Despite the incredible success of fellow Southerner Master P, Atlanta's OutKast are the ambassadors of Southern hip-hop hospitality.
Even though they typify the South in many respects -- with their drawls, their grassroots spirituality, their penchant for gospel music -- OutKast have become
immensely popular throughout the rest of the country as well. The group's
lush, warm beats groove well with West Coast fans raised on gangsta rap, and
OutKast's lyricism is on par with the most progressive East Coast MCs.
Among OutKast's strengths is their ability to
reinvent themselves on each album while remaining popular with their core
audience. Their 1994 debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik,
combined gospel sermons with gritty stories about pimps and
hustlers. Two years later, with ATLiens, they went extraterrestrial.
But OutKast have
always tried to represent truths about black life in the South.
Aquemini finds the group reconnecting with its religious roots,
but not in any conventional sense of religiosity.
Although pimps, playas and hustlers people the album, OutKast don't
perpetuate the usual, self-centered pretentiousness of conventional "reality
rap" lyrics. On "Return of the 'G,' " Dre criticizes the listeners that "be
steady clappin' when you/ Talk about bitches and switches and hoes and
clothes" and offers, instead, "let's talk about time-travelin',
rhyme-javelin'/ Something mind-unraveling/ Get down!"
Equally impressive is the group's rich and earthy music, courtesy of
Organized Noize, David "Mr. DJ" Sheats and, of course, OutKast themselves.
Cohesive in sound, diverse in form, Aquemini leaps from the swinging
funk of "Rosa Parks" to the staccato pace of "Skew It on the Bar-B" to the
upbeat grooviness of "Slump" and ends up with the rocking power chords of
"Chunkyfire." Featuring cameos from artists as diverse as the Wu-Tang's
Raekwon, fellow Southern playa Cee-Lo and the rising queen of spiritual soul,
Erykah Badu, OutKast manage to offer something for everyone while retaining
their unique sound.