When I read the news the other day that Alanta rapper TI had been cast to star alongside Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the upcoming film American Gangster, I couldn’t help but think that this was just a case of the studio finding the best-selling rapper at the time and casting him in a film. They couldn’t have thought that the guy has much in the way of personal charisma.
Buoyed by monster single “What You Know,” TI’s most recent album King had one of the year’s best first week sales, and one of the best by a rapper by far. But then it’s dropped precipitously since then and from what I understand has failed to hit the two million mark. For the sake of comparison, 50 Cent’s The Massacre had sold more than twice as many copies by this time last year.
As such, I think you can’t help but view King as somewhat of a failure. With its array of quality work by top notch producers, one of the only contemporary albums you can compare it to is the Game’s 2005 debut the Documentary, which also did much better. Granted, the Game was down with the G-Unit machine, but he also reps the West Coast at a time when people couldn’t care less about California if it was in Canada.
And rightfully so, of course.
If there’s a recent album that also merits comparison, it’s Busta Rhymes’ the Big Bang, which has done even worse than King. If there’s a difference, it’s that I don’t think that the Big Bang can compare to either TI or Game’s album in terms of production. Newly artistically bankrupt Neptunes aside, King had its share of heat from both big name producers as well as whoever the hell Toomp is.
If there’s one thing I think all three of those albums had in common, it’s that the MCs themselves were all fairly less than compelling. The Game himself was the worst part of his own debut album, while I doubt any amount of controversy could make very many people give a shit about Busta Rhymes at this point. Similarly, I think it’s TI himself that’s holding King back from that proverbial next level.
He’s certainly one of the most (and only) technically gifted rappers in his region, and he’s garnered comparisons to Jay-Z which I do think carry a certain degree of validity. But over the course of four albums (five if you count the weed carriers joint), I don’t think he’s had nearly as many memorable moments. I wonder if songs like “What You Know” and “Why You Wanna” wouldn’t have been hits with any number of people rapping on them.
[Note: If this goes over well, next week I might have to explain why Lil' Wayne is not the South's Biggie and Young Jeezy is not the South's Nas. My bad, Sickamore, if I got the analogies mixed up. I shouldn't drink as much during the summer.]