Let’s review. On October 15, 2007, T.I. was headed to the BET Awards, but first he had to run...
DJBooth Album Review
(Quick pause number one: King Uncaged? Really? Sounds more like a WWE Pay Per View than a classic hip-hop album. The homey Almost Forgotten suggested Return of the King, which, Lord of the Rings connections aside, I think is solid. Hit me up with more, improved album title suggestions below.)
Like a good entertainer/CEO/movie promoter, T.I. knows it’s all about building anticipation, so before he releases the album, and his new movie The Takers, he’s paving the way with his new, self-loathing project F**k a Mixtape. Hosted by DJ Drama – who, per usual, yells a lot – F**k a Mixtape is first and foremost an intimidation move; an announcement that rappers who caught shine in the King’s absence should be, very, very afraid. Prison may have convinced T.I. to put away the weapons, but it’s only made him harder on the mic.
(Quick pause number two: For a platinum selling artist like T.I. to release an album length, album quality work for free even five years ago would have been unthinkable. The times have changed.)
“Prison ain’t changed me. It made me worse.” Ain’t That the Truth. F**k a Mixtape’s lead leak Yeah Ya Know is as hard-hitting as anything Clifford Harris has ever done, and that’s saying something. Constant rhyme collaborator DJ Toomp provides a bass-rattling beat for T.I. to go in on, and go in he does, spitting high-caliber rhymes (pun intended) with crazy precision. There’s a very, very short list of rappers who could even dream of touching a track like this. Very short. The onslaught continues on F**k a Mixtape with the riding Welcome Back to the Trap (which notably contains the most gangster Waldo reference ever), the horn heavy, slowly swaggering Spazz Out (produced by Alicia Keys impregnator Swizz Beatz) and the paper stacking Getting Paid. And of course we have to mention Yeah, which fittingly includes a top-notch verse from the now imprisoned Lil Wayne. (Seriously guys, let’s stay out of jail, ok?) Anyone who thought his legal ordeals and prison time would convince T.I. to back of the intimidation thought wrong. On F**k a Mixtape there’s no doubt who’s still running the streets, and the game.
(Quick pause number three: I’m getting tired of all these censored “f**ks”. From now on I’m referring to the mixtape as FaM. Just so we’re all on the same page.)
As T.I. knows, running the streets may earn you respect, but it won’t earn you that big money. For that you’ve got to run the radio, and there are moments on FaM when he tips his hand to the mainstream hits he has in store on King Uncaged. In that vein may I present bonus track Got Your Back, an obvious attempt to recreate Whatever You Like’s magic by pairing an addictively harmonized beat with female-friendly rhymes from T.I. and hook work from the always lovely Keri Hilson. I don’t think it will blow as big as Whatever You Like, but Got Your Back is proof that T.I. hasn’t lost that radio touch. FaM’s other more easily accessible offering is Here We Go Again, a cut that most notably includes the most hip-hop beat we’ve heard from Timbaland in a minute (maybe now Timbo will drop Katy Perry and get back to rap…I doubt it). No rapper in history has managed to simultaneously carry street cred and mainstream commercial appeal as T.I., and FaM proves he still got that legendary versatility.
T.I. ironically spends most of FaM complaining about mixtapes and comparisons between his album and mixtapes, but since I know he’s no longer strapped I’ll risk angering T.I.: FaM is better than your mixtape. In fact, FaM is probably better than your album. There is only one King, and he’s back – with a vengeance. Long live the King!
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on May 31, 2010
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"What You Know" (2006)
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