Twenty years ago, Outkast released their critically acclaimed sophomore album, ATLiens. At the 1995 Source Awards, amid boos and jeers, Outkast, who had just won for Best New Artist based on their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, warned the industry that “the South had something to say.”
The next year, Outkast’s second studio album, ATLiens, said it all with its unique, soulful hip-hop sound that mixed funk, gospel and a spacey vibe under lyrics about their rise to fame on “Elevators (Me and You)” and displaying their maturing view of women on “Jazzy Belle.”
"We're still ATLiens," said Andre 3000 in 1996. "The ‘ATL’ for Atlanta, and the aliens for our status as foreigners in the hip-hop game.” And yet the title also represented the group’s status in the rap game in 1996—as outsiders finding their way—while East and West Coast rap dominated the airwaves.
Now, two decades later, most rap fans probably couldn’t imagine their music collections without the genius that is Outkast and the artists and musicians who contributed to ATLiens. Take a look at what the biggest influences on ATLiens have been up to since 1996.
"Maybe it was because we were raised in the church, but being from Atlanta gives us a spiritual edge that crews from other cities just don't have," Andre 3000 told the Los Angeles Times in 1996. That “spiritual edge” translated to Dre’s personal life during the production of ATLiens. He became sober and turned to veganism around that time. He also returned to school to get his high school diploma.
Outkast last reunited in a 40-festival tour in 2014, and they headlined the Coachella music festival that April. This year, Andre 3000 has been featured on Frank Ocean’s long-awaited Blonde album, as well as Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. Aside from the music, you may have seen Andre as a recurring character on season 2 of ABC’s American Crime, opposite Regina King.
“L.A. Reid didn’t want to sign Outkast at first,” Rico Wade says in The Art of Organized Noize documentary. Andre 3000 said that Reid didn’t see them as stars but gave them a song on a Christmas-album compilation. For ATLiens, Reid was not feeling “Elevators (Me and You)” as a debut single, but Outkast, ever determined to make it a hit, took the song to radio stations anyway.
In 2000 L.A. Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds sold their LaFace shares. Reid went on to take the reins at Arista, then Def Jam Music Group, then Epic Records. For two years he was a judge on Fox’s music competition The X Factor.
Myrna Crenshaw Brown, aka “Screechy Peach,” contributed vocals to the intro, “You May Die,” as well as “Two Dope Boyz (in a Cadillac)” and “Decatur Psalm.” She co-wrote on several other Outkast productions, including Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the Idlewild soundtrack and Aquemini. She and her husband, David Whild, also performed with Outkast as the group Whild Peach. Brown died April 1, 2007, as a result of complications from breast cancer. She was 47.
CeeLo Green, a member of Goodie Mob, contributed vocals to ATLiens. In a 2012 interview, Big Boi said that CeeLo was almost the third member of Outkast: "Yeah, kinda, sorta. Like, he was hanging out with us. CeeLo and me go way back, so, you know, kinda. For a brief minute." Ultimately, Dre and Big Boi’s connection was stronger and made for a better rap duo.
In the last several months, since finishing his tour for his last studio album, Heart Blanche, CeeLo has been touring the country with a DJ set. In 2013 he was cleared of sexual-battery charges, but the following year he was under fire for controversial tweets about rape and consent.
Big Gipp was featured on the third verse of the album’s 11th track, “Decatur Psalm.” He was one-fourth of Goodie Mob, another group closely associated with the Dungeon Family.
In 2015 Big Gipp went on a minitour in the United States with stops in Charlotte, N.C., as well as Seattle and Oakland, Calif. He released the track “Beautiful Lover” with Eric Benet; it's from his yet-to-be-released album, Zagga.
"Pure hip-hop is an art, one that we're trying to preserve,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1996 after the album’s release. “Picasso had plenty of influences, but you'd never catch him trying to remake another artist's work in the exact same way. We feel the same. That's what makes us different. "Big Boi’s personal life was also changing while the duo was making ATLiens. In March 1995 he’d become a father for the first time, and he said it made him a lot more responsible and more serious about his craft.
Big Boi has released two solo albums and one collabo album with Phantogram under the moniker Big Grams. After releasing his next solo album, Big Boi told Spin magazine that he and Killer Mike would put out a collaborative EP. He has run a dog-breeding business with his brother for several years called Pitfall Kennels.
Organized Noize is a production group that consists of Sleepy Brown, Rico Wade and Ray Murray. The trio produced music in Wade’s mother’s basement — called the Dungeon — and is where “the Dungeon Family” moniker was born. The Dungeon Family includes Outkast and Goodie Mob, among others. Before producing ATLiens, the group was fresh off its Grammy-nominated hit with TLC, “Waterfalls.” “Organized Noize is the Jedi Council,” Big Boi told Spin magazine. “They brought us in and molded us.”
On Sept. 10, Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family are set to reunite at the One Music Fest in Atlanta. In March the documentary The Art of Organized Noize debuted on Netflix, where the collective revealed why they walked away from a $20 million producing contract. They have worked with J. Cole and Dom Kennedy, as well as Future (who is Rico Wade’s cousin).
Dave “Mr. DJ” Sheats is the third member of the record-production trio Earthtone III, with Big Boi and Andre 3000. Together they produced “ATLiens,” “Wheelz of Steel,” “Elevators (Me and You)” and several other tracks on the album. Mr. DJ is Rico Wade’s cousin, and once he was introduced to Outkast, he became their DJ-turned-production partner after the second album was done.
Mr. DJ has won two Grammy Awards, both of them for his work with Outkast. He will attend One Music Fest in September to reunite with the Dungeon Family.
Joi Gilliam contributed vocals to the intro song on ATLiens, “You May Die,” as well as “Decatur Psalm.” Joi was married to another Dungeon Family member, Big Gipp, from 1995 to 2003.
Earlier this summer, Joi told Rolling Out magazine that she is teaching vocal and stage performance through a curriculum she calls “Artisan Polishing.” She is also still working on an upcoming project called “Rebekkah Holylove’s Salvation Symphony.”