1. Ain’t No Thang
Though they would reach the mainstream of global pop culture as fully formed psychedelic futurists, OutKast’s recorded life began with a sense of them as followers, even if there were hints that they would become leaders. Their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, contained more than average amounts of individuality and iconoclasm for its era, but the 1994 release found André 3000 and Big Boi still wearing a few influences proudly on their sleeves. That befits the album’s status as the work of two high-schoolers who couldn’t quite believe their luck – a chance meeting with the Organized Noize production team and an impromptu rap session held outside Rico Wade’s car, the pair freestyling to the instrumental of A Tribe Called Quest’s Scenario, led to a guest appearance on a remix of a single by local stars TLC. That in turn introduced OutKast to Atlanta’s LaFace label and won them their deal. By the time they knuckled down to their first LP, the pair felt different enough from their schoolfriends to wear the name OutKast like a badge of honour, but they were still in thrall to the styles and sounds of the day. As such, the best OutKast album is a take on the G-funk/gangsta style, executed with plenty of Georgia swagger and the pair’s innate determination to express their individuality. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable and vivid genre piece: the first stirrings of the style their friends Goodie Mob would soon end up naming Dirty South. Ain’t No Thang is a standout from what remains a very good record. The lyric is filled with menacing imagery (“.357 to yo’ fo’head / There’ll be mo’ dead / ’cos I’m a pro, kid”) intercut with the playful chorus that’s designed to add chills by making murder sound complacent, but which also serves to remind you that these were still schoolboys playing at gangsta rap.