Aquemini

Confederate loyalists probably had something different in mind when they said, "The South shall rise again." But their prophecy seems to have been fulfilled in the form of Master P, Goodie Mob and OutKast, three Southern rap acts whose appeal extends well beyond their region. Representing Atlanta to the fullest, OutKast prove that you don't have to sell out to sell records. Their first two albums, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994) and AT Liens (1996), were funky, daring forays into musical hip-hop. Aquemini, their third offering, follows in the same creative flow but brings us back to their down-home roots.

"Chonkyfire" starts things off in slow-motion, head-nodding fashion; rappers Andre and Big Boi pay respects to New York and to hip-hop's early MCs, then add, "The South got somethin' to say, that's all I got to say." No sooner said than done, the bluesy guitar licks and folksy harmonies of "Rosa Parks" announce OutKast's distinctive style of Southern boogie. The groove goes into overdrive during a clapping, foot-stomping breakdown funkified by a fierce harmonica as the kick drum pounds incessantly.

Anything OutKast touch — from the electrofunk of "Synthesizer," which features George Clinton's familiar falsetto, to the soulful, Isaac Hayes-in-spired title track — sounds as though they took it for a spin through the cotton fields in their Caddy. Sporting plenty of live chops (check the Felastyle horns of "Spottie Ottie Dopalicious") and soulful harmonies, Aquemini's fresh, original feel defies rap's coastal clichés.

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