T.I.’s Urban Legend is probably a classic.
Depending on who you ask.
The holy grail of a rapper’s career, the undeniably classic album, has eluded many a superstar, many a talented MC and all sorts of random hopefuls with illusions of grandeur. T.I. may be on that list as well, again, depending on who you ask. For some, the mileage varies, but the closest he has come is undoubtedly his third LP, Urban Legend, which celebrates its 12th anniversary today.
While it may have been his third album, it served as an introduction of Clifford Harris to many — it represented his first foray into the mainstream and set the stage for his career, one that found him appearing alongside pop megastars to boost their No. 1 records, notching his own chart-toppers, starring in blockbuster films, playing roles on primetime television, and almost anything in between.
The album’s conception came at a peculiar moment in Tip’s career. He had just been released from jail and spent a summer vanquishing Lil Flip, a laughable achievement over a decade later, but an admirable one at the time. During the squabble, Scarface backed his claim as “King of the South” and T.I. was suddenly an anointed star waiting to prove he could carry the crown he’d claimed. He released his first Top 10 single in the Jay Z-sampling “Bring ‘Em Out,” a diversion from his previous thumping trap sound, but a welcomed one as Tip was clearly flexing his versatility. Over all the blaring chirps and chimes you’d come to expect from a Swizz Beats production he dismissed the jail stint by noting “I got some time, but that ain’t shit ’cause I get better with time.”
The anticipation for the album was only ramped up when he tacked on a snippet of “U Don’t Know Me” at the end of the “Bring ‘Em Out” video, revealing that the street side of Tip hadn’t dissipated, in fact it may have been stronger than ever. That initial brush with mainstream success only increased the already-fervent, insatiable hunger from fans for what was to come and when Urban Legend finally arrived, it delivered on the promise of that track and T.I.’s potential beforehand.