OutKast’s ‘ATLiens’: A Look Back, 20 Years Later

Andre said at The 1995 Source Awards, "The South got somethin' to say!" And in '96, OutKast said it, on "ATLiens."

By Brian Ives 

OutKast’s second album, ATLiens, turns twenty today (August 27). Here, Radio.com discusses the album with some of the DJs from the premier hip-hop station in their home of  Atlanta: V103. Greg Street, Ryan Cameron, Ramona DeBreaux and Big Tigger shared their recollections about the album. 

If Andre 3000 and Big Boi were worried about the sophomore slump while working on their second album, it didn’t show. OutKast’s ATLiens stands as one of the Atlanta duo’s handful of classic full-lengths.

But for a little bit of historical context, let’s go back to 1994, when OutKast’s debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, put Atlanta on hip-hop’s map, and brought more respect to the south.

As V103’s Ryan Cameron says, “I think that it was very big for Atlanta, because at the time there was a certain level of respect for other cites that Atlanta wasn’t really getting. There was never really nationwide recognition of Atlanta in hip-hop until Southernplayalisticadlliacmuzik.”

V103’s Ramona DeBreaux remembers that the debut made the duo into huge stars: “Our OutKast meet and greet literally shut down traffic: all of the roads that led to the meet and greet were actually shut down.”

Related: Outkast, Diddy, Future Featured in Organized Noize Documentary

Despite the success of the debut, V103’s Ryan Cameron says there was not much worry about the follow-up: “What’s funny about all of that is that when you have so much talent, you don’t try to duplicate, you just want to create. You just want to get it out. You don’t get caught up in the ‘sophomore jinx’ thing, because you’re married to the music, not the media. They weren’t making music for critics, they were making music for art. Big and Dre dabble in it like Picasso, like Basquiat.”

V103’s Greg Street recalls, “People were definitely thinking there would be a sophomore jinx, but the guys had an even bigger plan to push the envelope even further.”

And they clearly did. Any doubts were moot the minute the album hit. V103’s Big Tigger says flatly, “They over-exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

That started with the single, “Elevators (Me and You).” Ryan Cameron recalls “It was well received: the production was exquisite. The rhymes were tantalizing. And you can’t say enough what it meant for the culture! The drawl. The slang. It was big, because you knew all those places they were talking about in ‘Elevators.'”

DeBreaux recalls “I played that song, and the whole album, over and over again. The bass blew our speakers in the studio because we played ‘Elevators’ too loud. ‘Me and You, yo mama and yo cousin too’ t-shirts were everywhere. Three words and the world can finish the line. That sounds like a classic to me.”

And surely, fans all over the country were playing it too; today, it’s regarded as one of the duo’s many classics. On the song they say, “Went from ‘Player’s Ball’ to ballers/Putting the South up on the map was like Little Rock to banging.” While other southern hip-hop acts had broken through before them, DeBreaux believes that the lyric was accurate. When asked if OutKast put the south on the hip-hop map, she says. “Yes. Period. For major label hip hop. Yes.”

Big Tigger agrees: “They were a integral part in solidifying the south as voice in hip hop. As Dre said in 1995 at The Source Awards in New York City, ‘The South got somethin’ to say!'” And they’ve been saying it for twenty years since; these days, no one denies the south as an important part of hip-hop.

OutKast, and the ATLiens album, helped to pave the way for so many of today’s hip-hop artists, who combine being weird with being credible. As DeBreaux explains, “They were one of the first respected groups to come out of Atlanta. They were a different kind of group and they were unique: eclectic and still street.” It’s a combination that still works, two decades later.

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