When Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton released their debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994, nobody would have known that the duo from Atlanta would go on to become arguably the greatest duo in hip hop history. They went from weathering criticism that they weren’t “real” hip hop to redefining what hip hop is over the past two decades.
In that span, both André 3000 and Big Boi have made some absolutely incredible music as a duo and as solo entities. You’ll be hard pressed to find another model of consistency like the brothers Kast. What makes their presence in music even more special is the fact that there is no universal approved best album from the duo. Some will argue Aquemini while others stand firm with ATLiens. Then there are those who feel that Stankonia is their finest piece of work and some who hold their ground that their debut album was their best effort.
With Big Boi releasing his third solo album, Boomiverse, on Friday, and the future of Outkast as a recording duo up in the air, we decided that our second installment of the Ultimate Album series (following Drake) should be dedicated to the ATLiens.
If you don’t know how this works, here it goes:
Instead of picking our favorite songs, we challenged ourselves by pitting all of the Track 1 songs against each other, followed by Track 2 and so on (while eliminating the skits). We ranked each song by track and then created a point system to settle on a winner to create The Ultimate OutKast Album:.
We had to make some extraordinarily difficult decisions such as Track 9, which put “Da Art Of Storytellin” against “Crumblin Erb” and “Mainstream.” Or Track 5 that found “Elevators” facing “Aquemini” (which is one of André 3000’s finest works of lyricism). We also included a pair of bonus tracks with songs that weren’t featured on OutKast albums.
You’ll find our selections below, and we’ve also created a poll so you can let us know what your Ultimate OutKast Album would look like.
“Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac)”
No, it’s not because the song is this blog’s namesake (although, it certainly holds a significant amount of sentimental value). But the Organized Noise produced opener for OutKast’s second album proved that the boys from Atlanta were far from a fluke. Big Boi set it off with a burner of a verse that represented for the sity while Andre narrated an occasion when emcees wanted to test his mettle. From there, it was on and the realization that Andre and Big Boi were more than your average rappers really began to set in. — Andreas Hale
I was formally introduced to OutKast by way of the second single of their second album. I didn’t even pronounce the name right at first; I called it “At-Lee-Ins.” However, fans nationwide were beginning to catch on to the Southern phenoms, who were beginning to experiment with an eclectic sound that would ultimately define their career, as the track would land a placement on then-hit television show New York Undercover. — Meka Udoh
As is the norm for me, whenever I initially become interested in an artist I go back to find as much information on them as possible. After “ATLiens,” I would find ‘Kast’s debut album. Its eponymously-titled fifth track instantly stood out to me, as it was steeped in so much G-Funk that my young mind originally thought that OutKast had ties to my hometown of Long Beach. It may not have been as popular as its predecessor “Player’s Ball,” but the song has since become a Southern rap staple. — Meka Udoh
While the fifth song from ATLiens wasn’t a particular favorite of mine, it was the video that always stuck with me. Particularly, the part where 3 Stacks hilariously broke free from a chain gang while pantomiming the Chariots Of Fire instrumental.
*gets handed note*
Wait, that’s the wrong video?
“Jazzy Belle” was an aural precursor, of sorts, to “Da Art Of Storytellin’,” as the two tried to provide a warning that a woman’s promiscuity negatively affects future generations. The video kinda-sorta didn’t really resonate with me, as it was a kind of a “Coming To America meets the nudie bar” deal. But I understood the message, and that’s what really matters.
I chose “Skew It On The Bar B” for this one, but was outnumbered in votes. This is why we can’t have nice things. — Meka Udoh
“Elevators (Me & You)”
“Me and you, your mama and your cousin too” will forever go down as one of the catchiest hooks in hip hop. The lead single from OutKast’s second album was a spaced out and bluesy stroll through envy and paranoia that becomes a part of life once you are made in the music business. It differed from everything else on the radio and set OutKast apart from their rapping peers. It was the glue that bridged the gap between SouthernPlayalistic debut and their more eccentric vibe. Perfection. — Andreas Hale
Linking up with George Clinton was an absolute no-brainer considering that OutKast had morphed into a psychedelic hip hop duo. What made this song exceptional was the fact that the concept revolved around how humans had become intrigued with synthesized products rather than the real thing. You know, like social media over real human interaction? — Andreas Hale
Compared to the laid-back, groovy moods of most of the other songs on this list, “Bombs Over Baghdad” was pure chaos. It’s a frenetic mishmash of rap, gospel, drum & bass, and Lord knows what else, as if ‘Kast threw everything and the kitchen sink at another kitchen sink for the hell of it. It’s beautiful madness. — Meka Udoh
“Git Up Git Out” f. Goodie Mob
Before I stopped watching it on a regular basis once it became BET Soul, VH1 Soul would chronologically air a select artist’s entire video catalog. Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Aaliyah, and A Tribe Called Quest were among the many chosen for this, as the requirement was that said chosen artist needed enough music to cover a minimum of an hour.
