Like many artists, I have always maintained a highly simplified and limited view of OutKast. As such, when I saw them surface on my list, I naively assumed that the album “Aquemini”, which is a hybrid of the two horoscope signs for Andre 3000 and Big Boi, would include “Hey Ya!”, their biggest commercial success. This highly rated album actually was five years before “Hey Ya!”, and honestly, it is much more to my liking as well. This record is rated #49 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
“Hey Ya!” is fine as a light and bouncy pop-rap song, but this record is so much better. One of the biggest emerging acts from the Atlanta hip-hop scene, OutKast really hit my sweet spot with its incorporation of funk, slow groove and lyrical flow. Like many hip-hop acts of the time, the lyrics are hard-hitting and rough-edged, with themes of city life and gang violence prominently featured. They also found the right mix of visible featured artists like George Clinton, Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan, and Cee-Lo among others, while retaining their own stamp on the album. In fact, one of the biggest disputes between the two was which song to start the record (after the intro instrumental opener “Hold On, Be Strong”). Andre 3000 ultimately prevailed by insisting on “Return of the “G””, which is just Andre & Big Boi front and center. It has such a slow and powerful beat, accentuating the deliberate and dark world this lifestyle exists within. This might be my favorite song on the album.
Other favorites of mine include “Rosa Parks”, a more up-tempo flow, and “Skew It on the Bar-B”, which is the track that features Raekwon. The lyrical and vocal flow on this track is remarkable; this is some of the smoothest hip-hop I have heard to date. You can hear it just as effectively at a slower speed, on like the title track as well. My son has always told me how much he loves OutKast, and this record gives me much more appreciation for their true sound at their very best.