T.I. at the Apollo (with Young Joc and DJ Drama)

T.I. at the Apollo (with Young Joc and DJ Drama)
DJ Drama thinks that T.I. is at the peak of his career, just as Luda, Young Jeezy and Lil’ Wayne. 522,000 fans who bought his album in the first week after its release seem to support that idea. As of a month ago, T.I.’s latest album, King, had outsold veterans like Ghostface and proved to be the best-selling record of the year. With New York being the birthplace of Hip Hop and Los Angeles giving the true beginning to gangsta rap, it was a difficult game for the Southern artists. Still, when the two coats created a void, the country found out very quickly that there is more to Atlanta than Ludacriss. Even faster than Mannie Fresh, Juvenile and B.G. left Cash Money, T.I. rose to the status of ‘The King of the South.’ Nas may be right in saying “…who’s the best? Pac, Nas and Big… Ain’t no best.” Still, T.I. got crowned. Perhaps there are different rules down South if Lil’ Wayne embarrassingly admits to having no reason for questioning T.I.’s status as the King in one of his raps.

While Hip Hop has seemingly been around forever, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ only dropped in 1979. Most of the current music genre listeners were not even alive back then. Still, 27 years to heavily influence the country’s clothing, cinematography and even the liquor and automotive industries is a very short time. Remaining as the second most popular music genre behind the oldest music in the U.S. – the country music, Hip Hop has had an impact completely unmatched even by country music. T.I. outselling Tim McGraw’s album this year is just another proof. You can find the traces of Hip Hop in any town in any state in this vast country. How often will you see a man sporting Wrangler jeans, big cowboy hat, boots and belt buckle on the streets of LA or NYC? You’ll see an Akademiks’ jersey or even Sean John’s fashions in a rural area of Wisconsin thou. You won’t hear a Brooks and Dunn tune out of a car gliding down 5th avenue in NYC. You will definitely hear Snoop blasting in Washington State or even Idaho on a Sunday afternoon.

Things always happen for a reason. East and West didn’t go to sleep. The both coasts just took backstage for a moment to let the broke hoods of New Orleans and Atlanta get their shine on, just like Compton and Bedstuy did some time back. Young Jeezy is fronting NYC’s Rockafella, Ludacriss is more of a Hollywood man nowadays and Lil’ Wayne is being unusually cocky after loosing almost his entire crew. It’s truly T.I.’s moment to shine in the spotlight. As it became strikingly obvious, Rubberband Man is up for the challenge.

Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. went from little Clifford to tip to T.I.P. to T.I. fairly quickly. He started rapping at 19 with a fairly standard introduction – mixtapes. By 21 he already had a deal and before you know he went from Arista Records to Atlantic, where he is now. His Grand Hustle label’s given him hits like ‘Trap Music’, ‘Bring ‘Em Out’, ‘U Don’t Know Me’ and of course his last album ‘King’. Appearing in TV shows (The O.C.) and fronting Jay’s sneakers and Puffy’s Sean John’s is just a small part of where you can find T.I. outside of Hip Hop performances. He also produced the soundtrack to ‘Hustle and Flow’ and came out with his own film ‘ATL’, where he stared in the lead role, joining stars like Eminem and 50 cents.

Coming to NYC, T.I.’s first stop was the world famous Apollo Theater. The first act in Apollo’s New Legends Series in Black Music’s Month, he made 2 same day appearances. Without a slew of surprise guests, he brought only two acts with him: DJ Drama and Bad Boy’s Young Joc.

He also had a local opening act D-Mo. Straight from the Bronx, D-Mo held it up for the Boogie Down, but brought some Southern flavor with him. Afterall it was T.I.’s concert.

DJ Drama came on right after and spun a bunch of the New York classics. While giving people want he thought they wanted to hear, he played Biggie, Lil’ Kim and Mary J classics. Still in a mixed up message of peace (or ignorance) he also managed to play Camron’s and Jay Z’s songs back-to-back, clearly oblivious to the fact that Camron came out with his second diss record that very day, attacking Jay.

Young Joc came out and got the crowd going right away. Talking of having fun, boozing, an afterparty coming up and plenty of b—-es, he managed to excite females even more than the guys. In an apparent act of self-hate and lack of self-respect, instead of getting upset at the b—- title, females almost dragged him off stage in excitement, getting Joc’s bouncers involved. Half chilling and half wilding, Young Joc rode his latest hit ‘It’s going down’ to the grind. Starting it off several times but only finishing it once he performed only one more song, unknown to most. He also did bits from D-Block’s ‘I Get High’ and Shawnna’s ‘Getting some’.

Then the curtain fell and everyone took a few minutes to mentally prepare for the King himself – T.I. The hype is never real. However in this case it was well justified. The positive energy of that man could only be compared to late 2Pac. Running from one end of the stage to the other, filled with excitement and vigor, T.I. was definitely having fun. His skinny frame and short figure did not make him appear small. He truly owned the stage and the auditorium. Genuinely happy to be there he shared his excitement with all the fans, who were definitely thrilled to see the man who is clearly aiming to become Atlanta’s biggest thing of all time. ‘King Back’, ‘Why You Wanna’, ‘I’m a King’ and of course ‘What You Know’ made the NYC crowd roar in excitement and sing along. T.I. didn’t spend much time talking. He gave people what they came to see: today’s hits coming straight from the stage instead of a radio. He did however stop to thank all of his fans for their support and of course addressed the Southern presence in today’s Hip Hop. Then before too long, he dropped his notorious ‘What You Know’ as a closer.

The rapper, actor and philanthropist, T.I. finds himself the center of attention on and off stage at all times. He grows as a man and as an artist, seeing no end to his reign. His plans to move to Los Angeles and getting his family away from Atlanta are well justified. Despite his acting and philanthropist achievements, T.I. the man is pulled back into the hood of his home town. Getting away from that is what T.I. the star needs to grow. The latest experiences of G-Unit and even Busta Rhymes demonstrate that leaving your home town and getting physically away from the source of the hood-sprung violence may be a good thing.

It is obvious that we all wish T.I. luck in his efforts. He never forgets to thank his fans for their support. I will thank him back personally from his fans for his work and dedication and his accomplishments.

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