Today is T.I.’s 37th birthday. We celebrate by revisiting the three albums that constitute his creative prime: Trap Muzik (2003), Urban Legend (2004), and King (2006). These albums are significant because they represent the formal origination, evolution, and coronation of trap music. And while while Gucci Mane and Jeezy were instrumental in the subgenre’s popularization, T.I. sees himself as the true inventor of trap.
“Whose album was Trap Muzik?” he asked in an interview with Montreality. “Who had an album named Trap Muzik? I’m asking. Well than that’s who started it. It’s as simple as that. Unless you can think of a time before then that you can recall hearing it. I mean, since it was introduced to the world, there were people who came on and enforced and spread the genre out and gave it wings and life beyond its origin. But if you go back to who truly started it, I must humbly say myself.”
Read on to revisit 10 of T.I’s best songs from 2003-2006.https://www.instagram.com/p/BSR2V4ADtnl
“24’s” | Trap Muzik (2003)
T.I. on Trap Muzik, as told by Rap Industry in a 2002 interview:
“It’s called trap music, so you know it’s gonna be dealing with all aspects of the trap. And if you don’t know what the trap is, that’s basically where drugs are sold. In this country, the majority of us live in a neighborhood where drugs are sold, whether we like it or not. Whether you in the trap selling dope, whether you in the trap buying dope, whether you in the trap trying to get out – whatever the case may be, I’m trying to deal with all aspects of that lifestyle.
“It’s informative for people who don’t know nothing about that side of life and wonder why somebody they know that live on that side of life act the way they do or do the things they do. So it’s informative for them and maybe it can help them deal with these people, help them relate to these people, help them understand, help them to see their point of view a little better.”
“Rubber Band Man” | Trap Muzik (2003)
“Rubber Band Man” is a perfect song that can be boiled down to the immortal words, “But why the rubber band? THEY REPRESENTING THE STRUGGLE MAN.” The “Rubber Band Man” music video is a perfect video that can be boiled down into the image of T.I. mobbing in front of a conflagrant “T.I.” sign alongside Michael Vick.
“Doin’ My Job” | Trap Muzik (2003)
The most underrated T.I. song ever, “Doin’ My Job” frames drug-dealing as a noble occupation borne of tragic life circumstances; a supplication for understanding made all the more poignant by Kanye West’s Bloodstone sample.
“Bring Em Out” | Urban Legend (2004)
Swizz Beatz murdered this shit.
“ASAP” | Urban Legend (2004)
Flute is the orchestra instrument du jour these days, but the truth is it was all over Urban Legend, between Sanchez Holmes’ virtuosic, Ron Burgundy-caliber yazz flute of “ASAP” and the gritty, death rattle pan flute of “U Don’t Know Me.”
“U Don’t Know Me” | Urban Legend (2004)
On “U Don’t Know Me,” T.I. and producer DJ Toomp appear like Tobey Maguire and Seabiscuit, humiliating the opposition from wire to wire. The result is predetermined, and T.I. revels in victory with a trip to his best friend Philant Johnson’s (R.I.P.) restaurant for a free meal.
“Why You Wanna” | King (2006)
T.I. released his crossover masterpiece King the same week that Warner Bros. Films released his movie ATL. While cross-promotion was the natural course of action—”We worked hand in hand with the film studio to include the music in the media campaign,” Atlantic Records marketing VP James Lopez told Billboard—it did not help all parties equally. King racked up half a million first week sales, while ATL barely broke even during its theater run.
“Front Back” feat. UGK | King (2006)
T.I. on “Front Back” as told by Genius:
“It was originally just me and Bun—Pimp was locked up when we did this record. Right before the album was turned in, Pimp got out, so it was a mad dash to get his verse in. It was a blessing that we were able to get that done. I actually have a third verse—it’s still in the vaults.”
“Bankhead” feat. P$C & Young Dro | King (2006)
“He’s motivated,” Swizz said of T.I. to MTV in 2006, two months before the release of King. “He gets a couple of beers in him, puts his tank top on. What I like about Tip is that he’s not so gone [i.e. egotistical] where you can’t tell him nothing. If you say, ‘Do it like this, I need the flow like that,’ he like, ‘All right, I’ll try it. If I don’t like it, we’ll try something else.’ Everything is enhanced as we go along. That’s how we got four songs — I’m not talking about four songs in two weeks, I’m talking about four songs in two days.“
“What You Know” | King (2006)
Toomp’s flip of Roberta Flack’s “Gone Away” had everyone going bananas. “I played it for Jeezy—he went crazy, like, ‘I’m gonna get to that shit,'” told Genius. “He caught strep throat and his voice went out real bad. That’s what kept him from doing it.” 8Ball and MJG used the beat for a song called “Alcohol, Pussy, & Weed.” Fortunately, T.I. also got his hands on it…