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The first genius longplayer from Atlanta Hip-Hop Futurists..
on 15 September 2003
Aquemini was an album I discovered in retrospect after hearing the commercial & critical hit follow-up Stankonia- which sent me hurtling for that Outkast back-catalogue. The debut Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik had some great tracks on (Playa's Ball, Git Up/Out, the title track) but was a little indebted to Snoop Dogg; its follow-up Atliens (1996) was rather odd- Outkast stepping into a sonic maelstrom of Sun-Ra & synths. On Aquemini, Big Boi & Andre3000, produced a key Hip-hop album- one that advanced the genre and looked to the future, while at the same time aligning themselves with the best hip-hop, that which played with eclectic sources (samples/styles),eg Afrika Baambaata, De La Soul, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest.
Return of the 'G' is a brilliant opening track, the delivery of Dre & Big Boi is suitably lethal over samples from Giorgio Moroder's soundtrack to exploitative drug classic Midnight Express. For those who adored their Prince/Soul thang on hit Ms Jackson- here they try out this territory with Rosa Parks- that fuses "lacka lacka" with an amusing take on civil rights leader Rosa Parks. No pious soul-sister nonsense like Primal Scream's Star (which assumes RP is dead!), more of a statement saying, forget all that, let's get dirty! Rosa Parks is reportedly sueing at present...
There are some great guests- Wu-Tang's Raekwon on Skew It on the Bar-B, easily one of the great Wu-related tracks of recent years (when the albums became less enjoyable)- up there with Killah Priest's One Step Up, ODB's Recognize or Cappadonna's If It's Alright With You. The title track is a stoned-funk that opens with a mantra "Even the sun goes down, heroes eventually die/Horoscopes often lie and sometimes 'y'/Nothing is for sure, nothing is for certain, nothing lasts forever/But until they close the curtain, it's him and I, Aquemini". Legend George Clinton (Parliament/Funkadelic)assists on Synthesizer where GC spurts up that madgenius "Conceived under the influence of toxic wasted doctors/Computer bugging and debugging devices and vice versa, various viruses/Performing with laser light precision and verbal incision/For a linguistic ballistic lobotomy mind f-ing you of psycho sodomy/Of the medulla oblongata exit your mind down your spine and out your behind"!
West Savannah is like a futurist take on the sound of the first album, easily ranking up there with stuff by the Neptunes- notably the first version of the NERD album. Da Art of Storytellin Pt2 is a harsh semi-industrial assault, not far from the territory of Eric B & Rakim (Lyrics of Fury) & Wu Tang Clan (I Gotcha Back).
The album becomes even more adventerous as it moves toward the end- from the latin-dub-hip-hop inflections of Mamacita to epic tracks like SpottieOttieDopaliscous & Liberation - the former has brass reminiscent of The Specials 2nd album, while the latter has the joy of vocals by Erykah Badu). The album goes out on the best messed up beats/guitar combo this side of Prince's Black Album (there's even a Camille-style voice), Chonkyfire- which feels suitably apocalyptic and leads the way towards later tracks like Gasoline Dreams (play the two against each other to see how Outkast progress).
Aquemini remains one of the great hip-hop albums of the 1990s and is worth discovering at this budget price- there's not much between this and its popular follow-up and is proof that it may take a few albums for a great artist to produce a suitably great album. Listening to this record, all my usual gripes about music being dead or over in a morass of retroism are quelled; an album that looks backwards to move forward, or moves forward while looking back. Classic stuff-