Outkast’s Aquemini vs. The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. Which Is Better?

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One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

In the early 1990s, two groups on opposite coasts looked at the Hip-Hop landscape, and found portals to advance the sound. Outkast and Pharcyde are both acts that mined Gangsta Rap attitudes and content into bohemian, Everyman narratives. Whether in South Central or Decatur, these movements found the culture, color, and conflict in their worlds, and made musical kaleidoscopes from them. 1992’s Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde was a blooming soul flower of sound and style, reinforced by harmony and Jazz. Six years later, Outkast’s Aquemini may be the perfect pivot point of a group in a flawless stride, earnestly raising their own lyrical and sonic stakes. In different ways, these albums reshaped the Rap consciousness and related in the mainstream. Although, in this setting, only one great ’90s juggernaut can be left standing (click on one then click “vote”).

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Aquemini by OutKast

OutKast (as they were still stylized at the time) carried an infallible reputation into their third album. For a group that had helped make the South a destination for lyric-seekers in the 1990s, Big Boi and Andre 3000 appeared to be marginalized from the emerging mainstream movements of No Limit, So So Def, and Cash Money. However, with Aquemini, they sought little outside support—especially from those “face down in the mainstream.” Instead, the pair kept the circle tight, and welcomed a bevy of session players into the Bobby Brown’s Bosstown Studios—which during the LP would become their privately-owned Stankonia. Upon exiting the lab, Outkast had another galactic gestalt of message-Funk stuffed with rhythms and flows that could not be replicated. Moreover, ‘Kast put their finest “F.U.B.U.” feet forward in this LP’s singles. “Rosa Parks” took the Civil Rights Movement’s inciting incident and illustrated how “the back of the bus” was actually where those in power wish to be. The fast-paced single broke from the a la carte offerings of the previous two albums, but maintained the confident, socially-applicable premise, and brilliant Rap commentary. Follow-up single (and next track on the album) “Skew It On The Bar-B” welcomed Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon for an effort that made a Dominique Wilkins-era dunk contest out of flow and cadence. In an era of catch-phrase-driven, unapologetically dumbed-down Rap, Big and ‘Dre were fearlessly inventive. In slang, style, and presentation, this duo had Hip-Hop’s original tenants in mind.

At a time when Rap albums were seemingly seeking judgement based on video singles alone, Aquemini demanded to be looked at as a total sum of its parts. Deep cuts like “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” stretched a brassy groove, with razor sharp rhymes about reality, and lifestyle shifts. On the album closer, “Chonky Fire,” guitars charged a sinister Stankonia seance—complete with an effortlessly human chorus to match the message. In Outkast’s final effort with Organized Noize and Mr. DJ taking on heavy production duties, Aquemini may be the group’s best marriage of rhymes and beats. Big Boi was a lyrical Barry Sanders, bolting up the field with his nimble flow and trademark cadence. Andre 3000 stuck-and-moved with imagery, wisdom, and lines that prove to be Rap-relevant 17 years later. No longer was ‘Kast playing with a geographic inferiority complex. By the third album, these two impresarios knew they were at the top of the skill totem pole. With that confidence and creativity, Aquemini laid out the zodiac to determine what was best for Hip-Hop’s future, and how shiny suits, Italian roadsters, and tanks were merely distractions.

Album Number: 3
Released: September 29, 1998
Label: LaFace Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, November 1998; certified platinum, November 1998; certified 2x platinum, July 1999)
Song Guests: Raekwon, George Clinton, Erykah Badu, Big Gipp, Cee-Lo, Khujo, T-Mo, Joi, Sleepy Brown, Cool Breeze, Witchdoctor, Big Rube, Mr. DJ, The Four Phonics, Lil Will, Delvida Flaherty, Supa Nate, 4.0, CJ Jones, Jamahr Williams, Whild Peach, The South Central Chamber Orchestra, Marvin “Chanz” Parkman, Victor Alexander, Omar Phillips, Darian Emory, LaMarquis Mark Jefferson, Skinny Miracles, Kenneth Wright, Craig Love, Tomi Martin, Martin Terry, Jim Sitterly, Jermaine Smith, Debra Killings, Jim Smith
Song Producers: (self), Organized Noize, Mr. DJ

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Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde by The Pharcyde

In the post-N.W.A. Los Angeles, California, MCs all seemed to embrace the vigilante lifestyle of gang-infested streets, colorful cars, shapely women, and bubonic chronic. From the same streets of South Central as Ice Cube and WC, The Pharcyde had defiantly different things to say. Fatlip, Tre Hardson, Bootie Brown, and Imani emerged as a quartet of MCs who needed charisma to stand out—not only in a crowded industry, but from each other. Debut Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde best manifested the group’s frontier terrain in Hip-Hop. However, in standing apart from the pack, the ‘Cyde came to the front. Whereas most MCs made songs about easily obtained sexual partners, the Delicious Vinyl pack mastered the unrequited vibe on crossover single “Passin’ Me By.” But The Pharcyde refused to be pigeonholed as woe-is-me punks. “I’m That Type Of Nigga” played like a ’92 Juice Crew posse cut—had Kane and his cohorts huffed nitrous balloons. Hi-pitched and fast-paced, The Pharcyde were deeply confident MCs, as a product of their reigning status in L.A.’s famed The Good Life Cafe cyphers.

Like their Freestyle Fellowship affiliates, The Pharcyde found a way to work in harmony. The group exercised routines that had more in common with Cold Crush Brothers than Cypress Hill. “Ya Mama” posed immaturity with refined craft. The group offered snaps, with air-tight raps to drive the theme home for skeptics. While recreational drug use was becoming a dominant theme in Rap, nationwide in 1992, “Pack The Pipe” was an accurate portrayal of getting a little too lifted. Part actors (just as some of the members were in real life), The Pharcyde proved to be especially devoted to each album concept. They genuinely sold the ideas, more than simply stacking 16’s on a particular issue or topic. Surrounding the four creatives, the group—along with affiliates L.A. Jay and J-Swift brought a cohesive sound to Bizarre. The album integrated Jazz, but not in an overt way akin to Digable Planets or US3. Instead, the group adapted the free-form attitudes and bold experimentation, with the perfect backdrop of diced down Donald Byrd, Quincy Jones, Roy Ayers, and others. Although the cooperative energy of the early ’90s lives strong on the debut album, The Pharcyde’s message has enriched with time—from the relationship raps, to the eerily relevant “Mr. Officer.” Bizarre Ride To The Pharcyde lives up to its name 23 years later in the fact that the now-fractured L.A. quartet created an experience, that was both amusing and informative, and could never be duplicated elsewhere.

Album Number: 1
Released: November 24, 1992
Label: Delicious Vinyl Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #75 (certified gold, March 1996)
Song Guests: J-Swift, Buckwheat, Rashaan, Quinton, Greg Padilla, Brandon Padilla, Cedra Walton, Leslie Cooney
Song Producers: (self), L.A. Jay, J-Swift

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums