I wasn’t expecting much from “No Matter What,” T.I.‘s first release off The Paper Trail, but I must say, the track is fire!
Taking into account what dude just went through with the federal weapons charges and all, I doubt he could have came back with a better song. From the beat to the flow and introspective lyrics, it just fits. There’s one particular passage that catches my attention everytime I listen to it.
“Spoke my mind and didn’t stutter one time/Ali said even the greatest gotta suffer sometimes/so I huff and puff, grind/lyrics so sick with it/set the standard in Atlanta how to get, get, get it!”
Hmmmmm! I never though of T.I. as being an all-time great before. Being from the east coast, I never understood the impact artists from other regions, especially the south, had until I traveled. Shoot! I never paid attention to Lil’ Wayne until “Go DJ.” I went to New Orleans last month and people went nuts when they played some song I never heard off The Block Is Hot. When some of these southern dudes are praised, I have a tendency to write them off. I doubt I can do that with T.I., though.
Is he one of the greatest yet? My initial reaction is helllll no! He’s not greater than Nas, Jay-Z, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Scarface, KRS-One, Andre 3000, LL Cool J, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Chuck D, Redman, Common, Ice Cube, Kool G. Rap, Q-Tip/A Tribe Called Quest, Posdunous/De La Soul,Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G, Big Pun or Big L. I’m sure I forgot a few, but you get the point.
But let’s be fair for a minute. Using standards of greatness, (body of work, consistency, mic skills, impact, influence and longevity) let’s put T.I. to the test.
Body Of Work: T.I.P. has five albums. I’m Serious, Trap Muzik, Urban Legend, King and T.I. Vs. T.I.P. All but one went platinum.
Consistency: T.I. is usually a four-star rapper. Last year’s T.I. Vs. T.I.P. received a bit more boos than his previous efforts, but it was no dud.
Mic Skills: Pretty straight forward. No too many double entendres here, but dude is solid. One of the best in the business when it comes to flows. Good live performer as well.
Impact/Influence: The dope boy/trapper count definitely swelled up after Trap Muzik. But T.I.P’s DNA reaches beyound “dope” rap. Ask Bow Wow.
Longevity: T.I. has been out for seven years. That’s pale in comparison to LL Cool J, but still enough to make the ballot.
Look! We disagree on a lot of things. But I doubt any of you would dispute that the 21 aforementioned emcees aren’t amongst the greatest. While he may not match their impact,T.I.’s resume is interestingly similar to a few of those legends. Tribe released 5 albums in seven years (before the break up) and Eminem (before the break) and Pac (before his death) dropped four LPs in five years. There’s one thing T.I.P. is missing, tough. A certified classic. Still, he’s definitely left his mark. I still haven’t said it out loud, but dude has a case. If not now, we’ll have to start mentioning dude amongst the greatest by the time we’ve digested The Paper Trail. What do you guys think? Speak on it.