The release of southernplayalisticadillacmuzik met me during the last vestiges of adolescence. ATLiens mirrored my formative adult years as I was seeking to chart a unique path for the future. By the time Aquemini dropped, I had a few life successes and disappoinments, had my heart broken, and was experiencing the demise of another love relationship. By 1998, I was my own man and so were the Big Boi and Andre 3000 (the moniker he has been known by since this release). It has been said that the group had been touring in separate tour buses, a reflection of the differences in their lifestyles. At this stage of my life, the brotherly bond between me and Jay remained as we also were charting different life directions. We were changing, undergoing the life-blessing called maturity.
Not only had OutKast and I changed, hip hop had changed. While OutKast had ushered in a new era of respectability for Southern rappers, Master P and the No Limit Records team were steadily becoming a national force. Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was arguably one of the greatest albums of the year and of all-time. Also released on the same day as Aquemeni was Mos Def & Talib Kweli are BlackStar. I mention those albums to establish a context of the times and for me as hip hop connoisseur.
1998 ~ Aquemeni
Without a doubt, Aquemeni deserved the 5 mic rating it got from the Source Magazine. It is quite a musical experience. Like Lauryn Hill's opus, it contains an exceptional assortment of musical expression. And like Lauryn's, I never really became attached to the album although I really loved a number of songs. This may seem petty but in the sense that I prefer Michael Jackson's Off The Wall over Thriller because in spite of all the hits on Thriller, Off The Wall is the better album. Thriller is the better collection of songs. That distinction in the listening experience is minor; yet, is a personal point of separation.
With ATLiens, I could experienced the whole cd in one setting. With Aquemeni, I had to pick and choose particular songs for particular times. Again, I want to emphasize that Aquemini is an awesome album; yet, it never did for me what ATLiens did.
I suppose as a working adult trying to excel in a new career, I spent less time experiencing the music and had began falling into a pattern of sticking with that which with I was familiar. That pattern is cancer for the a music aficionado and I was slowly subjecting myself to a narrowing of my musical tastes. A narrowing that resulted into me not listening to the BlackStar cd a full 15 months after it came out - a criminal act for a hip hop head.
None of that means that OutKast didn't bring it, because they certainly did. And I believe they brought it the hardest on Liberation. Liberation is one of the best OutKast tracks ever! With OutKast, Erykah Badu, Cee-Lo, and Big Rube? That's a potent combination that guaranteed to be soulful, enlightening, funky, inspirational, and insightful.
(This video is not an OutKast video but it certainly matches the vibe of the song.)
It is nearly impossible to go back and listen to the other tracks in the same setting because listening to Liberation is an experience in and of itself. The song (it's musicality) and it's implications (the stories and meaning behind the lyrics) require a bit of processing. Which brings us back to why OutKast is such an extraordinary group. To paraphrase the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy, these brothers "don't rhyme for the sake of riddlin'."
I don't want to turn this blog post into a lament about the commercialized stuff that is passed-off as hip hop nowadays because genuine hip hop that uplifts as well as makes people want to dance does exist. Yet, I really want to emphasize the artistry embodied by OutKast. These brothers aren't just rappers, they are artists, ambassadors, and purveyors of culture.
As I conclude this blog, I want to share that when I was choosing a video to post, my twelve-year old daughter was watching over my shoulder. The images in the video prompted a number of questions, particularly about Hurricane Katrina. She then got her laptop, starting reading and watching videos about the storm and its' aftermath. Not only am I proud as a father that my daughter's curiosity was piqued, I am a proud hip hop fan because the effects of the music help expand my daughter's thinking. Great music does that for its' listeners.
Check back tomorrow for Part 4.