T.I. – King.

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The first 4 tracks would make for a great EP for bumping in your Honda Civic while you pretend it’s something more and that’s a beautiful-bodied woman is sitting in the empty seat beside you and that’s actually a bottle of vodka and not a month-old bottle of water in the cupholder. Just Blaze brings in a delicious horn hook for “King Back”; “Front Back” sounds as great now as it did more than a decade ago on UGK’s “Front, Back & Side to Side”; T.I.’s last verse on “I’m Talkin’ to You,” where he suddenly doubles in speed, is the album’s best. And that goes without mentioning his best song, the one that everyone knows, even if they don’t know they know it – “What You Know,” where every “’EY!” and “OH!” makes every preceding line seem important to who you are as a human being, while a triumphant high-pitched synth riff made to sound like glorious horn fanfare punctuates the drawn-out low-pitched synth notes made to sound like low-pitched synth notes. The rest of the album could be pretty spotty shit and King. would be T.I.’s best album on the strength of those tracks alone.

But the thing is, the rest of the album is pretty spotty shit. Broadly speaking, T.I. simply doesn’t have anything to say about anything that hasn’t already been said better by his peers. If he is the Southern Jay-Z, he’s the Jay-Z of 2006-onwwards, and if King. is the Southern The Blueprint, it’s The Blueprint^2: The Gift and the Curse (the album that was really fucking long, you recall). The choruses, when not delegated to a feature, are often just the title of the song repeated ad nauseum; the beats are always built out of glossy synths and drum sound; the skits are fucking terrible. Some notes on what happens in the rest of the album: “Live in the Sky” has Jamie Foxx yawning through the whole thing (seems to me like he was only included for name recognition after “Gold Digger”); Common might be the only rapping feature on the album that stands out on “Goodlife”, and the Neptunes kicking up the beat for the last few bars of each verse was a nice detail, but Pharrell’s hook couldn’t be more phoned in; there’s just way too much going on in Swizz Beatz’ “Get It” for me to care; “Hello” is the token R&B track with a chorus that’s both oversung and overly long; the keyboard line in “Why You Wanna” and “Bankhead” are good melodies, I guess. If you want hooks repeated for days, but packaged over better beats with better verses, all you had to do was wait exactly eight months’ time for King Push to be crowned.

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