Words by Beware

"I like his voice and his beats. And I think he's sexy.”

That's how my girl responded when I asked her why she "loved” young T.I.P.

While I've always agreed with two outta the three, it wasn't so easy for me to understand why people dug on him so much. I never really liked his OG slow-flow. His song content wasn't anything special in my eyes. He never collabed with artists that appealed to me. Considering the amount of material surrounding the incident, I never bought into the hype that surrounded him and Lil' Flippa, simply because I though it became watered down at a certain point. When he caught that bid, I never took it seriously, due to the in-cell camera work. When I bought Young Buck's debut, I thought I'd hear him do his thing with some heavy-hitters. Instead, Luda stomped him right offa the disc.

Before the throne, back when he was still only a Rubberband Man, those were among the reasons I didn't come around to the ATLien.

Notice the past tense, ‘cause since then, it's been official like some pinstripes.

I'm down with the King.

In my opinion, when you call yourself the best, or refer to yourself as Southern royalty, you've gotta' put all your chips on the line. Well, apparently T.I. was serious. Because when the throne was open for the taking, he went the M.O.P route, and anted the fuck up.

He stepped his game up to the next level, and consequently got his crown.

The way dude now flexes his different styles in every other song he's in (and that's a lot these days), shows me he's for real. For real for real. When you can flawlessly ride one track fast and choppy, and then smooth it out on the next, it proves something to me. Especially when it never used to be the case. It says to me he wants to get better. And, based on his then and now, he unquestionably has. Not many rappers can say the same.

I used to think his song topics were bland and played out. That he said the same shit as every other rapper from the Dirty. Now I see how fresh and inspiring he his songs can be, and why the South has begun to follow his lead. After hearing "Live in the Sky,” his versatility was unquestioned. That's a must for an artist of his stature. A lot of crossover artists stick to a script, hoping their formula doesn't wear thin anytime soon.

T.I.? No sweat, homie. He'll just invent the new formula.

The new standard, even. When you can release lead singles that appeal to 35-year-old street hustlers, and elementary students alike, it proves something to everyone. It proves you're making hits. While any rapper can make a hit (This is why I'm…), it takes a real artist to consistently make them. Even harder yet is to make them better every go ‘round. From "Bring ‘Em Out,” to "A.S.A.P”,” to "What You Know,” to "Live in the Sky,” to "Top Back (Remix),” to "Big Shit Poppin,” that's exactly what he's done.

That's also the main reason I'm now a fan.

Since I wasn't an avid listener, the only times I ever heard his music was on the radio (And listening to the FM is something I hate to do, especially for rap). However, unlike most artists, his radio joints are some of his best (Tell me "Live iIn The Sky” isn't the best song on KING…). So, filtering out all the other garbage on the airwaves, I came to realize why his songs were getting burn.

They're hot. Plain and simple. His songs are catchy, yet clever. The beats bang harder than two fat nymphos. His southern drawl is a voice that any aspiring rapper would kill for. He's got the natural ability to flow to any beat he's given the opportunity to rock, and he rides each one like his precious Chevy on 24s. He's got a swagger that would stop Iceberg Slim dead in his tracks.

And most importantly, he can make hit records.

Yet, that right there, unfortunately enough, is why people who don't listen to mainstream rap might not take T.I. for more than a court jester. When a rapper dominates the radio consistently, and stars in feature films to boot, his credibility seems to be outweighed by his pop stature.

And even more unfortunate, that's the reason I've never even heard 2004's Gangsta Grillz: Down with the King, which Gotty claimed as classic mixtape on Tuesday, and the pivotal stepping-stone in T.I.'s budding career. I'm almost ashamed to say that, yet I know I'm not the only one. Like many rap fans, I'd seen his presence, but I never knew what he was capable of.

No one ever pointed me towards Bankhead, so I didn't know how to get there, know what I'm sizzlin'? Yet now, at the helm of the throne he's recently earned, the directions are clear as day.

I definitely wouldn't call myself a die-hard Clifford Harris fan, by any means. But trust me when I say this; I might end up being one. And you better believe it won't be because of his sex appeal.

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This week @ The Smoking Section - T.I. Vs. T.I.P. Vs. TSS. All audio, video & written pieces about Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. B-sides, mixtapes, appearances...

Do you want more?

Previous T.I. Vs T.I.P. Vs TSS Articles

The Prequel - "Since You Became A Paid Cat T.I. You Been So Laidback…”

Act I - The Boy Who Would Be King...

Act II - T.I. Vs. Everyone Else: The Guest Spots

Act III - "You On Point TIP? All the Cliff.."

Act IV - "Welcome To The Show"

Also this week...

TSS Presents 15 Minutes With Sha Money XL

TSS Presents 15 Minutes With Big Shug