OutKast’s episode lasted close to two hours. And “Git Up, Git Out” accounted for 6% of those hours alone. I don’t know what this has to do with anything, really: I just know that this song, which is essentially a part of my morning motivation sessions, was really long. — Meka Udoh
This was another one of those moments when you realized that OutKast were something extraordinarily unique and sounding nothing like what was popular in 1994. The lush instrumentation backed 3 Stacks and Big Boi’s lamentation of getting caught up in some smoke rather than the bullshit in the world you can’t control. You could sense that the duo were maturing and this song acted as a bridge between “Player’s Ball” and what would eventually become ATLiens. — Andreas Hale
“Da Art Of Storytellin’ pt.2”
OutKast’s Da Art of Storytellin’” series is, in my opinion, some of their best-ever works. However, while Part 1 is arguably their most popular and Part 4 is their most lyrically dense, the oft-overlooked second part is one of their most underrated songs. Following the tales of Sasha Thumper and Susie Screw, Big Boi and André 3000 essentially describe a biblical apocalypse so vivid that it could be mistaken for a church sermon on the rapture.
What happened to Part 3, though? — Meka Udoh
Any debate that Andre Benjamin should be considered a highly regarded lyricist was put to bed the moment he lit up “Millennium” with a stellar barrage of introspective bars. I mean, how many emcees do you know under the age of 25 that can effectively reference Chernobyl? But it wasn’t like Big Boi was an afterthought. “From bedknobs to broomsticks…” you know the rest. — Andreas Hale
This is my favorite OutKast song, ever. It’s my alarm clock, it’s in rotation at the gym, and I unabashedly play it around my mother.
Now that that’s out of the way, the song was a marvelous combination of story-telling, spoken word poetry, jazz and soul. From Sleepy Brown’s funky crooning, to Hollywood Court, to the trappings of the trap, to those trumpets (THOSE TRUMPETS!), one cannot have a Ultimate OutKast anything without “SpottieOttieDopaliscious.” — Meka Udoh
“13th Floor/Growing Old”
After the excellent spoken word opening of Big Rube, Andre 3000 and Big Boi ponder their future. Who would have thought they would end up being arguably the greatest hip hop duo in the history of the game? — Andreas Hale
“Elevators (ONP 86 Mix)”
I mean, was “Elevators” so nice that we had to include it twice? Well, yeah. — Andreas Hale
“Liberation” was a modern day poetic trek through a smoky speakeasy where the concept of freedom was much more than wishful thinking. It’s righteously nostalgic and brilliantly executed as Big Rube, Erykah Badu and Cee Lo all play their part. There are few songs in this universe where you cannot fathom a different set of players executing the aural bliss of what was accomplished. This was one of those moments. — Andreas Hale
Aquemini’s closer could have been Stankonia’s opener considering that the guitar driven production would set the tone for how the group’s sound would progress and evolve on their next album. Did they already know the musical direction of their next album? If so, this was the perfect segue way into that project. If not, they were simply a pair of Atlanta genies that could see into the future. — Andreas Hale
“Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Remix)” f. Slick Rick
This is my second-favorite OutKast song, ever. With Slick Rick freshly freed from prison, it only made sense that a song showcasing OutKast’s tale-weaving abilities featured one of the masters of the craft. Susie Screw and Sasha Thumper were one thing, but Rick’s somewhat funny (and utterly misogynistic, let’s be real) closer about a dysfunctional relationship should have been left on Aquemini. Also, who could forget the puppet versions of the three in the video? — Meka Udoh
“Hollywood Divorce” f. Lil Wayne & Snoop Dogg
By the time Idlewild arrived, OutKast as we knew it was done. Andre had all but refused to rap at that point, and Big Boi was on the cusp of embarking on a solo career. “Hollywood Divorce” was one of only three songs on the album that the two appeared on together, and ironically they were both outshined by Lil Wayne who was at his lyrical peak. But it still holds weight as one of the best songs from their final(?) project. — Meka Udoh
So, how did we do? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to get your votes in for the fan version of SouthernStankemeniATLiens—we’ll post the results later this week.
We’ve also created Spotify and Apple Music playlists so you can take the album with you wherever you go.