Discussion: OutKast’s ‘ATLiens’ vs. ‘Aquemini’

Discussion: OutKast’s ‘ATLiens’ vs. ‘Aquemini’

Jake Greene on ATLiens

atliensSeventeen 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 predecessorSouthernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), and sporting stronger production top to bottom than Aquemini (1998), the impact made by ATLiens is still visible in the upper echelons of today’s hip hop community.

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 Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, which included Andre and Big Boi being booed off the stage at the 1995 Source Awards, ATLiens expanded the Outkast fan base across the country by busting down the confines of the southern rap stereotype with a more eclectic musical approach, thought not sacrificing the lyrical prowess that founded their success.

Unlike AqueminiATLiens 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

cover_aquemini9-1_08There 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.

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  1. noHatersplease
    May 31, 2013 @ 11:10:00

    the production and lyrics are better in Aquemini, but my favorite is ATLiens because of the approaches and overall feel, and most of the songs and a underlining similar vibe, dat ATLiens vibe

  2. δΔṂƱ€ℓ ∞ ЩØØ₫δ
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 11:56:00

    I’d go with Aquemini. They are both 5 mic albums regardless.. Aquemini is the peak of their creative abilities combining at the exact same time. “13th Floor” though is one of my all time favorite tracks.

  3. Clif Kitchens
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 10:06:00

    I would say play Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City after Aquemini and you can hear the direct influences. Aquemini is by far the more cohesive album. And to say ATLiens didn’t have a go-to single is just wrong. Tracks 2,3,4 and 6 are all go to singles. However, if i were trapped on a desert island the one album in the world that I would bring with me is Aquemini. it’s just that good.

  4. Guest
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 10:01:00

    Jake Gree

  5. Rafi
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 09:52:00

    Personally, I have to go with Aquemini.

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