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Talk about ’90s rap, and most music fans will throw around the word “gangsta” and talk about the East Coast–West Coast feud that tragically brought down Biggie and Tupac. But one rap group, OutKast, quite literally rose above the fray: At the 1995 Source Awards, while East and West were bickering with each other, OutKast’s André Benjamin took the mic and told the rap faithful that hip-hop’s future was in the South. For the next quarter century, he was proved indisputably correct.
OutKast brought about this sea change by conceiving of hip-hop as everything music: funk, soul, pop, club, even country and indie all found their way into André and Big Boi’s music. By the time of their final studio album, they had pulled away almost fully from pure rap—and were rewarded with their biggest hits ever, a No. 1 smash each for Big Boi and André. Including that immortal jam that taught you, the fellas and the ladies—including all Beyoncés and Lucy Lius—what’s cooler than being cool.
Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.