Aquemini, by OutKast
Suggested by Krystian Musztafa
In 2003, OutKast released Hey Ya! It proved to be the biggest hit of their career, reaching number 3 in the UK singles chart but number 1 in a host of other countries, including USA.
Part of the song’s charm was the entertaining video, in which the driving force Andre 3000 appeared as multiple characters in a band playing the song Hey Ya! on TV. It’s all very meta, I’m sure. Another part of the song’s charm is the eminently quotable refrain, in which Andre 300 discusses our collective booties, requesting repeatedly that we “shake it like a Polaroid picture.” Very evocative.
In response to the success of the song, the Polaroid company felt it wise to release a statement on their website.
“Shaking or waving can actually damage the image,” they informed the world. “Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause ‘blobs’ in the picture. … The best way to ensure a perfectly developed image is to simple lay the picture on a flat surface immediately after it exits the camera.”
Sage advice, I’m sure, but “lay it on a flat surface like a Polaroid picture” won’t get many dancefloors bouncing.
I really like Hey Ya! It’s catchy, bouncy, breezy fun. It’s literally all I know of OutKast going into my listen of their 1998 album Aquemini, but if it’s any reflection on that album’s content, I’m in for a fine time.
SPOILERS – Hey Ya! does not reflect Aquemini’s content.
Apparently, Aquemini is one of the more influential hip hop albums to have been released in the last thirty years. I’m sure it’s a ground-breaking, genre-defining behemoth, and I’m sure I’m headed for some metaphorical Hip Hop Hell for saying this, a triple-H-Hell in which the booties are all flat and the beats are all polka, but I found it all rather generic and boring.
Vocally, the rappers involved are decent enough. I think Andre 3000 is actually very strong, tackling more complex rhymes and rhythms than the more traditional Big Boi. And the music is varied and intricate enough too, I guess. There are highs and lows, with the highs (like the standout track Rosa Parks) sounding fresh and exciting, and the lows (like the wailing and turgid Mamacita) coming over as grey and greasy, like Stork Margarine when you’re looking for Lurpak.
There’s a lot of random filler on Aquemini. Songs end with odd conversations between the two protagonists, some of which are vignettes of the band’s lifestyle and some of which are direct communication with the listener. It feels indulgent and unnecessary. A few songs start with the rap anathema, a pair of tired players sparring into the mic, uttering redundancies like “Uh, uh yeah, OutKast are in the house, uh yeah.” Have some self-respect and write some damn lyrics.
I’m giving Aquemini a miserly 5/10. That’s partly on me, as I think I was expecting more Hey Ya! style uplift rather than Yet Another Rap Album. Maybe the project is getting to me, and I’m a little Rapped Out. I’m sure I’ll bounce back. Bad luck OutKast, but I don’t blame the player, I blame the game.