Released the same week as ATL, his big-screen debut, T.I.'s fourth album isn't the leap forward he's been threatening to make, but it does carry the best set of productions he has been given to work with, and it guarantees that he won't be leaving the singles charts any time soon. On a steady basis since 2003, the MC has been responsible for some of the most memorable rap singles of the decade. "24's," "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," "Rubberband Man," "Bring Em Out," "U Don't Know Me," and the underappreciated "ASAP" amount to a run as impressive as anyone else's during the same years, and the streak continued with King's first official single. The slow victory lap that is "What You Know" is T.I.'s greatest track yet, a Toomp production with high and low synthesizer notes -- all of which sound like severely pitched-down synthetic horn lines -- drawn out to the point where they're practically bleeding into one another; T.I. similarly extends his syllables ("Just keep it very cooool, or we will bury yooou") for maximum looming effect. The track is emblematic of the album in that T.I. is basically saying the same things he has said many times before, but he's finding slightly different ways to say them, and as long as he doesn't get lackadaisical and his producers keep up, he'll be at the top of his game. The swarming all-out-assault "I'm Talking to You" and the Rick Rubin-worthy "You Know Who" play roles similar to that of Urban Legend's "Bring Em Out," and though neither one is quite as swift, they add further muscle to an MC who tends to be regarded as smooth. Some of the less energetic tracks weigh the 75-minute album down, but "Why You Wanna" works surprisingly well, given that T.I. tends to sound out of place when he's playing loverman and that the plangent keyboards from Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman" really have no business being anywhere near a rap track. It is frustrating that T.I. has only been refining his material since 2003's Trap Muzik, but that has been more than enough to gradually raise his profile. Maybe he needs a flop to spark some risk-taking. For better or worse, it doesn't look like that will be happening anytime soon.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman