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Biographical shock value aside, R.A.P. Music provides enough jaw drops on its own merits that it’s sure to be a record that comes to define 2010s hip-hop in some way. It opens with “Big Beast”, a track that would probably be saved for second or third on most records but here is thrust into the leadoff spot, dropping you right into R.A.P. Music‘s unrelentingly confrontational atmosphere without grace or subtlety. This is to music listening as Mike Tyson is to boxing, all fury and iron. Featuring two of the only guest raps on the record (Trouble also handles the hook, and El-P appears later on the accurately christened “Butane”), “Big Beast” is exactly that—when T.I. casually drops the line “Drankin’ on that Hennessey, blowin’ on that canibus, Amerikkka’s nightmare, trap nigga fantasy” and actually finds the rhythm to pronounce each of the k’s in that Ice Cube reference, not only is it awesomely gripping but further proof that for all T.I.‘s album gaffs he can bring a technicality to his performances that few of his peers can approach. That El-P’s beat is so distinctly southern in its brashness and yet maintains plenty of El-P touchstones is just icing on the cake.—David Amidon
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