Time Span Between First Five Albums: Six Years.
An MC, or any artist for that matter, has a good thing going when fans can’t decide which album is his or hers best. That’s the kind of situation T.I. finds himself in, getting ready to drop his eighth studio album. And he couldn’t have gotten to eight without the first five. From initially making a splash with his debut album, I’m Serious, in 2001, the Atlanta rapper instantly began to show hip-hop fans that he was someone worthy of their ears. That only continued with his 2003 sophomore album, Trap Musik, which featured hit singles like “24’s” and “Rubber Band Man.” His third LP, Urban Legend (2004), brought him mainstream success via the Swizz Beatz-concocted “Bring Em Out,” which sampled Jay-Z’s voice on the hook. By 2006, Tip had did away with the “of the South” in King of the South to proclaim that he’s King. Like rap royalty would, T.I. scored big another monster single, this particular one, the “What You Know” street anthem, produced by frequent collaborator DJ Toomp and the smooth, female-friendly, “Why You Wanna.” Tip’s fifth album out the gate, T.I. vs. T.I.P. (2007) had the ATLien having an identity crisis of sorts, collaborating with the likes of Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean and Eminem.
_________________________With apologies to De La Soul, five is the magic number. It’s usually the amount of albums in a standard record deal, but few MCs ever fulfill their contractual obligations with as much aplomb as they started. Whether an artist peaks early or late, staying consistent over the duration of five albums has proven challenging no matter the era in hip-hop. XXLmag.com decided to rank the best first-five album runs in hip-hop history (First 5). A new act and their ranking will be revealed each day of the week throughout the month of October and the Top 5 will be revealed on November 5th. Get in on the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #XXLFirst5.
1. I'm Serious (2001)
Release Date: October 9, 2001
T.I.’s first album was far from his best, but it did show flashes of the Atlanta rhyme slinger’s possible star potential. The title track and lead and only single, “I’m Serious,” paired Tip up with dancehall superstar Beenie Man over a boisterous, club-banging Neptunes production. In addition to Beenie, Pharrell Williams, Too $hort, the YoungBloodZ, Bone Crusher and Pastor Troy also lent their support to Tip’s debut offering. In addition to the Neptunes, production credits went to the likes of DJ Toomp, Jazze Pha and Lil Jon.
2. Trap Muzik (2003)
Release Date: August 19, 2003
Grittier with more star power, Trap Musik, T.I.’s second album proved to be a better listen with more hits than its predecessor, I’m Serious. That’s evidenced by the fan-favorite LP going on to release four singles, sprawled across more than a year's time, from organ-haunting “24’s” to the caveat-offering “Be Easy,” the feel-good “Rubber Band Man,” which drew cameos from Diddy, Usher, Nelly and NFL quarterback Michael Vick, and the breezy, “Let’s Get Away.” The sophomore project had Trap Musik as its title, but there’s no doubting that the album’s music helped get T.I. out the trap, ya dig?
3. Urban Legend (2004)
Release Date: November 30, 2004
Now regarded as a viable hitmaker, T.I. only reinforced that with his third album, Urban Legend. With it, Tip splashed back onto the scene in a huge way with “Bring Em Out,” his Swizz Beatz-produced lead single, which sampled Jay-Z on the chorus. The track proved to being his biggest hit of his young career and that being followed by the menacing “U Don’t Know Me” and premeditated “ASAP” and “Motivation” only padded Tip’s reputation as an Urban Legend. Solid album cuts like “Prayin for Help,” “Why U Mad at Me” and “Countdown” only beefed up an already-solid body of work.
4. King (2006)
Release Date: March 28, 2006
Arguably his best, most complete album out of his first five, King was a major success. Not only did it reach mainstream success with undeniable singles like the street heater “What You Know,” the Crystal Waters-sampled and lady-loving, “Why You Wanna” and the Jamie Foxx-assisted, “Live in the Sky,” it had the kind of track ammunition that left fans having a new favorite song off the LP every week. From T.I. lacing the album-opening, Just Blaze-produced “King Back” to UGK lending Tip the assist on the Houston throwed “Front Back” and “Top Back,” a hit it in its own right that prompted a remix with the likes of Young Jeezy, Young Dro and B.G. An absolute smash hit album. It’s the King, homie!
5. T.I. Vs. T.I.P. (2007)
Release Date: July 3, 2007
For his fifth album, Tip tweaked his sound a got a bit eclectic with the bouncy “You Know What It Is,” which was produced by Wyclef Jean and also featured the former Fugees rapper on the track. That single followed “Big Shit Poppin’ (Do It),” which made even catered to radio even more. “Hurt” had Tip trading snarling bars with Alfamega and Busta Rhymes over a furious Danja production, while “Watch What You Say To Me” had T.I. and Jay-Z spitting their most sincere warnings. Rather under the radar was the Eminem-featured “Touchdown,” the song proving to be fitting as Em, with his alter-egos Eminem and Slim Shady met T.I.’s T.I. and Tip.