Let’s take a trip to 2006, where we got sexy back with Justin Timberlake, played Sherlock Holmes with NY Hip Hop while soaking up all that snap music had to offer. While we were engulfed in pop trials and tribulations, on this day 10 years ago, T.I. dropped his fourth studio album King.
The year was a memorable one for pop music (remember B-Day?), but Tip ruled the charts and the streets of Atlanta with his star-studded album. While the rapper had dropped chart-topping singles like “Rubberband Man” and “Bring Em Out” with his past projects, King showed the rapper’s inevitable progress and catapulted the then 25-year-old into mainstream bliss.
It’s essentially a wonder, the rapper’s album was full of recollections about his trap days and yet, it transcended in the projects of the Bronx to the cul-de-sacs in Arizona. The album became T.I’s magnum opus of sorts, with monster beats from The Neptunes, Just Blaze, DJ Toomp, Travis Barker and Mannie Fresh. His features were even more profound—the late Pimp C appears on “Front Back” with UGK partner Bun B—setting a modern high bar for lyrical southern rap. Essentially, the people agreed. It went gold in its first week (523,000) and went on to go double platinum.
Fans might hail his other works as his best, but King is the rapper’s most important album. It helped bring trap to America and reminded everyone the south still had something to say. In honor of King’s anniversary and seventh bundle of joy, here are seven more reasons King is T.I’s most important album.
1. It proved the south had lyrical dialect.
He might have been a new rapper to the masses, but with three albums and loads of life experience on his shoulders, the rapper painted portraits of street life on “King Back,” reminding us even back then who made listeners curious about the trap lifestyle. In the midst of King were plenty of southern rappers who dominated the clubs and your high school prep rallies. The rapper refrained from that lane and instead presented “I’m Talking To You,” a hip-hop mosh-worthy track with lyrics like, “For n***as wit dirty mouths, I got a lotta clean pistols to wash ’em out I’m really finna give yo a** some hotter sh*t to talk about.” Insert flame emojis here.
2. It showed southern camaraderie.
Similar to his Urban Legend album, the rapper kept his collabos in the southern region (Young Buck Jeezy, DJ Drama, Young Dro) with the exception of Common on “Goodlife.” Throughout the album, the rapper reminded listeners of unity and respect the artists had of one another on “Top Back,” “Bankhead” and the UGK assisted “Frontback.” The kumbaya moments were just a year after his beef with Lil Flip and competitive quarrel with Ludacris. Blame it on time or the rapper’s newfound confidence; T.I’s choice to glorify his friendships on King was a smart move in pushing his career and the reputation of the south forward.
3. It came with hits.
All of T.I.’s singles (“Why You Wanna,” “Top Back (Remix)” “Live In The Sky” “What You Know”) were a success on the radio and the charts. He also took home the Grammy for Best Rap Song for “What You Know.” While fans might dispute he was robbed of the Best Rap Album (it went to Ludacris’ Release Therapy) he went on to grab another Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “My Love” with Justin Timberlake.
4. It set the blueprint for trap music.
If rappers of today were reluctant to talk about their raw pasts before, they were more than pressed to boast today thanks to T.I. While Trap Muzik presented the rapper’s former life on wax, King proved he had nothing to be ashamed of. On the Nick Fury produced, “I’m Straight,” with B.G. and Jeezy, the rapper spits his first encounter with the trap style was all thanks to his father. “A lot of glamour and glitz, but shawty I don’t need that/ My beginnin’ was a humble one, a hustler I’mma son of one Taught me how to number run, I went from that to number one.” At the age of 14, mini Tip was just trying to do his job, regardless of the legal repercussions. That mindset stayed with him for some time, but that’s another convo for another day.
5. It’s reflective, remorseful & confident.
It wasn’t all rainbows and trap butterflies for the rapper. He also showed a softer side on “Live In The Sky,” his ode to deceased family members and friends, including his childhood pal Philant Johnson. No matter how far he was from the life he’s glorified, the losses suffered reminded the rapper his riches could vanish in a minute. “F**k how many millions I got, n***a, so what if I’m hot/When I got prices on my head, feds rushin’ my spot.” The rapper was prone to arrests and jail time during his career, which effected larger endorsements and potential movie deals. He’s snapped back from his fallouts, but back then he knew it was all for a greater cause. After all, his album wasn’t named King for his self-proclaimed “King of the South” troupe; it was named after his 10-year-old son.
6. It showed popular music would essentially be hip-hop music.
Q-Tip didn’t want us to call rap music pop, but T.I’s success demonstrated hip-hop’s domination in American music. Previous rappers like DMX, Jay Z and Missy Elliott were the poster kids for the MTV generation so it’s no surprise Tip was up next.
7. It proved he would always be King.
And always will be.