Home Music Outkast: ATLiens [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]

Outkast: ATLiens [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]

From the moment their brash and animated debut record dropped, Outkast’s Big Boi and André 3000 became lovable hip-hop personalities. Their stoic presence and unapologetic G-funk on Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik made them a lead voice amongst Southern rap artists, honing in on their roots in Atlanta. But despite entering the conversation so early, Outkast’s artistry had a lot of room to grow. Their impressive entrance was over the top, but held many influences from both coasts and had yet to entirely separate Outkast from many of their funk-infused peers.

Coming only a few years later, their sophomore ATLiens took a much different musical approach. The dusky, mystical thematics from the cover translated perfectly to the record. Outkast’s excessive charisma became laid back, human and introspective, as the beats became quieter and emptier—but without losing their smooth, melodic hooks. Similarly, the topics became even more personal and relevant, still injecting certain lines with lovable charm, but opening the door to important conversations. This understated look at hip-hop distanced ATLiens from the duo’s past and future discography, while also laying the ground for some of Outkast’s best lyrical work ever.

25 years later, ATLiens seems just as impressive. Thanks to the unique sound design and production style, the 1996 record represents an underappreciated side of Southern and ‘90s hip-hop. Plus, new mixes and the added benefit of their funky instrumentals. Now mixed in high-res, each organ passage, record scratch and background vocal hits harder, clarified to mimic the realism of being in the studio. Oftentimes new mixes neglect to offer noticeable changes, but ATLiens’ reissue scraps the cloudy, muddled moments with ease, offering a new look, particularly to streaming service fans.

Despite any concern about the modernization of Outkast’s classic ‘90s sound, the new mixes only call more attention to how the group manufactured these ominous and ethereal tones. The added clarity gives immense impact to production nuances, which become the true background-setters, rather than a general, more “vintage” sound. Coupled with cartoonish sound effects—with explosions and scorching flames throughout—Outkast create a dark and threatening, comic book world. Cuts like “Wheelz of Steel” are relentless in their soulful, nocturnal energy, consisting of contagious bass lines, climbing organs and ghastly, echoed choruses. Meanwhile, the trudging, slow beat of “Elevators (Me & You)” offers a subtle and unsuspecting backdrop to Big Boi and André’s crazy flows.

This is where the bulk of ATLiens succeeds, even now—through the ridiculous lyrical execution of Big Boi and André 3000. While the soft and subtle lo-fi beats feature plenty of minute, intriguing details, all of the exhilaration has to come from the iconic duo. Full of various lines critiquing the lifestyles of their peers, Outkast continue to try and establish themselves outside of the craziness of the industry. The first full-length track, “Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac),” touches on their lack of trust in other rappers, saying, “The n**** the B-I-G like Tony Rich, nobody knows why/ But me and my folks, cause y’all n****’s jokes like the Joker.”

Another highlight to ATLiens’ lyrical content is how the group can balance touching, introspective moments with their tongue-in-cheek attitudes. The last verse to the record, from “13th Floor/Growing Old,” begins with “Fat titties turn to teardrops as fat ass turns to flab.” Perfectly synchronizing these two perspectives, André uses accessible and even crude language while making thought-provoking points about the process of aging and how it’s framed. Yet, the elegant pianos ride on by without questioning his word choice. With each track containing multiple examples such as this, Outkast’s tone for this record borders on down to Earth, without sacrificing their personalities.

Like many modern hip-hop highlights, ATLiens’ success comes from its unique production quips, relevant topics and impressive flows. With newly-mixed tracks and access to bare bones instrumentals, the record’s mirage is arguably strengthened, placing the power in the hands of the production from Outkast and Organized Noize. These dark and quiet environments then open things up for Big Boi and André to steal the stage with their clever and inspirational words. Today, ATLiens lives on as a perfect example of Outkast’s personalized ability to fill a blank canvas—as well as how pretty a “blank” canvas can be.

Summary
Outkast’s ATLiens re-release recaptures their revolutionary Atlantan production while gifting access to their funky instrumentals.
92 %
Legendary re-release

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Discography: Aphex Twin: Ventolin/Donkey Rhubarb

After the very divergent SAW II, Aphex Twin’s EPs dive back into hefty, danceable beats – …