40 Days of Rewind: OutKast – ATliens (1996)


ATliens is the second album from Atlanta based hip hop duo OutKast. It shows a clear progression in both a lyrical and musical sense from their debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. The album follows an ‘out of this world’ theme, stemming from the title of the album, and introduced us to a much more sophisticated, well put together sound from both Big Boi and Andre 3000. Big Boi produces a consistent smooth flow throughout the album, buoyed by a more stripped back approach to the beats, which introduces an aspect of confidence and simplicity to the album. While Andre 3000’s unorthodox and innovative lyricism provides a sense of intrigue to their sound.

The track ‘ATliens’ is the stand out on the album. It incorporates all of the above themes together into what I would describe as the perfect hip hop song. A crisp, clean beat reverberates throughout with the opening space themed synth echoing in the background during the chorus, which seems to have been plucked out of a top 40 R ‘n’ B track with its nonsensical catchiness. The lyrics portray the confidence that was injected into this sophomore effort, with Andre introducing his verse with the line: “Now, my oral demonstration be like clitoral stimulation to the female gender, aint nothing better”. This track incorporates everything that OutKast do so well and I would argue that it is their best track out of all their albums, except for perhaps ‘Prototype’ from The Love Below (2003). 

‘Wailin’ is a track that is often overlooked, perhaps due to its short 2 minute length, but it is another example of OutKast’s progression into a rival to both the east and west coast hip hop scenes of the late 90’s. Once again a crisp beat opens up with the subdued twang of a guitar as support. A sped up vocal sample of the track name is incorporated into the beat. Once again an improvement in the lyrical aspect of Outkast’s sound is made clear throughout this track, but particularly in the first verse by Big Boi. The highlight of this verse is certainly the line: “rebukin satan, we had you waitin, for the second coming funny how time flies when youre rhymin”.

‘Elevators (Me & You)’ is one of the singles taken off the album and although it doesn’t contain the same level of lyrical expertise as the latter two tracks and the album as a whole, the beat is so good that it was impossible to ignore in this review. The beauty of this beat lies within its simplicity and excellent production by Earthtone ideas. Although the lyrics and flow may not be on par with other tracks on the album, the last verse by Andre 3000 appears to remedy this with the final 4 lines of the track.

ATliens is arguably OutKast’s greatest achievement as a hip hop duo. It shows a maturity and confidence to the point that it defied the accursed second album expectations that so many artists struggle to satisfy. It showed a noticebale progression in all aspects, particularly the lyrical components and was retrospectively critically acclaimed following the release of Stankonia (2000). This album certainly deserves to be appreciated as a hip hop classic.

ATLiens was released on August 27th, 1996 via RCA Records.


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