Looking Through Time: 1998
With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 1998.
OutKast - Aquemini
OutKast was a hip-hop duo consisting of Atlanta based rappers Andre 3000 and Big Boi. The two made a splash in the music scene in the mid-90s with the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and ATLiens. OutKast was known by their slick, thought-provoking lyricism and infectious charisma. The two played off one another so well, helping solidify them as a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop industry.
Toward the end of the 90s, OutKast released their third studio album Aquemini on September 29, 1998. The title is a mix of both rappers Zodiac signs. Big Boi being Aquarius and Andre 3000 being Gemini. With that, the title was born, and it encapsulated the theme of the album perfectly.
In Aquemini, Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s personalities clash, contrast and mesh across the albums 16 tracks. The ability of the two to play off one another so well was nearly perfected on Aquemini, all while expanding upon their strengths and becoming an even stronger hip-hop duo.
OutKast managed to create a soundscape that heavily featured live instrumentation while sticking to their Atlanta roots. The production used a nice mix of guitar, horns, piano and on some occasions, harmonica. Instrumentally, Aquemini is one of OutKast’s best, featuring a great amount of variety that allowed both Andre 3000 and Big Boi room to explore different styles of flow and delivery. Critically, Aquemini was hailed as OutKast’s most fully realized album to date and one of the best hip-hop albums of the 90s. Up until this point, not many other hip-hop albums had reached the heights of creativity or brilliance that OutKast had captured on Aquemini, especially other aspiring Atlanta rappers of the time.
Just five years after Aquemini’s debut, Rolling Stone ranked the album No. 500 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Some of the most notable tracks to come off of Aquemini are “Rosa Parks,” “Aquemini,” and “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1 & 2).” The impact of Aquemini is still being felt today, with rappers like Kendrick Lamar taking influence from the album’s production and aesthetic for his album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Twenty years later, and Aquemini is still regarded as a classic and one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever created.
- Zach Hall
Cher – Believe
Cher had successfully held a No. 1 hit in every decade since the sixties and now the nineties were about to pass her by without another No. 1 hit to keep her record running. Cher had recently come off of the failure of her latest album, It’s a Man’s World, and was encouraged by her studio to move in a different musical direction. The result was an album unlike any other she had ever released.
Cher’s Believe, her 22nd album, at first was receiving critically mixed reviews, who both encouraged her adoption of euro-disco influences while also criticizing her use of the newly developing auto-tune. When Believe was released commercially, however, it became incredibly successful, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and becoming certified platinum for selling four million copies in the United States.
The album’s concert tour went on to become one of the highest grossing tours ever for a female solo artist at that time. The success of the leading single, “Believe” earned Cher the record as the oldest female solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in the Guinness Book of World Records. “Believe” reached No. 1 in 10 countries, including the United States, effectively keeping Cher’s number one hit in every decade record running and reinvigorating her career.
– Scott Perdue
Madonna – Ray of Light
Madonna had successfully held domain over the 1980s, her constant provocative actions made her remain at the top of headlines. Madonna kept this energy into the 1990s when she released her sexually explicit coffee table book, Sex, in 1992 which once again fractured critics. One side would claim it was cheap and dirty while others would argue it was a statement of power and defiance of censorship. Everyone was shocked, however, when Madonna released her seventh album, Ray of Light, which was a massive departure from her previous provocative style.
Embracing themes of spiritual enlightenment and Hinduism along with a diverse mixture of musical influences, Ray of Light, earned universal acclaim and was hailed as Madonna’s “most adventurous” album by critics. The singles “Ray of Light” and “Frozen” received international praise and the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200. Madonna’s Ray of Light effectively shifted the flow of her career and proved she wasn’t just a clinger to scandal after scandal, but a well-rounded artist as well.
– Scott Perdue
Kid Rock – Devil Without A Cause
Departing from his previous approach, which had been predominantly hip-hop, the fourth studio album of the rap-metal icon Kid Rock, Devil Without A Cause, finally gave Kid Rock a breach into commercial success and proved he had a style unlike any other. Making a huge splash, the album’s lead single, “Bawitdaba” helped Devil Without A Cause to climb the charts and make sure everyone knew who he was with the explosive opening, “My name is Kid….. Kid Rock!"
Adopting a “pimp red-neck” stage persona and blending rap, metal and country music, Kid Rock’s “Cowboy," in which he claimed, “I'm not straight outta Compton, I'm straight out the trailer,” effectively created its own unique genre of country-rap. The album’s title track claimed confidently, “Devil Without A Cause…. I’m Going Platinum!,” and Kid Rock was absolutely correct; Devil Without A Cause sold more than 14 million copies and was certified platinum 11 times. Proving that everyone was wrong to overlook his talent, Devil Without A Cause not only updated Kid Rock’s musical style but evolved the rap and country genres for forever.
– Scott Perdue
Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
On August 25, 1998, one of the most iconic female rappers dropped her debut solo album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The album was a beautiful mixture of R&B, hip-hop, soul and reggae. She broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist. Prior to her solo career, Hill was apart of The Fugees, along with Wyclef Jean and Pras. The songs told a story of the good and the bad, including her complicated pregnancy, the confusion within The Fugees, her love life and God. This album was groundbreaking because it eliminated any preconceived notions of hip-hop.
Hill was able to showcase her unbelievable rap skills not many knew existed. The Fugees were known for incorporating guitars and drumsticks in their music, which was unheard of for hip-hop at the time. Hill brought it up a notch on her solo album, as she worked with different musicians to bring this organic sound to life once again.
One of her most popular songs, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” was on this album and is still a song people vibe with 20 years later. On November 14, 1998, this song peaked at No. 1 the Billboard Hot 100. On top of her album receiving positive feedback, she also received an unbelievable amount of support as a solo artist. At the 41st Annual Grammy Awards in 1998, she had 10 nominations, and she went home with five awards: Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best R&B Album.
Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.