Updated: Jan 7
OutKast season continues with their 1996 sophomore album 'ATLiens'. After their debut, OutKast had made waves in the rap community - but many wouldn't give them a chance due to a bias towards their Southern sound. So they did what any legends of the game would do and prove their haters wrong with their second studio album which quickly became a hip-hop classic.
The production on this album for the most part is simplistic - but that allows all the attention to shine on the lyrics. The production still has its funky/groovy style, bass guitars and catchy drum patterns but it takes more of a spacey sound throughout compared to their debut album. There are some times however where the production isn't very interesting and engaging, and it really waters the track down a bit. A prime example of this is the track 'Elevators (Me & You)', which has a catchy boom bap pattern and guitar bass but is just a bit too simplistic as the rappers talk on their come up and how they've 'elevated' up the rap game. Andre shows some good storytelling with hard/real bars while Big Boi provides some good one liners and punchlines. It's a pretty laid back track, a great song and Dre's 4th verse is amazing - but it's not as good as some of the highest highs. One specific instrument can also ruin a song, showcased on the track 'Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)' which has this one offputting, heavy and harsh drum which is so obnoxious and hurts my ears. Big Boi also isn't lyrically on point for this track, although Andre provides us a good verse with some good bars and metaphors, "I grew up to myself not round no park bench // Just a n**** busting flows off in apartments". The beat on '13th Floor / Growing Old' works really well to create an incredible emotional atmosphere with its raw piano keys. The track is all about black injustices and the importance of proper content in the music - it's an amazing song which really provokes emotion with the help of Debra Killings hook. Big Boi also has a hard bar in there with, "As the calendar keeps flippin', niggas dippin'".
Both rappers are highly skilled lyricists, as this album is full of thought provoking bars, great verses, slick wordplay, solid one liners and great punchlines - nearly everything is on show. An example of a funny Big Boi punchline comes from the title track 'ATLiens', "And when I'm on the microphone you best to wear your sweater // 'Cause I'm cooler than a polar bear's toenails", it made me laugh to be honest as Dre also provides us some incredible bars and wordplay, "Now, my oral illustration be like clitoral stimulation // To the female gender, ain't nothing better". André talks on black stereotypes and making his own lane while Big Boi boasts of OutKast's stature now they've made it. With solid verses, a party groove bass and a catchy hook it's a pretty good song. 'Wheelz of Steel' also has some hard bars in it, such as Big Boi saying, "It took your momma nine months to make it // But it only took a nigga thirty minutes to take it", as the track talks on the pairs life in the hood before fame. André provides some powerful bars with slight complexity and Big Boi paints a picture with his words, and with powerful verses and an eerie hook which caputres the mood brilliantly - it's an amazing song. Both rappers have great flows, André especially who glides over these beats amazingly with his very versatile flow, such as on the track 'Babylon'. This song talks on problems with street life, sex at an innocent age and Big Boi talks on the death of his aunt as well as music and crimes correlation. Andre's verses are incredible, "I came into this world high as a bird // From second hand cocaine powder // I know it sounds absurd // I never tooted but it's in my veins", over this menacing beat and Big Boi was good - but not as good in terms of entertainment and lyrics which ends up being a common thing on this album. 'Millennium' see's some hard lines from Dre, "My prayers seem too long I fall asleep before the ending, don't even get to say "amen"", as the pair talk on depression and racial prejudice. Big Boi also has some funny lines in this, "Never go wrong, 'cause the click is tighter than gnat ass and that bad", as the laid back groove of the track and smooth flows make it enjoyable - even that hook which just isn't words.
The subject matter on this album tackles a whole range of topics including: rapping ability, black injustices, making your own lane, being yourself, life before fame in the streets, their come up and success as well as life problems and struggles - all these topics are explored with great thought and understanding. There's a more socially conscious tone to this project, and the improvement is there to see. For example, 'Jazzy Belle' talks about the modern woman's promiscuity and how it will effect future generations over this soft guitar bass creating a thoughtful atmosphere. André again provides slick wordplay, metaphors and punchlines as Big Boi gives us some hard lines and vivid imagery - both providing great verses over this perfect mood created (helped by the backing vocals). The track 'Ova da Wudz' is all about the rappers prior lifestyle and the life they want to live now despite struggles. André talks on his struggles in poverty and as an artist which is hard hitting, as Big Boi provides some hard bars and occasionally some funny punchlines, "Girl, when you giving up them drawers, 'cause // I got a couple of n***** down the hall // That wanna hit it too, I'm not the type to be acting selfish // Set it out and let it out and I'll be right back just like Elvis" (Elvis would say he was coming back out then left his shows, and this girl won't be seeing Big Boi when she wakes up). The simplistic beat is fine, André's verse was amazing and Big Boi was solid - I don't care much for the hook which is chanted with no real purpose - it isn't catchy or enticing.
'Mainstream' is about the struggles of surviving in the hood and the bad side of trying to appeal to the mainstream rather than just sicking true to yourselves. T-Mo has a feature on this and his introspective lyrics and horrifying imagery are good, "Thinking it can't happen to you and then it do // Off crooked schemes it's just a dream // Floating face down in the mainstream", - but I wasn't a fan of his stuttery flow and multi-layering effects, while the other feature in Khujo Goodie has a great verse. It has surrounding synths giving it a nice laid back vibe - it would've been even better if all verses were up to scratch. The track 'E.T. (Extraterrestrial)' talks on the problems with the youth and taking opportunities in life. It's again a stripped back track with a spacey vibe accompanied with a guitar just chugging along and chanting layered into the beat, as the rappers just speak to us with some good imagery and punchlines.
To look at other tracks, 'You May Die (Intro)' is a nice little introduction which tells the listeners to keep on trying over this laid back guitar while providing us some amazing vocals. 'Wailin'' talks on their enemies and racial injustices over this funky, groovy and catchy beat with a bass guitar as the pair provide entertaining verses and a great groove. Later on in the tracklist 'Decatur Psalm' arrives talking about making from the streets of Atlanta over this groovy beat, featuring Cool Breeze who gives us some good storytelling, a smooth flow and a hard delivery while Big Gipp also provides us a solid verse with a classic grudge delivery. Once again, it's entertaining and smooth sounding. The finale is a remix to 'Elevators (Me & You)' titled 'Elevators (ONP 86 Mix)', where the beat was changed to give it more life with some bubbly synths and a melancholy piano - it's an improvement but I don't really know how necessarily this track is.
To conclude, OutKast's second studio album is full of high rapping quality, good production and great content - there's not much more you can ask for. It was interesting, engaging at just straight up amazing - it really left people intrigued for what was to follow and set high expectations for the follow up. After being considered 'not real hip-hop', OutKast were now one of the best rap groups out there and only getting better!
FAVOURITE TRACKS: ATLiens, Wheelz of Steel, Jazzy Belle, Ova da Wudz, Babylon, Mainstream, Decatur Psalm, Millennium, E.T. (Extraterrestrial), 13th Floor / Growing Old, Elevators (ONP 86 Mix)
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Elevators (Me & You)
OVERALL RATING: Solid 10/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*