August 6, 2008

Outkast - ATLiens (August 27, 1996)


Welcome back to Hip Hop Isn't Dead, my two readers! I'm going to try to keep the updates coming as frequently as possible, as long as work, films, and life don't get in the way. Keep in mind that I am accepting suggestions for possible albums to review: be sure to drop me a line at the e-mail address on the right, and I may take you up on the offer.

Anyway, what the fuck is up with that album cover? Atlanta, Georgia-based rap duo Outkast, made up of Andre 3000 (still known as "Dre" at this point) and Big Boi (still known as "Big Boi" at this point) found success, and a bunch of hit singles, with their LaFace Records debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, with its tales of pimping, partying, and picking up chicks, retold over some potent beats by the production team Organized Noize. Actually, that synopsis would be a bit inaccurate: the debut album featured a handful of songs that proved that, lyrically, Dre and Big Boi could spit alongside the best of them when it came to quote-unquote "serious" songs.

Apparently, Dre and Big Boi thought that they could take the Outkast name and give it a bit more weight. ATLiens, their second album, follows a similar production pattern as the debut, with Organized Noize once again lending a hand, although some of the songs were actually produced by Outkast themselves. Given the title of the disc, it's a safe assumption that the disc has an overall extraterrestrial theme, but what listeners weren't expecting was an album chock full of introspective lyrics, subdued beats, and an outright lack of pimps. This appalling trend would continue throughout their career to date, since (gasp!) most people actually liked this incarnation of Outkast. It helps that the music itself was good.

ATLiens sold a massive amount of copies, securing Dre and Big Boi the right to be as fucking quirky as they wanted. It's often referred to as the best album in their catalog. Personally, I think it's funny that the millions of fans that bought ATLiens were subjected to such a terrible comic book inside the liner notes: the storyline is so convoluted and poorly drawn that the concept was quickly abandoned, even though the ending to the story is left wide open for a sequel. Also, the cover indicates that this album only costs $2.99, meaning that every single person that bought ATLiens, myself included, paid way too fucking much.

You'll want to push 'play' on your CD player, computer, or iPod...now.

1. YOU MAY DIE (INTRO)
I Iove this musical intro, but even I have to agree that it's too somber to introduce the first half of ATLiens.

2. TWO DOPE BOYS (IN A CADILLAC) (FEAT PEACHES)
A very good way to reintroduce yourselves to your fans. After the off-putting intro (which coincidentally fits the theme of the disc, but is really used to remind listeners of a similar-sounding intro from a different song from the debut album), Big Boi and Andre rip shit up.

3. ATLIENS
Huh. That title just doesn't look right when you put it in all caps. Oh well. Anywho, this song, the second single from ATLiens, still fucking rocks today, even if you happened to leave all of your fish, grits, and pimp shit in your past.

4. WHEELZ OF STEEL
I'm sure that one of the many reasons that a lot of bloggers consider Andre 3000 as one of the best rappers of all time is because, within the span of three bars, he manages to use the words "clandestine" and "soliloquy". In a meaningful context, mind you. Not a small feat. Luckily for those hip hop heads that are turned off by the triple-word-score S.A.T.terminology, the crew also managed to misspell "wheels" in a fashion familiar to the genre.

5. JAZZY BELLE (FEAT JAZZYFATNASTEES)
The third single, which I've always liked. I've always wondered why Andre's reference to an ex who is now "dykin'" (and referring to lesbians as "nasty bitches", which just seems like an odd worldview at this point in Dre's career) was deleted from the album (good move, LaFace!), but remains on the Babyface-featured remix. Hmmm...

6. ELEVATORS (ME & YOU)
Single number one went a long way toward shocking audiences with a sound that had matured far beyond the pimp talk that monopolized the debut. A steady knock of a beat hypnotized listeners for roughly four and a half minutes, and if you listen to it today, it'll have the same effect.

7. OVA DA WUDZ (FEAT WITCHDOCTOR)
The hook is incredibly weak, but otherwise, this track passes my litmus test of not sucking.

8. BABYLON (FEAT ANDREA MARTIN)
I remember sitting at a friend's house in front of the TV while he was trying to explain how ATLiens was one of the best albums ever made (and he wasn't even stoned!), especially because of "Babylon". Then he played the disc on his Sony Playstation, which also doubled as his CD player. (He spun the clean version, because he wanted to turn that shit up for the full effect, and he also didn't want his parents to get mad.) Back then, I wasn't convinced: I loved the first,"bouncier" half of ATLiens, and passed almost completely on the second half, where the energy level very nearly enters flatline territory. Today, however, older and wiser, I like this a lot. Energy levels aren't everything, you two.

9. WAILIN' (FEAT CEE-LO)
A pretty short track that sounds much better than I remember.

10. MAINSTREAM (FEAT KHUJO & T-MO)
Sounds more like a Goodie Mob song featuring Outkast, rather than the other way around, since the Goodie representatives completely dominate this track, but honestly, that isn't saying much, since the instrumental is boring as shit.

11. DECATUR PSALM (FEAT BIG GIPP, COOL BREEZE, & JOI)
A bit too slow for my liking. Whatever happened to Cool Breeze, anyway? Was a career in investment banking that much more appealing than the fans, groupies, and free weed you can score as a semi-successful rap artist?

12. MILLENNIUM
The hook turned me off from this song. When you're able to look past Andre's terrible humming, you're confronted with female chanting that reminds me of a German expressionist film. That's not a good thing.

13. E.T. (EXTRATERRESTRIAL) (FEAT WITCHDOCTOR)
Not the biggest shock that a rap album with its moral compass pointed toward the skies would include a song with this title. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to grab my walkie-talkie, which can also look like a fucking shotgun when seen in the right light, so that I can go down to the corner store and get some goddamn Reese's Pieces.

14. 13TH FLOOR / GROWING OLD (FEAT BIG RUBE)
After a spoken word interlude (love those!), Andre and Big Boi spit over a surprisingly hot and simple drum-and-piano combination. I like how Dre mentions that they're not going to stop "until (they) hit the big screen", even though, in the very next line, he dismisses the comment as a joke, and yet, we were all still subjected to Idlewild. This song is pretty relaxing, though.

15. ELEVATORS (ONP '86 MIX)
The original just sounds so much better. This remix just lays the original's lyrics over a much more conventional hip hop beat, and the experiment doesn't work at all.

FINAL THOUGHTS: ATLiens is almost the polar opposite of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. The party and pimping mentality has been replaced with a mature outlook on both societal ills and internal struggles. There is an abrupt change of pace starting with "Babylon", and the "Elevators" remix tacked on at the end doesn't do anybody any favors, but otherwise, this album blows the consistency of Outkast's debut album out of the water, and that album was pretty damn good. It seems that everyone else felt that way as well, since ATLiens went on to sell more copies than there are citizens in certain third world countries.

BUY OR BURN? If you're a hip hop fanatic and you don't own this album, then you need to pick this one up immediately, lest Max comes over and cuts you. Also, if you're a fan of any other genre of music and you don't own this album, the same above comment applies.

BEST TRACKS: "ATLiens"; "Babylon"; "Elevators (Me & You)"; "Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac)";"Wheelz Of Steel"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read the other Outkast-related posts by clicking here.

15 comments:

  1. Spot on review. really. Just had to put it on after reading that.

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    Replies
    1. AnonymousMay 31, 2016

      Art is art. For a true artist to be denied expression is criminal. "Nasty Bitch" should have never been removed. Punk move LaFace! Art should never be confused with politics. Tell that to any hater. Them Punk Biscuits!

      Delete
    2. I don't personally feel that the line should have been uttered in the first place, and I guaran-fucking-tee that Andre wouldn't have even considered saying that in 2016, but I also oppose censorship, so I agree with you with a caveat.

      Delete
  2. Such a classic. The Organized Noize beats on this are amazing.
    The rhymes are incredible.
    It's aged remarkably well.

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  3. i was always surprised (and laughed) at dre rocking the turban in the ATLiens video.

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  4. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessAugust 06, 2008

    Worrrrrrrrrrd. I've been waiting for this one. Thank You. I'll comment again after I read the review.

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  5. mr. aquariusAugust 06, 2008

    ha, i as hoping you would do this cd eventually. spot on. the album the introduced me to the real outkast. good write up once again.

    also on the song atliens he talks of not doing any drugs, but on other songs they say otherwise. what's with that?

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  6. this album is AMAZING. good review. agreed that the album has aged remarkably well.

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  7. Definitely, their best album.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  8. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessAugust 08, 2008

    I think ATLiens is OutKast's finest album. The futuristic sound that would come to define them is unleashed on this album. What makes it better than the rest of their albums is that it's loaded with rap songs. Millennium and Babylon were indicative of what was to come on future projects but I still found them enjoyable, humming and all. The songs from ATLiens did not reach the heights of the best songs from Aquemini or even Stankonia but as a whole it surpasses most everything that anyone has done. Plus, the naked lady on this one is way hotter than the naked ladies on their other albums. Thanks for the review!

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  9. Excellent review!

    I'm with you on the being older & wiser... back in the day I rarely got passed "Elevators," at times only skipping to "13th Floor/Growing Old."

    Refreshing to listen to this now, thanks Max! Keep it up!

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  10. doomsaibotAugust 09, 2008

    i think this album is one of the best because there arent really that much songs to skip.

    my favorite song is et just because it scared me when i was a kid and the minimilist production is creative

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  11. Buck-NasteeOctober 21, 2008

    Wow! What an album! I miss the old Dre (not Andre 3000). I remember him ripping his part on the title track, "ATLiens". And I liked "Mainstream". I was such a cool laid back track regardless if it was Goodie Mob or OutKast. I agree with 95% of what you're saying though.

    What happened to these guys? Each album got worst after this one. Aquemini fell off big time during the sencond half of the album. Stankonia was just that...stankin! Speakerboxx / Love Below...(sigh). Another one down thanks to the industry. What a pity...

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  12. I can't up this album from any other but for the amount of good music i heard on Speakerboxx/love below i have to say that's their best album! But it's so hard to say which one is their best because OutKast adjusted every one of their albums in every different situation.. that's what made them so unique! ATLiens tho is prolly their "coolest album by far" LOL.. my favorite tracks have to be tracks 3-6 and "The 13th floor"

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  13. Now please, don't everyone kill me immediately but I don't own a single Outkast song at all because the songs I have heard like Hey Ya! I find annoying now and So Fresh So Clean was creepy as hell I thought with Andre's weird vocals. However, I've heard tons of acclaim (mainly from you Max) so what album is their most accessible to introduce new listeners? Thanks guys

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