Like every rapper with enough cash for any producer in the world, Clifford Harris could’ve gone with finger snaps, hopped on the "intimate club music" bandwagon, or went diving into Scott Storch’s garbage for the next "Candy Shop." Instead, King is a like a New South proclamation--bursting with hard-core bangers fit for New York’s M.O.P., frantic organs over crashing drums, delicate soul samples on the sex raps, and the sub-bass of the year on "Top Back." It congeals into the kind of near classic that constantly dropped on Def Jam in the late 1980s: bold and exhilarating lyrically with production that straddles whip appeal and ’hood opera.
Tip cuts his swagger with modesty, running through a dis track like "I’m Talkin’ to You" without sounding paranoid or fatalistic. He’s got a swashbuckler’s icy wit and 10 lifetimes of illustrative felonies. His throaty drawl recalls the effortless glaze of ’90s G-funk, cocksure in his Maybach throne. On the boards, he enlists Just Blaze, a replenished Swizz Beatz, and Georgia’s sickest producer, DJ Toomp. He’s joined on the mic by a dusty B.G., a vainglorious Young Jeezy on "I’m Straight," and Jamie Foxx weeping all over "Live in the Sky."
T.I. never smirks like the nouveau riche Jiggaman--in fact, he claims he was "raised in the sewage"--but he still comes off aristocratic, as if constantly, albeit casually, attempting to live up to his self-appointed "King of the South" title. The whole album stinks of newfound class, right down to the tasteful cover photo in stark B&W profile. The bold, simple text of t.i. king weirdly recalls the fatalistic surety of those w. the president bumper stickers.
What gets lost in the shift from grimy cocaine-slinging narratives to princely hierarchies? King lacks the survivalist edge that made Trap Muzik so compelling, but it’s so self-assured that it hardly matters. Far past the struggle of his debut, I’m Serious, T.I. now makes moves with laid-back boho Common on the lounge muzak of "Goodlife" and slurs his decree: "I usedta use the beat to paint my pain/ But nowadays, mayne, I can’t complain."