A BLUEPRINT—it was and still is.
20 years ago TODAY— OUTKAST released ‘Aquemeni’ thus forever CHANGING HIP HOP and how we saw the DUO as a GROUP and as separate individuals!
OutKast were getting pigeonholed — by a New York hip-hop establishment that deemed them “country,” by conservative rap purists who thought André was getting too weird, by gangster rap fans and Atlanta locals who loved the hard-partying pimps of the first album but weren’t down with the more meditative ATLiens. Retorts to these misconceptions abound on Aquemini. “You might call us country, but we’s only Southern,” Big Boi raps on “West Savannah.” “Them n****s that think you soft and say y’all be gospel rappin’/ But they be steady clappin’ when you talk about bitches, and switches, and hoes, and clothes, and weed,” André says on “Return of the ‘G.’” “Is he in a cult? Is he on drugs? Is he gay?,” he continues, mimicking his critics.
They responded by making one of the most adventurous yet well-rounded rap album of all time. Aquemini finds Big and Dre going off in a million directions at once but proving beyond a doubt that each path comes from the heart. It’s an album where a Georgia pastor’s harmonica solo shows up seconds before Staten Island’s Raekwon steps to the mic, where a jazzy, nine-minute meditation on “Liberation” and trap music forebearer Cool Breeze coexist, where boom-bap and futurism aren’t at odds, where lighthearted “story raps” suddenly become life-and-death parables. As they say on “Skew it on the Bar-B,” OutKast made an album for everyone from “Old-school players to new-school fools.”
Their first priority was convincing those old-school players who knew OutKast best as “two dope boys in a Cadillac” that they hadn’t gone too far into outer space. On an Aquemini skit, the duo parodied a prevailing opinion in Atlanta at the time:
Man, first they was some pimps, man. Then they was some aliens, or some genies, or some shit. Then they be talkin’ about that black righteous space, man, whatever, man. Fuck them. I ain’t fuckin’ with them no more. [Billboard]
Aquemini is a boundless piece of artistry.
“We never want to be just straight local,” Andre 3000 told Rolling Stone a month after the album’s release. “When we started making music, we wanted to get everybody on the planet to hear it. We reflect emotion, not ‘just what’s happening on your street.’ ”