T.I. - King
T.I.’s new album starts off in epic proportions. A regal fan-fare swirls around funk guitars, under a prophetic intro stating 'One day, like the phoenix rose from the ashes…a boy will be born unto a family in the slum's; the triumphant King Back sets the score, from his philosophy 'taking orders from no-one but God' to his legacy in Atlanta 'You ain’t ready for out here ‘cause the lifestyle violent/You think you is, you must be living on fantasy island'. What You Know, a Toomp production, superbly interweaves T.I.’s lazy southern drawl with layered synth horns, creating an instant Crunk classic. An archetypal hip-hop subject: beef with other rappers is given a fresh twist on I'm Talkin' To You. T.I. underlines who he isn’t talking about 'I ain’t talking to Jeezy cause that’s my bro/Ain’t talkin’ to Face cause that’s my father' leaving an implicit warning for anyone left out. He intensifies the track by switching from slow Southern Syrup to sugar rush, high-speed spitting for a menacing ending.
However, past these early standout tracks, the album loses its fire. Leave the Sky featuring the over-used Jamie Foxx is a beautiful, gospel-tinged tribute to a late friend, but it’s nothing original. Why you Wanna successfully samples the Crystal Water’s classic Gypsy Woman showing T.I.’s softer side and his sexy southern drawl sounds great lengthened out to infinity on the chorus for I’m Straight. But the despite the decent production and a few flashes of brilliance on the whole the latter half of the album is filled with indistinctive narratives and uninspiring wordplay.
T.I. doesn’t sustain the hyperbole he aroused at the beginning of King; it feels like all the energy was put into the first four tracks, then everyone gets tired. The mix of club anthems, gripping street stories and introspective cuts keep a momentum, but don’t build the empire that T.I. promised.