Music

T.I.: King

It's pretty early in 2006 to talk about albums of the year -- but this record says it's time to start.


T.I.

King

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2006-03-28
UK Release Date: 2006-04-17
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

I'm already on record around here as saying that Clifford "T.I." Harris is one of America's greatest songwriters. I'm not just talking about hip-hop, either -- even if you add in all the other genres that people go all gaga over, T.I. strides this narrow world like a colossus. No one is smarter, no one constructs tighter songs, and no one has more ways to score.

This is proven over and over again on King, T.I.'s fourth album. By now, you might well have heard the menacing first single "What You Know"; this instant classic has been all over the place, with its interweaving layers of gothsynth and T.I.'s laconic gangster drawl. It's stunning, a real cathedral of menace -- not only is it the best track DJ Toomp has ever done, but it features a brilliantly exhausted performance by T.I., who just wants all the haters to shut up but doesn't want any boring drama: "You's a scary dude/ Believed by very few/ Just keep it very cool/ Or we will bury you/ See, all your attitude's/ Unnecessary, dude."

But this song, as iconic and huge as it is, is not the real early highlight of the album. That would be the next song, the Just Blaze-produced "I'm Talkin' to You". The subject matter is not necessarily original -- calling out fake rappers, ho hum -- but the way T.I. goes about it is original in two ways. First, he gets specific about who he's NOT talking about (all his friends and associates), with the implication being that everyone else is suspect; secondly, about halfway through, he upshifts from standard modern Southern rap parlance to a double-time workout that seems to nod to both Twista and old Miami booty bass. This latter stylistic twist is a good old-fashioned showoff gauntlet-throw, and it becomes the heart of the record.

But there is a lot of heart here to go around. T.I.'s greatest stylistic weapon is the sincerity he projects in every song, whether he's lamenting the pain of losing friends and family to violence (the heartbreaking "Live in the Sky" with Jamie Foxx doing a lovely gospel vocal), flirting with all the ladies over squiggly Germanic techno-beats ("Stand Up Guy") and Todd Rundgren samples ("Hello"), or inviting listeners to visit tough-ass neighborhoods in Atlanta to see the other America ("Ride Wit Me"). He sees a lot of different sides to every issue, and sounds as comfortable rhyming with ultra-thugs UGK on "Front Back" as he does with conscious-rap cover dude Common on "Goodlife".

Not every track here has some kind of wild new never-been-heard-before beat. This has some Internet beat nerds up in arms, but who cares what they think? Keith Mack's track for "Told You So" is a low-key reggae-influenced slog, but the song still works because of the laser-point lyrical attack, which is carefully composed from beginning to end even though it sounds like it's freestyled. This is a tricky thing even when the beat is all shiny; Swizz Beatz' track for "Get It" sounds just like a Rich Harrison jam, all huge drum loops and brass stabs, but T.I. picks a syncopated lyrical rhythm that lets him ride right through the busy track in high style: "Got that guacamole/ Holy moly/ You don't know me/ See, me clean as I wanna be/ What thee nigga wanna be/ Shots so bright I can't see niggaz standin' right in front of me/ These niggaz don't want none of me/ This rappin' shit is fun to me." Uh, word.

T.I. is the whole package: gritty, smooth, smart, dangerous, introspective, and wise. And while it's pretty early in 2006 to talk about albums of the year, this record says it's time to start talking.

9


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.