As much as artists (and fans) may not want to admit, comparisons are one of the most prevalent pillars in Hip-Hop. When looking at music from a roundabout point of view, it only makes sense in a genre which prides itself on a “I’m-better-than-you” mantra. The other day I found myself listening to nothing but Southern rap music. It’s not that I intended for this to happen; it just did. ‘Face, Goodie Mobb, UGK, Outkast, Devin The Dude, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, The Hot Boys, Luda, Jeezy…you name it, damn near everybody below the Mason-Dixon line was in rotation. That’s when I came to the conclusion (well, question) which is sure to ruffle a few feathers and likely lose me a few followers on Twitter.
Could T.I. really be the greatest Southern artist…ever? Before you deem me as an idiot, hear me out.
Years ago when Tip proclaimed himself as the ‘King of the South’, many laughed and shook it off as another artist who simply jumped the gun at announcing his own greatness. Now, when looking at his musical resume’, he may be just that.
1. Numbers Don’t Lie — As a solo artist, you’d be hard pressed to find another who has seen the success Clifford has since his rise to prominence in 2002. Excluding his extremely underrated debut, I’m Serious, and the P$C group album, 25 To Life, his last five (yes FIVE) solo albums have all scanned over a million copies. Aside from Jay, Em and Nas (and soon to be Kanye and Wayne), there aren’t many living artists who can say they’ve had an entire handful of albums reach a million people…respectively. A couple of Grammys doesn’t hurt the cause either.
2. Versatility Like None Other — When it comes to delivering a hit, Tip’s done it in every category imaginable. By categories, I’m referring to: commercial (ex. #2), female-generated (ex. #2), introspective (ex. #2) and hood anthems (ex. #2). He’s done it on more than two occasions, too, for the record.
3. The Mixtape Game — While his resume’ isn’t as polished as say a Lil’ Wayne, Gucci Mane or Young Jeezy on the mixtape scene, all you really need is one classic under your belt to garner eternal respect in that area. To this day, Down With The King is still one of DJ Drama’s most ballyhooed releases. Now imagine the buzz which could surface if he drops another one with Drama post-prison. I’m just sayin’.
4. Career Ender — Ok, Luda got him on “Stomp.” That’s understood. Lil’ Flip and Shawty Lo, however, weren’t so lucky. Sure, the two of them aren’t the most respected lyricists in the world, but neither career has been the same after finding themselves on T.I.’s bad side. Flipperachi hasn’t been heard from in years and Shawty Lo has no release date in site for his new album. Just so we’re all on the same accord, this ended Flip’s musical existence.
5. Stamp of Approval — You name ’em and nine times out of 10 they’ve co-signed Tip. Scarface, UGK, B.G., Jay-Z, Outkast, Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Dr. Dre, Trick Daddy, 8Ball & MJG, Common, Swizz Beatz, The Game, Maino, Nas, Cam’ron, D-Block, Joe Budden. The list goes on. Point is, he’s highly respected by his peers and basically the entire country as one of the premiere artists making music today.
6. A Bonafide Classic — By December 31, 2009, Trap Muzik should be accepted as an undeniable classic and one of the better albums of the decade. Take some time to review the tracklist and attempt to pick a ‘bad’ song. Go ahead, try it. That being said, I’m Serious and Urban Legend often find their names in the category of his best album and in debates over whether or not they deserve to be mentioned as ‘classics.’ Paper Trail wasn’t bad either and has aged exceptionally well since its release this time last year.
7. “I’m A Bankhead N*gga, I’ll Take Yo Cookies” — By no means am I placing Tip above Luda in the ‘guest features’ category (or even Wayne for that matter), but IF he appeared on more artists’ records, who knows what the argument could be? Ask Khaled, Justin, Jeezy, Lupe, Kanye, Yung LA and Big Kuntry about featuring Bankhead’s ambassador on their record and see where they rank him. Then again, it’s no question his verse on Bonecrusher’s anthem is one of the better features of the decade. Right?
8. “Welcome To The Trap” — For better or for worse (depending who you ask), Tip is largely credited with bringing the image and embodiment of ‘the trap’ to the forefront of Hip-Hop. He wasn’t the first to mention it in his rhymes, but he was basically the first to embrace and present it on a national level. After him, artists such as Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane and most recently, Pill, have taken the subgenre of ‘trap rap’ to new heights. Yet and still, Tip’s influence is never far away.
Truthfully, I’m expecting this to be met with all types of hate. Instigating that a current artist may possibly be “better” than a legend is essentially a cardinal sin in Hip-Hop. However, removing bias or personal alligence, take a look at Tip’s track record. If he’s not greater than ‘Face/Dre (or whoever you think), he’s the closest one.
Below, video previews of T.I.’s “Behind the Music” episode airs 8 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 8 on VH1. See another preview after the jump.