The release of T.I.'s fourth album, King, was designed to coincide with his big scren debut in the movie ATL - a rewarding business move indeed. The album itself is packaged with enough gems to make this one of T.I.'s most captivating albums ever.
T.I. Finally Gets It Right
Let’s get this straight: T.I. may not be the king of southern hip-hop; but he’s definitely the Jay-Z of the south. He comes across as that swagger-jacking lyricist with enough charisma to convince you that he’s really running things in his department. T.I.(born Clifford Harris jr.) first sneaked into the rap scene with the poorly-promoted I’m Serious, before releasing the street favorite, Trap Muzik. Following the mixed reaction to his commercially-patented third entry, Urban Legend, the 26-year old Atlanta forerunner has now found a much-elusive balance between commercially-viable tracks and street anthems on King.
Every king needs blaring horns and trumpets to announce his royal entry. T.I. does this keenly with the Just Blaze-produced “King Back,” where he "welcomes you to get acquainted with the youngest in charge" while running through his rap catalog to enlighten those that slept. However, you can’t help observing the conceptual similarities to Jay-Z’s opening track from The Blueprint, “The Ruler's Back.” Make no mistakes though, Tip’s slow-drawl, laid-back style is all his. The chart-topping single “What You Know” helps put mud-slingers in check over DJ Toomp's synth-heavy production. One can almost visualize a fan driving down the streets slowly nodding away, and mean-mugging at haters, asking: “what you know about that?”
After several years in the game, T.I. truly understands how to play the collaboration card, and King shows this strength as well. The most blissful synergy on the album is also the most unlikely one – "Good Life" featuring Common and Pharrell Williams. The Neptunes’ piano-tinged loops inspire T.I. to spit truth: “Even when my days were in the blues, never ran from adversity, just ran to it” with Common supplying equally ingenious rhymes. UGK fans are then treated to a pleasure trip on “Front Back,” a revisit of Bun B and Pimp C’s classic “Front Back, Side To Side.” Similarly, ATL heads would hail the Young Jeezy - T.I. connection on “I’m Straight” which also features a rejuvenated B.G. With the exception of few sonic mishaps like “Stand Up Guy” and the chaotic Swizz Beats production on “Get It," which do little to hurt the album's overrall outlook, T.I. manages to balance accessible gems with street anthems on King.
King is not only T.I.'s most captivating album so far, it's probably the best thing to come out of the “A” in recent times. And, as Pimp C explains on one of the album's many skits, a "king" is anyone that has handled his business acutely on the lyrical side of things, and many kings abound in southern rap. With such foraying display of bravado, T.I. has rightfully earned his membership to hip-hop's elite. Royal salute!