Ryan and Matt bring their buddy act to bear in considering another buddy act, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, and OutKast’s 1998 album Aquemini.
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Syllabus: OutKast, Aquemini
- Aquemini: Amazon, Apple Music
- Wikipedia: Outkast, Aquemini, Astrology: Aquarius and Gemini
- “The Death Of The MC: From Lyrics and Flow to Ad-Libs and Swagger”
- “Rap Genius Can’t Explain Rakim’s Genius Rapping” on Overthinking It
(I’ve always heard it as “Black Righteous Spaceman”)
This was a really great episode, and of course I especially enjoyed being namechecked at the outset. A few other observations:
One reading of Aquemini is that at its core the album is a battle for who has the right to be the spiritual successor to the George Clinton P-Funk mantle. The opening and closing skits suggest a caricature of a West Coast rap group (Pimp Trick Gansta Clique) and they are set up in opposition to our heroes. The thugs in the record store represent the common man on the street who essentially wants to buy a G-Funk record, like maybe the Dogg Pound, but probably not even something that well-produced, just one of the countless derivatives of that era mimicking the Dr. Dre sound. They don’t want any of that black conscious stuff.
Of course, we remember that was a very real tension of the era, with all the varied questions of authenticity tied up between the two coasts, reality/gangsta rap (more commonly West Coast) vs. the typically more elevated discourse of a Public Enemy or Tribe or KRS-One from the East. I was in high school at the time, and there was a discourse as to whether you were a West Coast or East person, a Biggie or Pac guy or a Wu-Tang or Bad Boy or Death Row girl. This was a real thing.
Which is why the Source Awards soundbite from the infamous 1995 Source Awards is so crucial to understanding the mission statement. “The South got something to say” was both a fusion and improvement of the two competing ideologies. Outkast effectively merged the street concerns and musicality of the West Coast with the virtuosic lyricism and political consciousness of the East, with some southeast booty bass thrown in for good measure.
This was also the first album where the Lennon/McCartney parallels started to become noticeable. Tracks like the Art of Storytelling are wildly disparate in tone, with Andre telling a heartbreaking coming of age tale about cycles of abuse while Big Boi raps about that one time he had some great casual sex. The combination of Beatle-esque song fragments to make a quilt of a song is also noticeable in the title track, with Spottieottiedopaliscious doing Penny Lane things and Liberation doing Revolution things.
In a way, ATLiens is to Revolver as Aquemini is to Sgt. Pepper, and although there is NO comparison between the artistic merits of Erykah Badu and Yoko Ono, it seems unavoidable to suggest that Ms. Badu pushed Andre to new heights of creativity in their relationship. While eventually the record player (much later) got to skippin’ and slow’n down, this album represents a high water mark in the genre as Atlanta decisively took the crown.