ATLiens: The Outkast

Some of my life's biggest influences have been the same for the past 20 years or more.

When I was growing up, the first taste of the nightlife we got was the Anderson Park dances across the street from my childhood home. In elementary school, we'd always heard the tales and legends of it's happenings. We could only dream of the days we'd be old enough to enjoy it ourselves.

Then it happened. Middle school ushered in the wonder of...booty dancing. With my Curtiss junior high I.D. I was now eligible for those dances. I arrived at the front with my older brother Ryan. We paid our $5 and he placed his hands on my shoulders as he walked me into the party. I had never seen anything like it before. I walked into the dimly lit room to a thick cloud of humidity. Every direction I turned teenagers were "freak" dancing to what sounded like...space music. My brother pushed me in the direction of girl in my class and I was officially changed. Outkast's "Elevators (Me & You)" pumped through the speakers and as I held myself close to Ashley, hands on her hips, gyrating in an alternate universe...

  Photos by Ashley Nguyen

Photos by Ashley Nguyen

That weekend, I went to Magic Disc while my mother did the family grocery shopping at Ralph's and bought a copy of "ATLiens" on CD. I obsessed over these artists and their music. Their style. Their grammar. Their swagger. Outkast blew the roof off my imagination and the way I saw Black men in hip hop. 

Over the years and many album purchases later, Andre and Big Boi still hold a special place in my heart and section in my memory banks. They're people I look to when I'm getting dressed and I second guess a look I'm piecing together. I'm still inspired by their audacity to be their authentic selves. Especially when it wasn't easy to do so. 

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Today, I still appreciate them for everything they created together. How they've produced a soundtrack for every significant period of my life.

Music pioneers.

Creative geniuses. 

Style icons.

Outkasts. 

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"Return of the gangsta thanks ta'
Them niggas that get the wrong impression of expression
Then the question is Big Boi what's up with Andre?
Is he in a cult? Is he on drugs? Is he gay?
When y'all gon' break up? When y'all gon' wake up?
Nigga I'm feelin' better than ever what's wrong with you
You get down!"