What's happening people?! Glad you maneuvered yourselves back around my way once again. With it being 2018, it's time to salute those monumental projects that really made '98 such an amazing year in hip-hop. We will begin with an album that many say was hands down the best album of '98 (aside from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) and definitively one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all-time. While the prior two efforts of this particular southern duo really helped to establish the boom of the south, it was this album that really showed their artistic side in a way that was undisputed. From influences of funk, soul, blues, and gospel incorporated into hip-hop, this album was astounding. This album was Aquemini.
It was evident Outkast was becoming a hip-hop act to not be overlooked or ignored whatsoever. With Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and ATLiens being platinum-plus gems and Big Boi and Dre earning Best New Artist at The Source Awards, they were becoming bigger and bigger stars. Enter Aquemini. Combining their respective astrological signs Aquarius and Gemini, Big Boi and Dre reflected their signs and their traits within their music to bring together a momentous occasion on wax. The album's first single was the ol' traditional blues sounding, "Rosa Parks". This fantastic single was followed up with the soupy "Skew It On The Bar-B" featuring a surprising collabo with Wu-Tang's legendary chef, Raekwon. This pairing fit very well though, and made for a standout cut. The rest of the album was simply a musical experience.
Lyrically, the duo excelled even more than they did on ATLiens, and contained more of a mixture of spirituality, soul, and down home southern culture that resembled more Southernplayalistic than ATLiens, as the latter was more extra-terrestrial and spiritual in nature overall. From cuts like the fantastic Southernplayalistic extra, "West Savannah" to cuts like "Slump" and "Y'all Scared", they never mind exploring the streets and lifestyle of where they come from. However, they go into more poetic, artistic routes with unbelievable cuts like the two-part "Art Of Storytelling" (Part Two in particular is just so left brained amazing), the ultra-funky and compelling spoken-word piece "SpottieOttieDopalicious", and the eargasm "Liberation", which is simply soulfulness at its finest with Erykah Badu, Cee-Lo, and Joi, with a spoken piece by Dungeon Family affiliate Big Rube.
Musically, this is their richest and most ambitious effort to this very day. Experimenting with live instrumentation to sampling, this album is production genius. As was aforementioned, elements such as blues, soul, gospel, world music and especially funk are thick on this album and exemplify the next level they were trying to achieve. There were no outside producers, just Dre and Mr. DJ. None others were needed. The horn blares from "SpotieOtieDopalicious" to the synths attached to "Synthesizer" and the harmonica from "Rosa Parks" showed that they were not trying to be in one other person's lane besides their own.
This album was brilliant, case closed. Aquemini pushed every musical boundary previously shunned in that era's hip-hop. Considered one of the most influential albums to ever grace our ears, regardless of genre, Outkast became officially the best duo in hip-hop not named Mobb Deep. This was an album that kept it soulful and southern like gumbo, but also opened hip-hop up to other influences that were simply about music and less about image. This became the third straight classic for Outkast, and they officially challenged A Tribe Called Quest and Eric B & Rakim for the greatest hip-hop trilogy ever./ While their other projects of the mega smashes Speakerboxx/The Love Below and Stankonia were equally stellar, Aquemini just may be their greatest overall musical achievement, and redefined how the south an sound. Happy twentieth Aquemini!