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T.I.

King

Anyone disputing T.I.'s claim to the title "King of the South" should be summarily silenced by the pageant King's release. The self-proclaimed Dick Cheney of rap showcases many styles: He drapes himself in Tupac's sensitivity for "Live in the Sky" (with Jamie Foxx) and harks back to Lord Jamar's wryness in the Just Blaze-produced pronouncement "King Back," taunting, "We ain't able to compete now are we?" Then T.I. is a dandy, a silky smooth operator kicking straight game on an old-school Crystal Waters track, talking about how no one's ever gotten him "open like this" to a girl he's trying to bang. But he flips it over funky Southernplayalistic flutes on "I'm Straight," a song about laying low and selling dope that graciously allows King's best line to come from BG: "Everybody say they got a story / Mine on Larry King, theirs is on Maury."

No expense spared, each track here is a multilayered, highly nuanced production -- even Mannie Fresh's contributions ("Front Back" and "Top Back") are unrecycled and top-shelf. With the diplomacy of a spokesman, T.I. gives every man (except, of course, all enemies) his say. And in an attempt to bridge the rift between Texas and Georgia, Pimp C "speaks on some King shit on the cool," explaining in a Last Poets-style hand-drum coda that "everybody had it twisted but me / I understood from the get-go / That what the nigga was tryin to put in these stupid-ass niggas' faces / Is the fact that there's a whole bunch of kings down here / And as long as you taking care of your business and doing King shit, you a King." What you know about that?

 
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