Friday, 27 February 2015

Outkast "ATLiens" (1996)

Following up on 94's "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik", Outkast's second album is a relatively big side step from the cultured southern character established on their debut. The album cover stands out as a Hip Hop record for its cartoon inspired graphic and primative 3D fonts. The logo and price an added oddity that as a whole is reminiscent of old Playstation games, at least for me. The cover hints at a strong sense of theme that is present throughout in the production and lyrical content. Reflecting on their commercial success and maturity as people, Andre and Big Boi focus on introspective and social topics in that lyrics that address family responsibility, urban life and a sprinkling of extraterrestrial activity that often feels like a metaphor for social alienation, the name being a combination of Atlanta, where the duo are from, and Aliens.

The theme established is played out well on this record which comes with a thick consistency from track to track. The production opts in for tight, crisp kits and constructed loops that provide a strong backbone for the raps without being bombastic or hyped, they subtly impress with quality and no cheap thrills. Working with the drums a cautious, paranoid bass line creeps around these tracks in the deep low end, playing out paced out grooves that break often to utilize its own absence. The two have a minimalist chemistry the sampling amplifies through quiet samples of various instruments and sounds that leave a big air in the mix for the duo to fill with their raps. Most tracks are devoid of hooks and melodic leads, the samples paint the atmosphere cautiously with alien, out of space sounds and noises to complete the sense of theme so strong.

Big Boi and Andre both shine on this record with continually engaging lyricism taking us through their introspections and thoughts that come with a handful of memorable lines and thought provoking lines, especially with their attitude towards women that displays a lot of change and maturity. With the musings on fame the two show a level headed character not phased by the ego or illusion success can bring. Their engaging intellect is a strength from a record that has no cheap thrills, needless violence or boasting. Solid lyrical content that feels like a breath of fresh air for this listener, despite it being almost 20 years old.

Overall I felt this was a solid, absorbing record, but maybe not one to pick up too often. The calmer vibe and subtler approach is a two edged sword that doesn't fit every mood, but in the right one this stands tall. It wasn't till I started to write that the era crept into my thoughts, this was 96 and a solid execution of new production ideas that were emerging at the time. This was also the beginning of the bling bling era and the record is rather bi-polarizing of that direction. In retrospect this album's importance and significance could be something I overlooked when gathering my thoughts, but for now I will look forward to obtaining their third "Aquemini".

Favorite Songs: Two Dope Boyz, Atliens, Wheelz Of Steel, Elevators, Mainstream, 13Th Floor
Rating: 8/10