Jake Greene on ATLiens
Seventeen years have passed since the release of Outkast’s sophomore effort ATLiens (1996), and while hip hop’s greatest duo has an incredible resume, the album stands alone as the prime of their existence. More nationally accessible than it’s predecessorSouthernplayalisticadillacmuzi
Play through Kendrick Lamar’s highly acclaimed album Good Kid M.A.A.D City immediately after playing ATLiens and hear the direct influences jump out of the speakers. Following the response to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzi
Unlike Aquemini, ATLiens doesn’t have a go-to single, but it has great tracks from the title track, to “Wheelz of Steel”, all the way through “E.T. (Extraterrestrial)”. Vocally it is one of Andre and Big Boi’s most simple efforts, no cartoonish voice inflections, nor is it the most diverse display of their flows, but ATLiens is a pure rap classic. Just two dope boys in a Cadillac, trading great verses with no gimmicks, and opening up the diversity of southern rap to the world.
Seth Lopez on Aquemini
There are two types of people. There are the Aquemini people and then there are those who just don’t fully appreciate how amazing the 18-track album plays out and who need to reevaluate their opinion. Sure, ATLiens has some great and innovative cuts–“Two Dope Boyz”, “Wheelz of Steel”, “Elevators”, “Jazzy Belle”–but the duo’s 1998 release is top-to-bottom one of the best hip-hop releases. Period. Done. Fin. Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s third album is critically acclaimed, across the board considered one of the finest full-length hip-hop projects.
The Source: “Aquemini is a brilliant record. Let that unequivocal statement be said right off the bat. It possesses an uncanny blend of of sonic beauty, poignant lyricism and spirituality that compels without commanding. The record offers a rich blend of potent beats—tight snares, booming kicks and cool rimshots—and a diverse tapestry of various musical textures that hark back to the days when hip-hop wasn’t tied to the whims of industry trends and charts.” [via]
What about the music? It starts off like it literally fell from the sky…wafting down from a beam of light through the parting clouds. “Hold On, Be Strong” has a luscious chorus, trickling guitar line and then “Return of the Gangster” breaks the serenity with its pounding kick drum. Next it’s “Rosa Parks”, one of their catchier jams…then “Skew It on the Bar-B” which is one of their best, most slept-on productions (that Henry Mancini sample is godlike.) I could spend years talking about each and one of these amazing tracks (“Synthesizer”, both “Da Art of Storytellin'” joints, “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”, “Chonkyfire”) but I want to cement why this album is better than ATLiens. “Aquemini”, the title track, is mindblowingly beautiful.
In a day and age where everyone is showing love to their cliques, crews, friends, family in their rhymes, none truly captures this love as eloquently as “Aquemini”. The song isn’t just about their astrological signs or star power, but life beyond music: “Even the sun goes down / heroes eventually die // Horoscopes often lie and sometimes “y” / Nothin’ is for sure nothin’ is for certain nothin’ lasts forever // But until they close the curtain, it’s him and I – Aquemini.” It’s one of the best, best friend songs that we’ll ever hear (with a couple epic verses from the duo). And, really, that’s what Outkast was all about, two best friends making music they love and Aquemini was the embodiment of that.