Before Idlewild became a nationwide smash hit, breaking box-office records, and launching André 3000 and Big Boi into international film success, the Atlanta born-and-raised hip hop duo simply made music. Music so smooth and jazzy, you might even say it’s kind of boring. That’s right, I listened to Outkast’s 1996 sophomore record ATliens! Here are some facts:
- This is the follow up to a record many people find ground breaking. The 90s were heated with turf warfare between the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop scenes. However, Outkast stems from the South. This once untapped market proved to be quite the sleeping giant thanks to the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik two years prior. So, ATliens had big shoes to fill, or maybe it was a tall order to fill, or I guess you could say their first record was a tough act to follow.
- This album marks the beginning of that unique sound and subject matter that we typically think of when we think about Outkast. They were experimenting with many of the same techniques in this record that would end becoming staples of the Atlanta hip-hop scene.
- As you can imagine, sales for ATliens were very good. It has been certified “double-platinum” by the RIAA.
Who among us does not like Outkast? Everyone does, it’s impossible not to. When I first saw André 3000 I was like, you better put an accent over that “E” because this guy looks like he might be from ANOTHER country! Also, Big Boi was and remains to be one of my favorite taste-making music giants in the industry still working today.
The issue I have with ATliens is that while I think it’s most likely a brilliant record, it is most definitely a boring record. And not just boring for Outkast, boring in general, pound for pound when you stack it up to other great hip-hop records. It’s legitimately slow on purpose. Words like “spaced-out” and “ethereal” come to mind. There is almost a hypnotic quality to the record that lulls the listener into a meditative state, and it achieves this quality by almost never varying from the minutia of what I consider to be a drone-along tonal theme. You certainly hear the inspiration of jazz throughout ATliens, and like most things inspired by jazz I need a pot of coffee to get me there.
The hit tracks off of the album are Jazzy Belle and Elevators (Me & You), which I would agree are definitely high points of the record but my favorite song is probably the title track. It’s kind of a goofy tongue in cheek Bowie-esque take on popular hip-hop of the time. I feel like Outkast is asking us to raise the roof after we just did a whole mess of NyQuil.
I would recommend this record for DIE HARD Outkast fans, and for everyone else I would say you can probably start with Aquemini or dare I say Stankonia. It’s still a good vibe even if it is one singular vibe throughout, but there is so much content out there and you are so stinkin’ choosy I would just hate for you to feel like, in this fleeting age of headlines and instant gratification, you would endure a single moment of a record that takes even an ounce of patience.
ATLiens is the second studio album by American hip hop duo OutKast, released on August 27, 1996, by LaFace Records. Wikipedia
Release date: August 27, 1996
Label: LaFace Records
Genres: Hip hop music, Southern hip hop
Nominations: Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year