Welcome to the first installment of Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
First up, I’m joined by Alex Goodwin to break down the career of one of his favorite artists, the King of the South himself, T.I.
Watch us go to war.
What are T.I.’s three best albums?
1. Trap Muzik
3. Paper Trail
This is a tough one, because what all three of these albums have in common is that they showcase Tip’s trademark charisma, narratives of taking penitentiary chances, a fair balance of radio hits and deep introspective album cuts. Though this is a terribly difficult choice, Trap Muzik gets the nod from me. Put simply, it’s some of T.I.’s best lyrical work and is supported by great production from DJ Toomp, David Banner and a pre-superstardom Kanye West. Trap Muzik sonically reshaped the sound of Southern hip-hop thereafter and became the blueprint that trap rappers have followed in the past two decades to great success.
2. Trap Muzik
3. Urban Legend
While I’m not quite as high on Paper Trail as Alex – it’s full of radio hits but a pretty uneven package to me – I have to share his love for King and Trap Muzik. I agree that Trap Muzik is one of the most influential Southern rap albums ever but, for me, King is the project where Tip finally capitalized on all his monarch talk. The grandiose production and hard-hitting rhymes give him an unmatched swagger. It’s where his destiny was truly fulfilled. He hasn’t topped this album yet.
What’s the first song that made you a T.I. fan?
“Money, ho*s, cars and clothes , that’s how all my n***as roll” is something that 7 year old me had no business repeating in the first grade, but there I was in Mrs. Osborne’s class quoting the King of the South. Aside from me getting in trouble for cussing in class, what really made T.I. stand out is that he had a decidedly east coast flow reminiscent of Jay Z but had a thick syrupy southern drawl that set him apart from other artists breaking out of Atlanta at the time.
Edd: “Rubberband Man”
I’ll be real with y’all – T.I.’s initial claims of being the King of the South rubbed me the wrong way. BIG TIME. Dude’s career was barely three or four years old at the time and, quite frankly, he hadn’t done much to impress me, let alone proclaim himself to be as good as the Outkasts, Geto Boys or Goodie Mobs that came before him. He wasn’t even on Ludacris’ level yet! Well, that was until THIS track. “Rubberband Man” showcased an incredible wit, undeniable bounce and was destined to be a new Southern anthem. It’s the first track that truly made me sit up and take notice.
What’s T.I.’s best single?
Alex: “What You Know”
Though Edd and I disagree on just about everything, this is something I KNOW we can agree on.With a horn centric production, built around a Roberta Flack sample, this track is pure braggadocio and verbal uppercuts towards Lil Flip from the moment you press play.
Edd: “What You Know”
FINALLY, WE AGREE. To me, “What You Know” is the quintessential T.I. song – loud, aggressive yet regal and dripping with Southern swag. It still stands as T.I.’s biggest non-pop hit to date and encapsulates all there is to know about Clifford Harris in four ferocious minutes.
Name T.I.’s best video
Alex: “Rubberband Man”
I picked this video, not because it told a great story or anything of the sort, it’s more because as you watch it felt like more of a coronation of the South’s next big star as everybody and their mama who meant something to Atlanta was in this in this video. Michael Vick, Lil Duval, Bow Wow, Brandon and Brian Casey from Jagged Edge, Jazze Pha, Big Gipp from Goodie Mob, and even Diddy showed up too (but that shouldn’t be a shock, he never misses an opportunity to throw on an ostentatious mink coat to remind us of how poor we are).
Initially “Rubberband Man” was going to be my choice too for all the reasons Alex shared. Especially that Diddy fur. But I’ve always been partial to “Hurt.” The black and white tint, the Fight Club atmosphere – there’s not much to it besides a bunch of scary masked guys and a camera going haywire. However, this ain’t about bells and whistles; the visuals perfectly match the song’s threatening tone. Sometimes less really is more.
Name T.I.’s worst album
Alex: T.I. vs T.I.P.
T.I. has a really strong discography of 10 albums, 8 of them that range from average to great, but this album wasn’t one of them. The whole Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde concept was a good idea in theory, but in application, the project was far too disjointed, featured pedestrian production and didn’t have enough memorable moments to warrant its nearly 73 minute running time.
Edd: No Mercy
T.I. leaves prison and THIS is the first album we get? Yikes. To be fair, No Mercy isn’t a total disaster, it’s just painfully generic. A bloated tracklist, overload of guest stars and barely any standouts make this one pretty forgettable. It’s certainly not fit for a king.
What’s T.I.’s best guest feature?
Alex: “Never Scared”
After his first album underperformed , T.I. went back to the basics and started releasing mixtapes to build a grassroots fan base. All of that pounding the pavement paid off as he stole the show on Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared,” which also featured Killer Mike. I never thought I’d take the phrase “ I’ll take your cookies” to be a menacing threat but Tip made the mere idea of getting your Oreos snatched sound downright terrifying. If you’ve never heard this song, you’ll understand what I mean when you hear it.
Edd: “Superstar Remix”
T.I.’s strength on wax has always been his laid-back confidence and wit, not necessarily his intricate wordplay. But don’t be misunderstood, T.I. can SPIT when he wants to. Tip made sure to bring his A-game on the remix to Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar,” showcasing unparalleled rhyme schemes that seemed plucked right out of Andre Benjamin’s playbook. That “Mi-fa-so-la-ti-do” line still blows me away. This verse is a forgotten gem for sure.
What’s T.I.’s worst single?
Alex: “You Know What It Is,” featuring Wyclef Jean
There’s no nice or artful way for me to say this so here goes. THIS SONG SUCKS . The production sounds like a track that Wyclef picked up off of Beenie Man’s cutting room floor, and Tip is rapping as if there’s a million and one other things he’d rather be doing. If this song ever plays on shuffle on your streaming service of choice, do yourself a favor and hit the skip button.
Edd: “Whatever You Like”
There are SEVERAL T.I. singles that grind my gears – which is probably why my opinion of his music was skewed for so many years. I don’t even mind that Wyclef track that much, not when we’ve got that dull Jamie Foxx joint and that ULTRA annoying Rihanna song where’s yodeling like she wants a Ricola. But the worst of the worst is “Whatever You Like” – it’s just sooooo boring and juvenile. It sounds a sappy poem a 7th grader would write for his cafeteria crush. Maybe that’s why it was so beloved – it’s the perfect middle-school anthem. But I’m a grown man so I hate it.
Name T.I.’s most underrated album cut
Alex: “Wonderful Life,” featuring Akon
One of the hallmarks of T.I.’s music throughout the past two decades has been tragedy and other adverse circumstances and how that’s shaped him, including the loss of his best friend Philant “Big Phil” Johnson in a Cincinnati shootout, his daughter being stillborn, his father being absent, and losing a number of friends to lengthy prison bids. On the second to last track on the Trouble Man album, he channels the pain into a concept track in which his deceased best friend Big Phil and his late father speak to Tip from the grave and urge him to cherish and enjoy he’s been blessed with and not dwell too much on the past and his various personal and legal struggles.
Edd: “Laugh At ‘Em”
This is a relatively new one, coming from 2018’s Dime Trap album, and I’m probably in the minority here but “Laugh At Em” is way more fun than it has any right to be. Just Blaze laced us with another signature scorcher and Tip is having a ball running roughshod through the instrumentals. The album may have gotten mixed reviews, but this is a standout.
So who are you riding with? Did Alex get it right? Or did Edd come through with the most knowledge? Let us know below.