1. Aquemini (1998)
Already critically acclaimed platinum voices, Andre 3000 and Big Boi achieved hip-hop nirvana on this grandiose statement of an album. “Return of the G” kicks things off in sneering fashion, delivering a middle-finger to their gangsta detractors who labeled OutKast as soft, even questioning Dre’s sexuality. “But they be steady clappin' when you talk about bitches and switches and hoes and clothes and weed,” 3000 fired off on rap’s nihilistic state of affairs.
From there, the guys achieve Middle America glory (“Rosa Parks”); question the dark evolution of technology with the legendary George Clinton (“Synthesizer”); take rap introspection to sobering depths (the brilliant Cee-Lo, Erykah Badu and Big Rube featured “Liberation”); and drop spoken-word realness on a reggae-infused groove that boasts one of the decade’s most infectious horn runs (“SpottieOttieDopaliscious”).
Yet even as their third release forever cemented OutKast as the greatest hip-hop group of the ‘90s era, Big Boi and 3000 were not much for back-slapping. When you hear an actual clip of the tandem getting booed during a win at the 1995 Source Awards in New York on the dramatic track “Chunkyfire,” you realize just how far the South has come in commanding respect in the house that Kool Herc built. Mission accomplished.