ATLiens [discogs.com] by OutKast is my favorite rap album (although Ill Communication [discogs.com] could give it a run for it’s money, I love me some Beastie Boys). It came out at the end of summer the year I graduated from high school. I didn’t leave my home town for college like many of my friends and over the next year I spent many hours riding around Charlottesville, mostly with M█ who introduced me to the album. I can still remember how it felt to turn it up with 2000 watts and a couple of 12 inch subwoofers in the trunk… of my 1992 Toyota Camry. White boy in a Camry, not exactly a gansta.
Like most people outside of the deep south ATLiens was my first taste of southern rap. At the time MTV and the radio were filled with East Coast and West Coast gangsters. Previously, M█, who was my biggest influence as far as rap music is concerned, introduced me to both A Tribe Called Quest [discogs.com] and Pharcyde [discogs.com]; Midnight Marauders [discogs.com] or Low End Theory [discogs.com] could make an appearance on this list. But Outkast, and ATLiens, was a different sound, mellow and laid back, more bass heavy and filled with dub and reggie influences that I don’t remember from from other rap of the time (not that I would have recognized those influences then).
I love André 3000 and Big Boi’s flows are awesome, and the southern accent was something new. I think the southern accent, the Atlanta accent, especially Big Boi’s works in a way I can’t describe. While I generally prefer André’s raps, I prefer the sound of Big Boi’s flow. Today I hear echos of it in Killer Mike on Run the Jewels [discogs.com] tracks.
As far as my favorite tracks on the ablum go, 13th Floor/Growing Old and Elevators (You and Me), Wheelz of Steel and Jazzy Belle all stand out. And You may die, the intro is one of the best ever intro tracks for me.
ATLiens was the first rap album where the beats, independent of the songs made an impression on me. I even have an instrumental version of this album. Jazzy Belle is one my favorite beats ever. And I think owning and listening to the instrumentals was my first experience with what we would call lofi today, and a key influence on my later journey into both DJ Shadows early work and Jazz in general.
Ready to listen? Here is the album on Apple Music:
And on Spotify: