By Kyra Brue
ATLiens sticks with the funk elements that were present in Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. However, along with funk sounds, this album also incorporated extraterrestrial/ alien sounds in many of the songs, giving it an “out-of-this-world” feel. This album, sonically, was very slow and relaxing. There was a lot of soft bass in many of the songs. A lot of the songs have a very slow and chill vibe, even if the lyrics are the opposite, like in “Mainstream.” The songs “Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac),” “Millenium”, and “E.T (Extraterrestrial)” had the most space-y or alien-like sounds or elements integrated into the funk/ R&B sounds.
A lot of the themes of the songs focus on real life struggles that they had to deal with, living in Atlanta. In “Mainstream,” there is a lot of talk about everyday life and the difficulties that they encounter on a daily basis. This song, among others with this similar context, seem to be informing the listener. It’s like they’re giving non-Atlanteans, a view of the reality that is living in Atlanta.
Along with the everyday problems that they face, this album also shines a light on the future, while also reminiscing on the past and how they got to where they are. In “Elevators (Me & You)” and “Elevators (ONP 86 Mix)”, they mention “Player’s Ball,” which was the beginning for them. That song is what eventually brought them to where they are in this moment (1996). By referencing the single that put them on the map, they can move on to the future. Overall, this album is very contemplative. The slow music mixed with alien sounds and the introspective lyrics makes the album come off as more alternative-like smooth jazz/R&B than rap.
R&B has a very strong presence in this album. In songs like, “Babylon” and “13th Floor/Growing Old,” there are choruses that have a distinct R&B sound to them. In these songs, it’s not just the music/sound that sounds like R&B, but the vocals too. This inclusion is what gives the album that more smooth jazz feel over rap. Their first album had more upbeat tones, but this one has more somber ones.
Similar to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Outkast still includes Southern/ Atlantean aspects in their songs. In this album these southern things are less obvious, and you have to really listen and pay attention to hear them. Shrimp n grits, the MARTA, Decatur, Atlanta street names, Atlanta places, etc. are some of the things that are present in most of these songs. They are very casually incorporated into the songs, as if they are including these elements as little reminders that they are from the south. There isn’t much of a need for them to overuse or allude too much to the south, because they did that a lot in their first album.
Something important that I noticed about this album is that their personalities shift from players, who are all about pimpin’, to their new personas, who are more chill and real. Overall, they are more laid-back and less in your face. This change is very obvious if you compare this album to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. ATLeins is like the beginning of them maturing and growing up. The themes in this album compared to their first are more serious and grown (in a way). Another big difference between the two albums is that there aren’t any comedic or casual conversations in between some of the songs. This is another example of their growth and maturity. ATLeins is strictly musical.
Overall, I really liked this album. The chill vibe that the album gave off was really nice to listen to. I’m glad I didn’t listen to this album in my car, or I might’ve fallen asleep. I liked the R&B elements throughout the album. Growing up I listed to lots of R&B because my parents had control of the radio, but I learned to love it. And even now, I find myself gravitating towards music that has those sounds in it, so this album really resonated with me and brought back memories of driving around with my dad listening to his music.