Urban Legend

Artist: T.I.Title: Urban LegendRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone

For Atlanta native T.I., confidence is a trait possessed in bulk. While a rapper boasting of his or her ability is standard practice in today’s game, T.I. has taken this assurance to the level of proclaiming himself as the King of the South. Some may call it arrogance, but after listening to his third effort, Urban Legend (Grand Hustle/Atlantic), placing the crown on top of his dome may seem justified. Using high profile cameos on recent albums by artists such as Destiny’s Child and Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz as hype builders, Urban Legend comes at T.I.’s career apex thus far, thrusting it passed 2001’s criminally overlooked I’m Serious and 2003’s well received Trap Muzik in importance for the young MC’s future.

“I came, I saw, I conquered/ with no big names, no fame, no celebrity sponsors,” he declares on the album’s scorching opener “Tha King,” where he flips Run DMC’s “King of Rock” into an antagonizing exercise in self pride. One of the tools T.I. has used to build his strong foundation of nationwide respect is his near-flawless flow, kicking swift wordplay with a Southern swagger that catches any beat thrown its way on Urban Legend with ease. DJ Toomp blasts thunderous synthesizer riffs on the defiant “U Don’t Know Me” as T.I.’s charisma turns an otherwise repetitive dose of chastising into a chant-worthy banger. BG spits nicely over KLC’s chopped-up saxophones on the street-geared “What They Do,” but T.I. shines over the Chopper City representative with, “My daddy wasn’t a doctor and my mama was no lawyer/ I didn’t have shit, so congratulations is in order.” The Rubberband Man’s lyrical expertise is displayed most clearly on two standout selections, though; Sanchez Holmes’ commanding horns bring the battle side out of T.I. on the gritty “ASAP,” while on the introspective “Praying For Help,” Holmes uses vibrant bells to showcase the rapper’s deeper psyche, as reflects with, “I believe one day, that I’ma change my life, get right, start living like Christ, until the end of my fight/ I’m gonna be defendin’ my stripes ‘til somebody come and shut off my lights.”

To be a superstar in today’s hip-hop market, however, songs primed for radio acceptance are a must, and on Urban Legend, T.I. proves he’s fully capable of crafting Hip-pop fare. “Get Ya Sh*t Together” finds him schooling misguided females to the ways of proper conduct alongside Lil Kim, while on “Freak Though,” he opts to wife up a proven hoe over The Neptunes’ airy instrumental. Scott Storch provides a Caribbean-flavored soundtrack for T.I. to floss with his girl on “Chillin’ With My B*tch,” and Jazze Pha creates the latest stripper anthem on the Nelly-assisted “Get Loose.” Showing that his capabilities stretch beyond Dirty South borders, T.I. collaborates with Daz Dillinger on the smooth “My Life,” a track aimed at after-hours rides with car speakers booming.

If it weren’t for his P$C team failing to liven up the amnesia-friendly “Limelight,” T.I.’s Urban Legend would be an end-to-end success. While his opposition continues to gun for the throne, T.I. should have it locked down now that his Legend has been revealed. Eclipsing Lil Flip’s lyrical deficiencies and surpassing Ludacris in street-corner authenticity, T.I.’s recent enemies should temporarily fall back, as he has earned the right to be crowned. Whether he maintains this level of quality in the future is to be determined, but, until proven otherwise, T.I. is official Southern royalty on the microphone.