When T.I. anointed himself “King of da South,” it was more than just an ego trip; it was a strategic move to generate exposure and controversy. Until T.I., no emcee had dared to stake a claim to that lyrical throne, long held by H-town’s Scarface. Call it delusions of grandeur, but the man has the lyrical skills of Scarface and star power of Ludacris. And his risk has paid off, leading to a guest appearance on Destiny’s Child’s “Soldier” and spots on the covers of Vibe and Elemental magazines. His third LP is the tale of two emcees: the Bankhead hustler eloquently scribing the trap (drug-dealing) game and the Urban Legend looking to take his regional fame national.
From opener “Tha King,” T.I. proves to be a student of history, freaking a sample of Run-D.M.C.’s the “King of Rock” in what proves to be the perfect jump-off for T.I.’s ego to run wild: “I’m king of the South now, but there’s fifty states/ ‘Cause I’ma spread out and I’ll eliminate who in the way/ I’m twenty-four today, give me till I’m twenty-eight/ I’ll be ruler of all that I survey and not just in the state/ See I bend just to win, but I ain’t finna break.” By any means necessary, T.I. has planned a hostile takeover of hip-hop. This is eerily reminiscent of a young upstart emcee from Marcy that put hip-hop in a cobra for six straight summers. It’s only fitting that T.I.’s lead single, “Bring ‘Em Out,” is laced with a Jay-Z sample. It may prove Jigga’s crack at Nas in “Takeover” — “You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song” — to be ironic.
T.I. may have conquered the hearts and minds of the street, but his goal with Urban Legends is to develop a sound that will bring in mainstream dollars. Recruiting industry heavyweights Nelly, Lil’ Kim, Mannie Fresh, the Neptunes and Lil John, Urban Legends is more polished then its gritty predecessor, 2003’s Trap Muzik. I hope T.I. kept the receipts and gets a refund for the lazy efforts supplied by supposed “stars” Nelly (“Get Loose”) and Lil’ Kim (“Get Ya Stuff Together”). T.I. may have ambitions of a rap takeover, but without a viable crossover hit the mainstream will remain out of his grasp.
It may seem trivial that T.I. anointed himself king, but it brings a tremendous amount of pressure to prove haters wrong and defend the crown from would-be challengers. Fear not: T.I.’s confidence and arrogance is thick as a bulletproof vest, and the man is plotting for Jay-Z’s number-one spot. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Laugh now and cry later.