An Ode To My Favorite Outkast Album, ATLiens, Which Is Now 20 Years Old » VSB

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An Ode To My Favorite Outkast Album, ATLiens, Which Is Now 20 Years Old

Outkast’s sophomore album, ATLiens, turned 20 years old on August 27, 2016. I would like to talk about it.

For as long as I live, I will never forget where I was the moment I heard “Elevators (Me & U)” for the first time. I was on my way to pick up my boy E. from work at Kmart (RIP) on Highway 20 in Madison, AL. That Kmart, now closed, couldn’t have had any idea how much loot they got taken for when our friends all started working there. I never personally stuck them for their papers but I was definitely an accomplice via being the getaway driver too many times to count. For whatever reason, there was no security sensor on the exit through the Garden Center and all the employees knew it. They also didn’t lock up video games back then. You can see where I’m going with that. Kmart? My Their bad.

In Madison, a fast-growing suburb of Huntsville, Alabama, we only had one radio station that played hip-hop, WEUP. And because that station was trash, we’d always have to pray to get the signal from Birmingham’s radio stations (about 90 miles to the south). Well, this particular day, the signal was coming in and as I pulled into the parking lot to pick up E. and whatever video games he may or may not be permanently borrowing, I heard the craziest beat start to play. And then I heard Andre’s voice.

“One for the money, yessir, two for the show/a couple of years ago off Headland and Delowe…”

Now, for most people, they probably had no clue what in the world he was saying, but as somebody for whom an entire half of my family lives in Atlanta and whose grandmother went to church off of Headland Drive in East Point, I was familiar with the area. Then the hook…hit.

“Me and u, yo’ momma and yo’ cousin too…”

atliensBruh. I was done. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. The beat, the hook, the flow. And it was a new Outkast song. Outkast was already the greatest thing to happen to hiphop (to me) in the history of everything. But a new song that sounded like this? It was pure euphoria. And that meant we were getting a new album. To this day, you cannot convince me that the “Elevators” isn’t one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever. It’s perfect. It’s perfect in the way that kittens playing with yarn and listening to “Player’s Ball” is perfect. It could only have been more perfect if one of the kittens playing with yarn listening to “Player Ball” had on a Colin Kaepernick jersey…in 1996. And it makes sense that “Elevators” is damn near perfect, because it’s one of the songs on my favorite Outkast album, ATLiens, which as of two weeks ago is now twenty years old. Growing old.

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik is more lauded because it set the tone and really put Atlanta on the map, and it should be more lauded for that purpose alone. Until “Player’s Ball” in particular, Atlanta didn’t really have a visual. No passion. Now we got some. Aquemini got the coveted five mics from The Source back when that was a thing that mattered. Stankonia didn’t think outside the box, it realized there were no boxes and no U-Haul’s close. And well, we all know what happened with Speakerboxx/The Love Below.

“And the Grammy for Album of the Year goes to…Outkast.”

But for me, ATLiens is where it all came together and set the precedent for the rest. Outkast started producing (“Elevators” being their first production), Dre started to become Andre 3000. Big Boi wasn’t quite at Aquemini level lyricism yet, but almost there. But the production on this album was beautiful. It was atmospheric music twenty years before it (and Drake) was the very sound of hiphop (or rap music depending on how much of a purist you are) as a whole.

“Some go low to get high, it may hurt til you cry, you may die…”

The samples were dope. The beats were dirty and standard Organized Noize excellence. Big Boi was his staple braggadocios self, but Dre had morphed from ATL playa leaving women in the dirt who claimed to be having his baby on “Hootie Hoo” to recognizing that the sex he was having needed to be purposeful because the future of the world depends on it on title track, “Atliens”. Dre became the introspective everyman, rapping about the state of the world and his place in it while having realized that while he’s gained so much, he had gained nothing. Dre was, for a lack of a better term, enlightened.

There’s “Jazzy Belle” and “Babylon” and album-favorite “13th Floor/Growing Old” featuring the line that made guys everywhere take notice:

“I’ll bet you never heard of a player with no game…told the truth to get what I want and shout it with no shame…”

Mind.Blown. (not really.)

At this point, Outkast is one of the most successful duos in hiphop history. Andre 3000 has moved into acting and being awesome in various ways, including taking Uber Pool because he can do that. Big Boi is still making funky music and putting stank on it keeping it as Atlanta as only he knows how. But back in 1996, with the infamous sophomore jinx looming and coming off of a landmark and regional defining album, ‘Kast could have caught the fade, but instead they moved the goal posts and crafted an insular, tightly woven album about growth and understanding as men who were no longer novices to the rap game. They let their creativity drive the car and my life was better it. Not to mention the CD cover art, another of Dre’s naked women drawings, which I’ll ALSO never forget because of the fight it almost started.

Allegedly, I told my girlfriend at the time that the CD cover art was what she looked like naked. She then allegedy shared that information with a dude I knew, who THEN told her that he’d like to see that. She then, allegedly, told me what he said and then we allegedly exchanged words. Now I wasn’t about to fight anybody over that, but I was 16 and had to defend my girl’s honor. Or something.

Thank you, Dre. Allegedly.

