The Albums: ATLiens (1996), Aquemini (1998), Stankonia (2000)
Though 1994's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik remains one of Outkast's finest works, a spectacular debut packed with style and substance, the duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi began to explore their more experimental leanings and rarely paralleled creativity on the three albums that followed it. 1996's ATLiens cast Outkast as galaxy travelling heroes, setting a comic-book backdrop for spiritual musings, street observations, and a rich collection of beats that crossed East Coast thump with Southern spirit. Aquemini loosened the genre borders and upped the ambition, jamming 74 minutes with live instrumentation, unique song structures, imaginative raps, and big choruses that refused to submit to rap convention. Taking cues from all of the group's previous works, 2000's Stankonia proved Outkast's most daring album yet, another sprawling set that made hits of utterly original songs and seemed to peek into every crevice of its creators' minds.