars. In regards to the features T-Mo's verse lyrically was poor but had a decent sound to it, Big Gipp's cadence was great and his flow too but again nothing too special lyrically while Khujo Goodie's verse had a great delivery and flow, hard bars and some decent metaphors and punchlines throughout over this slightly melancholy beat with a nice drum pattern. It's a great song, both the OutKast members have solid verses but they all needed to do just that bit more to grip us into the song.
Feature wise, there was mainly the classic dungeon family features and again for the most part they were good. I don't think many really came close to both André's and Big Boi's level however. Raekwon was the first non-dungeon family feature on an OutKast project on the song 'Skew It on the Bar-B', and with his classic drug rap bars and fire flow he was great, "Keep a watch froze, lean on the yacht and wash clothes // Let the chop' blow, bag a half a block plot grows, what?". The track is about being yourself and the rappers status in rap, with André giving us some nice punchlines, ""I'm a star"—I'd rather be a comet by far, rrah!", and Big Boi having a fire flow, witty punchlines and hard bars over this groovy, guitar based beat. It's a fast paced, hard hitting track which sounds great. 'Synthesizer' is all about how technology is separating humans from real life, and features George Clinton who gives a complex couple of verses talking about the dangers of modern technology, with some very crazy and complex lines telling us how technology is warping our minds, "Computer buggin debuggin devices and vice versa // And various viruses // Performing with laser light precision and verbal incision // For a lingustic ballistic lobotomy // Mind-fuckin you, a psycho-sodomy". His last verse is about webcam girls and not really being intimate due to the internet, and bar his singing which was hard to hear he was perfect. Dre had a great verse as he attacks modern technology with some great lines, "Give me my gat so I can smoke this n**** // Tell his mamma not to cry // Because they can clone him quicker // Than it took his daddy to make him", while Big Boi's verse was good it just felt out of place. The sci-fi sounds, catchy drum pattern and groovy beat was amazing and overall it's a unique and interesting a track that I really got engrossed in. Masada and Witchdoctor join OutKast on the track 'Mamacita', with Masada providing us a nice verse and the Witchdoctor giving us a smooth flow despite not lyrically being good as he talks about trying to interest a girl over this goorvy, slowed beat with heavy drums and a deep bass. André's verse talks on a woman close to breaking up with her man while her female friend tries to come onto her and she don’t let it happen (with good storytelling), and Big Boi tells a story about groupies thinking they'll get more than just sex with Big Boi's crew, providing some solid punchlines in the process. I don't care much for the hook on this one, it isn't awful though, and the verses are solid enough but the sound is a bit bland – it’s a decent song but so easily the weakest song on the whole project and holds it back from being a 10/10 album
Content wise a lot of the albums main themes include André and Big Boi's relationship together as they deny rumours of them breaking up, for example on the track 'Aquemini' as André also talks on his role in the rap game as a 'buzzkill' but says it's needed for the youth over this relaxed beat - maybe a bit too relaxed, if it had more life this track would be perfect. Big Boi has some hard and truthful bars, "If you ain't got no rims n****, don't get no wood grain steering wheel", and André's 2nd verse is crazy good - and while this song was amazing I felt a bit more energy would've took it up to the next level. Also they focus on a lot of controversies and complaints from critics of their last 2 albums straight from the get go with the track 'Return Of The “G”'. They didn't make gangsta rap on 'ATLiens' so many perceived them as soft (André specifically), and André and Big Boi are letting people know they're not over this psychedelic beat with boom bap drums and a nice guitar bass. André as per usual has a great verse, the hook is vibey and it's a good song - Big Boi was just a slight bit uninteresting and underwhelming lyrically on his verse. Street life is a common theme too, and then other than that there's a lot of different ideas and stories that are jumped into with a lot of thought. 'Liberation' is about freeing yourself and your mind over this catchy, groovy, lowkey beat as the rappers provide short but impactful (especially in Big Boi's case) verses. Erykah Badu's verse just says the same thing for ages, then has nice vocals but the repetition I suppose was a bit of an interlude, before she touches on fame changing everything and record labels controlling you, giving us a great verse. CeeLo Green's vocals are great and his delivery perfect for the track with some emotional lines with religious imagery, while Big Rube's spoken delivery talks on the prison system, how rappers recycle the themes of gang-banging and help towards black imprisonment with some complex metaphors. It creates an enjoyable vibe and keeps you interested for its 9 minute length. It isn't the most cohesive project but it does follow certain themes and give us good content.
To skim through other tracks, the short intro 'Hold On, Be Strong' is a nice calming, vibey introduction telling us to hold on and be strong with this clouded beat and deep guitar bass. It's honestly a great start to this project. Later on in the album we get the song 'West Savannah' which is all about Big Boi and growing up in Atlanta over this classic groovy beat. Big Boi's storytelling is good and his lyrics detailed, while Sleepy Brown from Dungeon family provides a solid hook with some nice vocals giving us a great track overall. 'Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2)' tells a story of the end of the world over this gritty and explosive beat, with some great storytelling involved, an example being André's hard hitting lines saying: "Played the track, guess she could not take it anymo' // Raping her heavenly body like a ho, coochie so' // From n***** constantly fucking her, never loving her // Never showing appreciation, busting nuts in her face when they done". It is a short, heavy and intense but brilliant track. Finally to talk on 'Nathaniel', where OutKast's friend from prison talks on his experiences in there with really insightful lyrics, painting an image of what’s happening in there. It's an enjoyable verse, really insightful and is a good prison phone call song.
To conclude, OutKast's mashed different styles and genres here and it worked, giving us catchy hooks, solid verses and entertaining production. The skits at the end of the songs are decent, and it's a catchy project with a smooth flowing sound. It had the potential to be a 10/10 album – there was just times I found myself losing attention and 'Mamacita' while decent – was still noticeably not as enjoyable as the rest of the project. It had the potential but it was too flawed stopping it being a 10.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hold On, Be Strong, Rosa Parks, Skew It on the Bar-B, Aquemini, Synthesizer, Slump, West Savannah, Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1), Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2), Nathaniel, Liberation, Chonkyfire
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Mamacita
OVERALL RATING: Solid 9/10