Anyone disputing T.I.’s claim to the title “King of the South” has been summarily silenced by the pageant King’s release. The self-proclaimed Dick Cheney of rap showcases many styles: He drapes himself in Tupac’s sensitivity for “Live in the Sky” (with Jamie Foxx) and harkens back to Lord Jamar’s wryness in the Just Blaze–produced pronouncement “King Back,” taunting, “We ain’t able to compete now are we?” Then T.I. is a dandy, a silky smooth operator kicking straight game on an old-school Crystal Waters track, talking about how “no one’s ever gotten him open like this” to a girl he’s trying to bang. But he flips it over funky Southernplayalistic flutes on “I’m Straight,” a song about laying low and selling dope that graciously allows King’s best line to come from BG: “Everybody say they got a story/Mine on Larry King, theirs is on Maury.”
No expense spared, each track here is a multi-layered, highly nuanced production—even Mannie Fresh’s contributions (“Front Back” and “Top Back”) are unrecycled and top-shelf. With the diplomacy of a spokesman, T.I. gives every man (except, of course, all enemies) his say. And in an attempt to bridge the rift between Texas and Georgia, Pimp C “speaks on some King shit on the cool,” explaining in a Last Poets–style hand-drum coda that “everybody had it twisted but me/I understood from the get-go/That what the nigga was tryin to put in these stupid-ass niggas’ faces/Is the fact that there’s a whole bunch of kings down here/And as long as you taking care of your business and doing King shit, you a King.” What you know about that?