Masters Of Reinvention Conjure Impressive Album

Featuring cameos from Wu-Tang's Raekwon, Southern playa Cee-Lo and the rising queen of spiritual soul, Erykah Badu.

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.