Throwback Thursday Revisiting: OutKast’s ‘ATLiens’

Revisiting one of Hip Hop's dynamic duo's sophomore album

When I think about Hip Hop in the early 90’s, the two most talked about regions were the East and the West coasts. That is, until 1994 when Atlanta-born group OutKast dropped Southernplayalisticadillacmusik and put the world on notice that the South could rap too. The duo took the rap scene by storm with funky productions backed by Organize Noize and the Goodie Mob. However, not everybody was rockin’ with OutKast at first. After receiving the new Best New Artist award at The Source Awards, they were boo’d by most of the crowd. As Andre 3000 accepted the award, he took the mic and said “The south got something to say.”

OutKast had a ton of critics even though their debut album peaked at number 20 on the Billboard 200 before going on to become certified platinum. Most were saying that their music wasn’t considered “real” Hip Hop, but that just added fuel to the flame. After gaining more trust from their label, L.A. And Babyface Records (later known as LaFace), OutKast was given near free range to create for their 2nd album. The duo set out to not only recreate their image, but their sound as well. In response to all the criticism, they dropped their sophomore studio album, the 1996 ATLiens. This joint was a little bit different from their debut album. Both Andre 3000 and Big Boi took some of the production into their own hands, going for more “space-like” instrumentation. The duo also had a few lifestyle changes which also contributed to the quality of the music. The album name was a unique combination of where they are from and how they feel about their isolation in the rap game – two of the main storylines for their career up until that point.

The album sparks off on a high note with “Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac),” which was produced by Organized Noize. It’s a perfect balance between smooth and funk. Then we jump into the title track, “ATLiens.” Another outstanding beat, the verses on here are crazy too. My favorite part of the song is the hook though. The way they put the hook together was very unique, capped off by the crucial “O-YAY-ER” at the end; I love that part.

The duo shifted gears a few tracks later with the song “Jazzy Belle.” Listening to this track reminds me of Nas’ “Black Girl Lost” (even though this came before), but with a southern twist to it, as 3 Stacks and Big Boi rap of the promiscuity of women, comparing them to Jezebel from the Bible. This track was also sampled by Lil Wayne on his song “PMW” in the midst of that historic Mixtape Weezy run.

ATLiens had just a few features on it, mainly from members from the Goodie Mob. Ultimately, the only features they needed were one another. These two legends have some of the greatest chemistry of all time. The duo showcased this throughout the album, but especially on the hit song “Elevators (Me & You).” The single peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is my favorite track on this album because when OutKast raps, I visualize what they are saying like a movie. On this track they use the elevators as a metaphor of moving up in the rap game.

One thing that is a lost art in today’s music world is the quality of cover artwork. I feel like this is one of the cleanest album covers I have ever seen. The album did very well in sales, selling an estimated 350,000 copies in the first two weeks of it being released. Some say that this is OutKast’s best work because of the lyrical content, and it’s hard for me to disagree with that. ATLiens is now certified double platinum, and still holds place as a Southern classic to this day.

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