The East ignores them, and the West fronts on them, but one fact remains; Andre and Big Boi aka hip-hop duo Outkast have one million-plus believers hidden in the crevasses of the world, and with good reason. Consider that Outkast's debut and sophomore albums have achieved platinum-plus sales, and the latter still moves 1,000 units weekly. Consider that Outkast effortlessly redefines itself, and hip hop, with each release. All things considered, why is the duo denied regard as of one of the best hip hop groups on the planet?

Aquemini, the Outkast's third album, should garner the notoriety that has eluded the pair for four years. With sonic arrangements and reprogrammed 808 breakbeats on masterpieces like "Synthesizer," which pulls George Clinton into the fray to add his legendary psychoalphaintellectualism, or the convention-defying poetics of the reggae-tinged "Spottieottiedopalicious," this album should become a certified classic.

Because Outkast consistently represents the avant-garde side of hip-hop, songs like the soul-stirring "Liberation," featuring Erykah Badu and Cee-Lo, will be discussed by purists around the world. It ain't for the clubs. Still, Outkast shines when eloquently addressing two-year-old breakup rumors on the album's title track: Even the sun goes down/heroes eventually die/horoscopes often lie/and sometimes "y"/nothing is for sure/nothing is for certain/nothing lasts forever/but until they close the curtain/it's him and I/Aquemini.

This is the best Outkast album, because it blends the pimp-esque atmosphere of album #1 and the spacey poetics of album #2, without confusing or losing them. And by challenging hip hop's tedious musical aesthetic, Outkast finally forces us to place them among the pantheon of rap's shining stars.

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