Fat Money's Big Fat Review Section

By Jordan Selbo

T.I. is the post hip-hop version of Big Daddy Kane…

T.I. is the P.H.H. version of Big Daddy Kane—ain’t no half steppin’. An eMCee at once supremely certain of his greatness yet still severely hungry for more props, more grip, more…well, everything. In other words, the M.C. edition of M.J. (big up Bill Cartwright). Add the fact that dude has been claiming “King of the South” since he came into the game five years ago as a talented but nauseatingly cocky green thumb, and you got a man just waiting for haters to pop off at the mouth. So the question remains: can he finally back up his royal claims on King, or is this just another half-assed dirty south cash-in (‘¨ la Luda’s whole catalog)?

Any decent description of T.I. has to start with his vocals, which invoke the old Southern soul of a Willie Hutch or a Solomon Burke. On the one hand, soothing syrupy vocals give a severe hypnotic effect, lulling you into a deep trance (proposed warning sticker for future T.I. CDs: “Don’t get weeded and operate heavy machinery while listening to T.I. at high volumes.”) On the other hand, his tenor also has the one-too-many-cigarettes pit bull quality of early K-Solo. Combine that with his frequent employment of catchy melody couplets that would make Magnetic Fields jealous (you didn’t know the Fat Money was that deep? 69 is my shit!), and you got one charismatic lyricist.

So like all truly ornery eMCees, T.I. opens his fourth joint with four tracks of fire that go straight for the bozack…and their jaws stay clenched until fadeout. Like a dog that’s been abused as a pup, dude’s got no time for lames and no mercy for those who get in the way of his hustle. And just in case you might be unsure of whether he’s calling you out specifically, he takes the time to set things straight (through the process of elimination) on the Just Blaze heater “I’m Talking to You,” which ends with T.I. shouting out everybody he’s not talking to, thereby implicitly implicating the other five or so billion people on earth as either haters, suckers or biters of the King’s game.

King’s opening single, “What You Know,” deserves mention for actually being a good song. Whereas we usually just get some nursery rhyme bragging over a generic Neptunes beat (big up Jigga), T.I. and his frequent collaborator DJ Toomp provide the rare Hip Hop single that is both extremely catchy and obscenely dope. Songs like “The Breakup” and “Stand Up Guy” show T.I.’s views on women have matured since his first couple albums (see portions of I’m Serious for some catchy misogyny). Mainly he seems more coy and reverential, but still sees plenty of sexuality in the fairer sex. Add in some great guest appearances (UGK, Common, Young Buck, etc.) and the product seems even more dope. In the B.G./Young Jeezy grouping “I’m Straight,” for example, both ATLiens drop solid verses, but the Hot Boy veteran steals the show with lines like, “I spit it how I live it / Every verse I ever gave ya, it was fact, nothin’ fiction” and “everybody say they gotta story/ Mine on “Larry King,” theirs is on “Maury.” Even Jamie Foxx, everyone’s favorite mediocre singer/famous actor, shows up for the sweet “Live in the Sky.” I guess game recognize game.

Now for the complaints: It’s still painfully obvious in spots who T.I. has borrowed from stylistically—whether it’s the seething tirades against enemies or the sober laments of a rueful thug, his Tupac fetish is alive and well, and his enthusiasm for older southern cats like UGK and Scarface is admirable but occasionally confining. Likewise, it’s slightly disturbing to realize that T.I.’s sound and career bear a striking resemblance to his biggest rival, Ludacris’ (further proven with his recent foray into acting with a lead role in ATL). And most fundamentally, enjoying King required me to temporarily forget the fact that I generally loath major label rap music P.B. (that’s “Post-Biggie,” slick), a reality that I managed to avoid, the exception being Swiss Beatz’ “Get It” (am I the only one who hasn’t enjoyed Beatz’ soulless keyboard retreads since “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”?).

And yea, King would sound even better if I had a hooptie with a bump in the trunk, but it still keeps me swaggering pretty hard in my walkman, hoofing it to school in my busted faux-Wallabees. Word to that wack-ass BK spokesman—there’s a new king in town!

Final verdict: 3 joints (out of 4).

P.H.H., as in “Post-Hip Hop.” Oh you didn’t know? Hip Hop’s dead, dummy.