A lot has changed in music over the past 20 years, but no matter what has happened musically, both awesome and punch-a-grandmother-in-the-face-worthy, I always return back to this album as one that connected with me that continues to make me feel the same as it did when I was a 17 year old, pissing off my AP Calculus teacher, trying to navigate life.

“Trees bright and green turn yellow brown/Autumn caught em, see all them leaves must fall down, growin’ old…”

First they were some pimps, then they were some aliens…

…out of this worllllllllllld.

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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Somehow, I completely missed the SouthernPlayalistic album (A-Town native BLASPEMY), but I wasn’t into music at the time (I was 11 and was still into toys for some reason {still am, specifically Transformers}). However, hearing Elevators was an eye opening experience to me. I’d race home from 8th grade to specifically listen for that song. During that time, I also stumbled upon Space Age Pimpin, which became the first rap song I (wrote down) and learned all the lyrics from. It was on after that! Went back and got SouthernPlayalistic a couple of years later, and my infatuation with Southern hip-hop bloomed from there. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I developed an appreciation for Northern and West Coast Rap. Up until then, it was all Outkast, ALL THE MEMPHIS RAP, No Limit, and more Outkast. Hope I’m not over your head, but if so, you will catch on later…

    • “I also stumbled upon Space Age Pimpin”

      “I’ll be obliged if you step outside because my ride is awaitin” is still on of favorite opening lines to verse ever.

      • Princess Jai

        THIS IS MY JAM….

      • miss t-lee

        Most definitely.

  • ALSO! Vince Staples just recently used Andre’s last verse on ATLiens to open up his track War Ready.

    • Red October

      Coldest sample I’ve heard in some time!

  • ATliens will always remind me of the first semester of my senior year of high school. My brother had just left for college and my first cousin who I had almost every class with died. I tried to put my boys onto the CD but they weren’t feeling it like that (with the exception of my brother). To this day when my best friend talks about how dope ATliens is I look at him the way Sir Randy Gene Moss of the House of Rand looked at Trent Dilfer on Sunday and think “I tried to tell you that ish in 1996…)

    Everytime I hear “13th Floor (Growing Old) I think back to 1996.

    “In Madison, a fast-growing suburb of Huntsville, Alabama, we only had one radio station that played hip-hop, WEUP. And because that station was trash, we’d always have to pray to get the signal from Birmingham’s radio stations (about 90 miles to the south).”

    I feel you on this, Peej. Because my hometown is a crossroads in the middle of nowhere this was my experience with finding hip hop on the radio. The station in my hometown blast country in the day and played black music after eight. They only did rappity rap music on Sunday six, which is when I first heard “Protect Ya Neck”. Other than that the station in the town next door played mostly commercial rap but we relied on Stations in Savannah, Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston to hear what we deemed “good” rap music.* Two stations, one in Augusta (The Beat) the other in Charleston (WPAL) both with the same frequency 100.9 FM would play anything from Gangstarr to Outkast at any time during the day and catching that signal was worth fiddling with your radio.**

    *It’s amazing what some mileage does to your perception of “good” or “real” rap.
    **I wonder whatever happened to Corey Hill?

    • B-Dot Willz

      Where is your hometown?

    • I tried to put some of my boys on to ATLiens but they were too mired in that Puffy mess going on in NY at the time.

      • Negro Libre

        Too busy Diddy-Bopping?

    • miss t-lee

      “To this day when my best friend talks about how dope ATliens is I look at him the way Sir Randy Gene Moss of the House of Rand looked at Trent Dilfer on Sunday and think “I tried to tell you that ish in 1996…)”

      That look was so priceless.

  • Brina Payne

    “But in the middle, we stay calm, we just drop”

    https://youtu.be/wY6454QetqM

  • Sweet Ga Brown

    Outkast is the epitome of Atlanta nostalgia. Funny thing. I feel like my true Atlanta experience wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t grow up in the SWATs living with my mama on Cascade and spending my weekends at my father in ever west side hood like Hollywood Rd or Simpson Rd. …Dixie Hills…East Point and my Aunt nem house who actually lived by the Wayfirld on Headland and Delowe catching the same bus to Greenbriar. Man look. The musical vibe is in my bones. The chill laid back kickin it vibe that made you think. Nothing like it.

  • Other_guy13

    Sooo….are they not having Afropunk in Atl anymore…wtf?

  • Maximillian

    For like a solid decade, when I wanted a boost in creativity, I put ATLiens on and let it ride.

  • KaytotheBee

    I was riding down Roswell Rd and remember Greg Street playing the entire CD. Outkast was promoting it at a record store in Lenox (Tower?) My best friend and I were able to meet them and buy the CD. I still play it to this day.

    • The first time I was harassed by the police was walking to a Tower Records in Palo Alto California… good times.

  • ATLiens was so great because they could have stuck to the mold and just decided not to. It threw a lot of people off (evidenced by intro to Aquemeni) but it put them on the path to legendary status. Millennium is one of the funkiest cuts of all time. It’s mother ship worthy.

  • Adrienne_in_MTown

    I still listen to it… Two Dope Cadillac was one my favsssss….. That Goodie Mob “Still Standing” was the perfect compliment to it IMO.

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