It’s no secret that T.I. has been getting into a good amount of trouble lately. Between separate charges for weapons and drugs, the Atlanta native has spent upwards of 23 months in prison since the beginning of 2009. Unsurprisingly, his music has suffered because of this; Tip’s calling card has always been his ability to crank out era-defining singles, and he hasn’t really showed that since 2008’s Paper Trail. But with the release of his new mixtape, Fuck Da City Up, Tip sounds refocused and ready to take back his king-size place in Southern hip-hop.
It’s always been a treat to hear T.I. really rap, and he does that a lot here. Through thunderous rave-ups (“Fuck Da City Up”, “Hot Wheels”), easygoing space-outs (“Stunt’n Like a Fool”, “Piss’n on Your Ego”), and suave toasts to the trap (“Harry Potter”, “I See Ghosts”), Tip exercises his supple flow with audible ease. Memorable bars are found on nearly every track, but some of the best show up on “I’ll Show You”, including these: “I’m ignorant, belligerent/A gangsta and a gentleman/Pay niggas no concern/Ain’t no DiGiorno, I’m deliverin’.” As an emcee, T.I. has never really been in a slump, but since this tape is generally full of top-shelf beats (courtesy of guys like Manny Fresh, Dr. Dre, and Just Blaze), everything about his delivery is enhanced here.
Much has been said about how heavy Fuck Da City Up is on collaborators; there are 21 guests here, ranging from long-established emcees (Pusha T, Dr. Dre) to trap-rap upstarts (Trouble, Spodee). For some, that might be a serious constraint; T.I. is almost always the most entertaining rapper here, and that he’s only on a few tracks for less than a minute could be off-putting. But many of the guest emcees are in tip-top form (especially Pusha T on “I’ll Show You”), and nary a track loses coherence for the sake of star power. That’s rare in the mixtape big leagues.
There is little doubt that this tape will be downloaded a gazillion times within the coming months. But while his name accounts for a majority of those downloads, a great many will stem from Fuck Da City Up‘s fistful of outstanding moments (“Fuck Da City Up”, “Stuntn Like a Fool”, and “I’ll Show You”) which outlast the mixtape’s stumbles (the overly racy “Pimp”, the wholly forgettable “Loud Mouth”). And since this tape is really just a prelude to Tip’s forthcoming album, Trouble Man, that’s a damn good sign for his near future. Let’s just hope he doesn’t tussle with the authorities in the meantime.
Essential Tracks: “Fuck Da City Up”, “Stunt’n Like a Fool”, and “I’ll Show You”