A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders vs. Outkast’s ATLiens. Which Is Better?

One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

Both A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast have multiple albums currently in the Final 32. To many fans, Midnight Marauders is A.T.C.Q’s best effort. To the Wild Card Round voters, in all of 1980-1996 Hip-Hop, Outkast’s ATLiens most-belonged in the ballot (with three other group albums in the tournament—making Outkast the most-included artist in “Finding The GOAT: Album.” Just as Tribe raised its voice in the Rap conversation in late 1993 with its Native Tongues gem, Outkast asserted itself in the long hot summer of ’96 with ATLiens. These albums have aged gracefully, and their messages, music, and mission are still palpable to the current Hip-Hop dialogue. Can a wild card upset a two-time winner? Or will the “Award Tour” continue for Tribe’s third LP? Only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click (Click one then click “vote”).


Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest

By 1993, Hip-Hop groups were hyper-aware of their legacy, as they challenged the laws of gravity. Coming out of the 1980s, few groups beyond Run-D.M.C. and De La Soul proved to be capable of three great albums in their catalog. And even those were not without arguments. A Tribe Called Quest, who broke in during 1990, weighed their winning streak entering Midnight Marauders, and won tenfold. The album followed the lauded Low End Theory with a carefully packaged, highly-cohesive feel and theme. The Jazz elements and breezy narratives continued, as Tribe remained ahead of the curve.

Midnight Marauders demonstrated growth for Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. However, in expanding, the Native Tongues found the spotlight—in their transformative first Top 10 album. Single “Electric Relaxation” beautifully merged Jazz and Electronic sources, for the perfect seduction. Cleverly sliced melodies drove the album, with groovy cuts like “Oh My God,” “Lyrics To Go,” and “We Can Get Down.” At a time when Jazz-Rap was a common theme on both coasts, A.T.C.Q. traveled to the next dimension and left no road map. The album featured smart, compelling lyrics that were far from preachy or taking themselves too seriously. Bars alluded to race relations, a changing New York City, and pressures of the Rap game, but songs seemingly didn’t. This LP was a casual, cohesive listen—which made it deeply accessible to the non-Rap consumer. The Abstract’s musings, Phife’s whimsicality, and Ali’s finest scratch clinic made A Tribe Called Quest one of the most consistent Hip-Hop acts of the first half of the 1990s. As the clock struck twelve, Midnight Marauders may be Tribe’s finest hour.

Album Number: 3
Released: November 9, 1993
Label: Jive Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #8 (certified gold, January, 1994; certified platinum, January 1995)
Song Guests: Dave (p/k/a Trugoy), Large Professor, Busta Rhymes, Raphael Wiggins
Song Producers: (self), Large Professor, Skeff Anslem


ATLiens by Outkast

Outkast skated on the scene with an incredible 1994 debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. At a time when hype was driving interest and in turn, sales—Outkast was thriving through skillful Rap deliveries, tangible subjects, and Funk-fried production. On the 1996 sophomore, ATLiens, Big Boi and Andre 3000 traded the velour interiors of their ’70s Cadillacs for colorful spacesuits, and brought the party to orbit. This album dimmed the backing sounds to mostly drums and light accents. Like their Parliament-Funkadelic influence, Outkast proved that not all parties had to be loud to be amazing. Instead, this album put a sharp spotlight on the intricate songwriting, incredible use of metaphor, and deeper thoughts behind the LaFace Records luminaries.

The title track to ATLiens maps out the musical galaxy. While the coasts were feuding, albums were shipping platinum, and everybody looked for a gimmick, ‘Kast were still kings, even if low profile. The song is drenched in masculinity and confidence, with Big Boi famously recalling his days as a schoolyard tough. However, two breaths later, 3 Stacks raps about performing oral sex—at a time when Rap found it taboo. What ‘Dre said following that illustration was commentary on parenting, race, and conforming—before reaching a fundamental Hip-Hop chorus. Outkast made their own rules—and sat at their own cool-table as “alienated MCs.” “Millennium” was a paranoid, apocalyptic and depressed view of the world. As Tupac Shakur was writing raps like he may die tomorrow, so were Daddy Fat Sax and Andre. In looking at pain, pressure, and beef—Outkast’s articulation and originality made them vastly different from their peers. Whether the record was a commentary on the environment, Black life, or Rap music (likely, all three), the pair acted as the change they wanted to see. However, the alienated ones still used this album to put out not just for Atlanta and Decatur, but all of the south. Cleverly, the album brandished the fact that southerners were living differently than the mainstream portrayals of Black men on the coasts. “Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac)” celebrated the iconography of laid back southern life—from the cars to the smoke, the clothes to the female charms. Without gasoline or gunpowder needed, Outkast exploded into orbit through ATLiens. At possibly the hardest time for talent to rise above the industry, Big Boi, Andre 3000, and Organized Noize did it two times in two years, on sheer rebel ingenuity.

“Album Number: 2
Released: August 27, 1996
Label: LaFace Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, November 1996; certified platinum, November 1996; certified 2x platinum June 2003)
Song Guests: Khujo Goodie, Big Gipp, T-Mo, Cool Breeze, Cee-Lo, Sleepy Brown, Mr. DJ, Witchdoctor, Joi, Jazzyfatnastees (Tracy Moore & Mercedes Martinez), Big Rube, Peaches, Andrea Martin, Carlos Glover, Craig Love, Debra Killings, Dee Simmons, Ed Stroud, Kenny Wright, Kerren Bernz, Marq Jefferson, Martin Terry, Marvin “Chanz” Parkman, Preston Crump, ShaJuanna Edghill, Skinny Miracles, Tamara, Tommy Martin, Trina Broussard, Whild Peach
Song Producers: (self), Organized Noize (Sleepy Brown, Rico Wade & Ray Murray)

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums