April 20th, 2007 was a special day for me. By virtue of an unexpected day off from JV Baseball and with the stars aligning, I came to posses one of Hip-Hop’s most treasured gems of the 90’s.
While there was no good reason for practice being cancelled that day, nobody really argued: 4/20/07 was a beautifully sunny Friday. While lugging my Wilson bag home, I spontaneously stopped at a sidewalk sale to flip through a book of CD’s, which contained a collection of Everclear, Semisonic and Tool albums. Yet an intriguing, scratched-up disc with green and orange lettering proved impossible to pass on.
Outkast’s third album, 1998’s “Aquemini” is a collection of breezy, Southern flows and trunk-rattling drums, stripped of predictability and full of blues-inspired rhythms. Big Boi and Andrea 3000’s album is as rich as a novella illustrated with chapter after chapter involving powers both good and evil, raw tales of the Dungeon Family (the Atlanta artist collective consisting of Organized Noise, Goodie Mob and of course Outkast), and tragic characters like “Da Art of Storytellin Part I’s” Shasha Thumper. Listening to the album, you can see Big Boi (the Aquarius) and Andre (the Gemini) sitting in their Cadillac, watching the galaxy pass as they construct riveting fables based of life experiences. Futuristic synthesizers, soul loops and funky horn sections cause you to wonder what’s exactly in Atlanta’s water. Then again, if we knew, we probably wouldn’t still be nodding our heads to the album’s countless classics.
After going platinum in November of 1998, “Aquemini” quickly outdid itself, hitting double platinum only a year later in ‘99. What makes the album unique is not only the infamous guest spots by Big Gip and Cee-Lo Green of Goodie Mob, George Clinton, Sleepy Brown and Erykah Badu, but the esoteric notion of time and place that comes with every listen of “Aquemini.” Unlike New York or Los Angeles in the late nineties, the South hadn’t made its mark in Hip-Hop and the slang was still esoteric. Not to mention, few people knew what to make of Andrea 3000’s wild fashion sense. “What’s up with Andre/is he into coke?/ is he on drugs?/ gay?/ when ya’ll gonna’ break up?/ when ya’ll gonna wake up?” Andre vents his frustrations regarding rumors on “Return of the G.”
Who could have guessed that just a few years later, at the turn of the century, Atlanta would become synonymous with rap thanks to its countless legends like Cee-Lo, Ludacris, Lil Jon, T.I., Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy? The list continues today. But one thing is for certain: many of these acts owe credit to the album that put grits, grills and 4/4 beats in the living rooms of millions of people all over the world. Be it the seven minutes of laid back, spoken-word laced “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” or the vivacious guitar riffs on “Chonkyfire,” Big Boi and Andrea set a new standard for rap in 1998. “Aquemini” showed the world the South could hold its own and would be telling stories for years to come.