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May 30, 2006 - Image 42

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-05-30

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26 - The Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2006


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King of the South and bedroom eyes ... That's hot.

By Anthony Baber
Mar. 26, 2006
Music REW ** *n
Ever since Jay-Z retired as "the best rapper
alive," the hip-hop community
has been lying in wait to see who T.I.
will assume the vacant position.
The West Coast has been preoc- King
cupied with hyphy and crumping, Grand Hustle/
the East Coast is still in Jigga's Atlantic
shadow and the biggest star of
the Midwest is too busy calling himself Jesus.
But this battle has been hotly contested in the
South. And the leading candidate is effervescent
Atlanta rap star TI.
The cocksure star's new album, King, is
the finished product of a long transformation
from rookie to rap royalty. He's progressed
from songs like "Motivation" and "Get Ya
Stuff Together" - blue-collar anthems direct-
ed at rivals - to newer songs like "What You
Know" and "I'm Talkin' To You," which fix-
ate on his rise to power. Even the introduction,
"King Back," is a speech about a boy conquer-
ing the slums and becoming king. The song
has the sound of regal importance with an
inescapable flourish of trumpet trills and high
notes that drop into a boisterous cacophony of
bells and bass drum.
In his campaign for king of the South, T.I.
has taken on some memorable foes. In 2004, he
had a brief squabble with Ludacris over South-
ern dominance before he became embroiled in
a confrontation with Lil' Flip (the first feud
was considered a draw, while the second was a
resounding victory for T.I.). Even when he had
to do jail time for parole violation, he released
mix-tapes telling everyone to get ready for his
next project, Urban Legend.
The bout for No. I contender has broiled
down to TI. and the golden boy of New
Orleans, Lil Wayne. Going for the gusto,
Wayne proclaims himself to be the new best

rapper alive on his last album, Tha Carter,
Vol. I.
Not to be outdone, T.I.'s King is a proud,
orderly album that announces his arrival into
the top tier of MCs. With a flexible voice that
effortlessly glides from quick punchlines to
serious meditations on life and death, T.I.
commands power in almost any situation.
Tagged as potentially the best rap album
of the year and of his young career, King has
a lot going for it. At a time when the South
has basically taken over contemporary rap
with unmitigated radio and video play and an
Oscar, TI. is taking advantage of a perfect
The album features aesthetically pleasing pro-
duction from some of the best producers the game
has to offer. T.I. keeps it at the bottom of the map,
working with Southern producers Mannie Fresh
and DJ Drama, but he also avoids complacency by
working with big-name East Coast producers Just
Blaze and Swizz Beats. Many of the tracks juxta-
pose majestic horns next to the heavy percussion
and up-tempo beats the South is famous for.
The whole album progresses like a small
masterpiece, from the alluring organ sounds
of "Front Back" and "Ride With Me" to the
electric keyboard patterns of "Why You
Wanna." There's glowing use of blaring horns
on tracks like "Get it" and "Top Back," a
backdrop that empowers his verses of gang-
sterism and street splendor.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flat-
tery, TI. must be turning longtime hero Jay-Z
bright red. TI. is seen as the Southern version
of Jay-Z; both have the same style, posing as
clean-cut, well dressed gangsters. On Urban
Legend, T.I.'s "Bring 'Em Out" contained a
sample from Jay-Z's "What More Can- I Say."
Tellingly, the album cover for King looks
conspicuously like the album cover from Jay-
Z's The Black Album. With his swagger and
five or six guaranteed-hit singles, T.I.'s reign
ought to commence as soon as King drops
into the stereo.



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