|Studio album by OutKast|
|Released||September 29, 1998|
1993 (West Savannah)
|Genre||Hip hop, neo soul|
|Producer||Babyface (exec.), Donny Mathis, Organized Noize, OutKast, Antonio M. Reid (exec.), David "Mr. DJ" Sheats|
|Singles from Aquemini|
Aquemini is the third studio album by hip hop duo OutKast, released September 29, 1998 on LaFace Records. The title is a portmanteau of the two performers' Zodiac signs: Aquarius (Big Boi) and Gemini (André 3000).
The album was certified platinum in November 1998, only two months after its release, and was certified double platinum on July 2, 1999 by the Recording Industry Association of America. Aquemini peaked at #2 on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Four of the album's tracks had already or would later become singles, although some were limited (promotional) releases and not available commercially. It was ranked as number 500 in the book version of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The album is vaguely futuristic, synthesizer-drenched and punctuated with anthemic choruses and bluesy beats. It addresses topics such as emancipation, drug addiction and problematic relationships, while exploring the bleakest aspects of humanity. In contrast to much of hip hop music in the late 1990s, OutKast did not tone down the regional qualities, like the harmonica break on "Rosa Parks" and distinctive Atlanta slang and diction throughout. "Rosa Parks" was later nominated for the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The song led to much controversy with Rosa Parks filing a defamation suit against OutKast.
The intro to the album, "Hold On, Be Strong", was written by session guitarist Donny Mathis and was originally a full song with verses, but the group preferred to only use the hook. André 3000 played a kalimba on the song after purchasing the instrument at a flea market, drawing inspiration from Earth, Wind & Fire. Aquemini also features live instrumentation and poetic lyricism, such as the reggae horns on the seven-minute long "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" and wah-wah guitar on the closing track "Chonkyfire". The album also included "West Savannah," which was an outtake from Outkast's debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. The track was also featured as an intro to the "Benz Or Beamer" video, but was held off Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and not used on the duo's follow-up album ATLiens, finally to surface on this album. The song is the original version and was not re-recorded for the album. A small intro to the song begins at the end of "Slump," with Big Boi referring to the song's history.
"Return of the G" addresses concerns from fans who felt that the group's style had changed too drastically since the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, as well as those who make poor decisions in order to keep their street credibility. When discussing the lyrical content of the song, André 3000 explained, "I was young and wilder and some of my fashion choices people didn't accept at the time. I started getting flak from some people, so they were like, 'Either he's gay or on drugs'...'Return of the Gangsta' was trying to give them a sense of, 'Hey, I'm still a regular person.'"
Delivered with rhythmic vocal styles and distinctive Southern rapping, the main focus of the album seemed to be on morality. With complex metaphors and dirty South slang, Andre addresses his critics in the album opener, "Return of the G". It's the return of the gangsta/Thanks ta' them niggas 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.... Aquemini's catchy lyrics are a mix of street-wise and common sense. RapReviews.com noted that "Aquemini is full of small moments that make you nod your head and look forward to hearing them again." "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" featured a soulful hook by Sleepy Brown and introspective lyricism by Big Boi and Andre, reciting it in spoken word style.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Village Voice||favorable|
Upon its release, Aquemini received general acclaim from music critics. Q called it "breathtaking in its ambition [...] makes most rappers seem drab and doltish in comparison". Steve Jones of USA Today gave the album three-and-a-half out of four stars and commented that the duo's "molasses-smooth raps speak to the stark realities of urban streets. And with the hard-driving, Southern-fried grooves provided by live studio musicians, these songs not only make you dance, they make you sweat". Tony Green of Spin praised its musical textures and commented that "OutKast understand the power of sound the way, say, Sly understood it on There's a Riot Goin' On or P-Funk did on The Motor-Booty Affair".
Giving it a five out of five "mic"-rating, Charlie Braxton of The Source praised its "diverse tapestry of various musical textures" and the duo's "submersion into the baptismal waters of the African American musical continuum, and [...] their superb use of the urban narrative". Braxton called Aquemini "a brilliant record" and commented that it "possesses an uncanny blend of sonic beauty, poignant lyricism and spirituality that compels without commanding". Los Angeles Times writer Soren Baker complimented OutKast's "intelligent hip-hop" and commented that "Musically, the collection supplies some of the lushest tracks ever included on a hip-hop record [...] a cohesive mix of mood-enhancing soundscapes".
Some critics appreciated the absence of a materialist focus. Rolling Stone declared that the album proved "that you don't have to sell out to sell records", while PopMatters agreed, claiming "(i)n a year where excess was romanticized by nearly everyone, OutKast was one of the few commercial groups concerned with more than just 'the Benjamins'". The music website Nude as the News called "Rosa Parks" "one of the best rap songs ever crafted." The album was later ranked #21 on Chris Rock's list of the Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums of all time. In September 2010, "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" was included at number 16 on Pitchfork Media's list of the top 200 tracks of the 90s.
Track listing 
|1||"Hold On, Be Strong"||1:11||Donny Mathis, OutKast||
|2||"Return of the 'G'"||4:49||Organized Noize||
|4||"Skew It on the Bar-B"||3:15||Organized Noize||
|8||"West Savannah"||4:03||Organized Noize||
|9||"Da Art of Storytellin' (Part 1)"||3:42||Mr. DJ||
|10||"Da Art of Storytellin' (Part 2)"||2:47||Mr. DJ||
|13||"Y'All Scared"||4:50||Mr. DJ||
The clean version of the album has all of the skits in between the songs removed. The interlude "Nathaniel" was omitted, as was verse five of "Liberation".
|Producers||OutKast, Organized Noize, Mr. DJ Sheats, Donny Mathis|
|Executive Producers||OutKast, Babyface, Organized Noize|
|Lead vocals and rapping||Big Boi, André Benjamin, Raekwon, Erykah Badu, Goodie Mob, Slick Rick, Whild Peach, Witchdoctor, Khujo, Joi Gilliam, Jamahr "Backbone" Williams, Big Rube|
|Background vocals||George Clinton, Debra Killings, Jim Smith, Jermaine Smith and Pat "Sleepy" Brown|
|Guitar||Craig Love, Tomi Martin, Martin Terry (electric guitar)|
|Bass guitar||Skinny Miracles, George Grier, LaMarquis Mark Jefferson|
|Synthesizer||Kenneth Wright, Marvin "Chanz" Parkman (also piano, moog bass)|
|Strings and Woodwinds||South Central Chamber Orchestra|
|Percussion||Omar Phillips, Victor Alexander (drums)|
|Other performers||4.0 b.k.a. The Four Phonics|
|Concert Master and Orchestral Arrangements||Charles Veal|
|Engineers||John Frye, Bernasky Wall, Ryan Williams, Jean B. Smit|
|Assistant Engineers||Alberto Perez, Rico Lumpkins, Ralph Cacciurri, Jason Rome, Jason Stokes, Kenny Stallworth, Katy Teasdale|
|Mixing||Josh Butler, Mr. DJ Sheats|
|Mixing Assistant||Claudine Pontier, Shawn Grove|
|Art Direction, Design||D.L. Warfield|
|Design Assistant, Assistant Art Director||Nigel Sawyer|
|Arranger||Mr. DJ Sheats|
|U.S. Billboard 200||2|
|U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums||2|
|Top Canadian Albums||17|
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- Aquemini at Discogs
- Album Review at RapReviews
- Album Review at Yahoo! Music
- Rankings and ratings at Acclaimed Music
- The Making of OutKast's Aquemini at Creative Loafing