Written By Seb Whyte.
We have already established how significant 1996 was for hip-hop having looked at Dr. Octagon’s revitalisation of the underground rap movement and DJ Shadow’s game changing breakthrough in beat production. However, we have not yet touched upon one of the most iconic and revolutionary albums within the genre: the Southern Rap masterpiece “ATLiens”.
Outkast had already gained attention and respect as a fresh new rap duo off the back off their 1994 debut album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”, but it was their lyrical maturation on “ATLiens” that solidified them as the groundbreaking artists they are today.
“The duo made a point to shy away from self-indulgent subject matter, the materialism of East Coast rap, and the pimpism of the West Coast”.
Musically the album presents itself as a smooth and laid-back journey into spacey sci-fi funk and soul, due to its subdued beats and P-funk bass. But the real merit of ATLiens lies within its storytelling. Andre 3000 (known then simply as ‘Dre’) and Big Boi’s innovative, introspective lyrics and idiosyncrasies carried them into new territory within hip-hop. The duo made a point to shy away from self-indulgent subject matter, the materialism of East Coast rap, and the pimpism of the West Coast. Instead they constructed a gritty chronicle of contemporary issues and southern black ghetto life while still maintaining an optimistic tone.
The double platinum success of “ATLiens” brought Southern hip-hop into global recognition and secured the duo the freedom to be as experimental as they wanted throughout the rest of their career, which established them as the most creatively restless and ambitious hip-hop group of the ’90s.
There’s so much personality within songs like “Jazzy Belle” and “Babylon”, a true characterization of the lives of Dre and Big Boi. ATLiens will always stand as the album where Outkast broke convention and revitalized the lyrical landscape of hip-hop, ushering in a new wave of mainstream hip-hop.