Unexpected Great Verses: T.I. - Swagger Like Us

Every now and then you'll hear a great verse from a hip hop artist when you won't be expecting it. Usually these come from an artist who has been written off for some reason, usually spending more time on beat selection than bar progression. But, when those artist drop a great verse, it can change the way you see their career. I aim to take a look at some of those verses. Today, I'll be looking at T.I's verse from Swagger Like Us. A collaboration bet T.I. Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye West.

When looking at the lineup of the song, T.I. looks to be out of place, especially when you consider where his career was in 2008 compared to the others. T.I. was by no means a little star, he was indeed the King of The South. Yet, he wasn't the worldwide sensation that the others on this track were so seeing T.I. listed was odd. T.I. mainly rapped about selling drugs and nice cars at this point in his career so why was he there? It doesn't matter, because this is when T.I. solidified his status in hip hop and spit one of the greatest verses of his career. He starts with:
You can go see Weezy for the wordplay, Jeezy for the bird play, Kanyeezy for diversity, and me for controversy
At this point you knew T.I. was going to say something ridiculous in his verse because T.I. doesn't name drop people unless it's for a beef so when he's name dropping you pay attention. He also didn't lie in his opening bars. Lil Wayne is known for word play, he's not a great lyricist by any definition but he's witty and funny with the word play. Then there's Jeezy, The Snow Man, who has stated that even after over a million records sold he will always talk about drugs. Then there's Kanye who has some of the most diverse musical influences in hip hop. But T.I. you can see him for controversy. T.I. has led a career where he's been arrested multiple times, shut down multiple award shows with massive brawls, beat up other rappers, their managers, showed up at their video shoots and so on. T.I. may be one of the most controversial hip hop artists in history.
All my verses picture perfect, only spit to serve a purpose, ou ain't livin' what you kickin', then you worthless. Lookin' from the surface it may seem, like I got reason to be nervous. Then observe my work to see that my adversity was worth it, verses autobiographical, absolutely classical. Ain't nobody hot as me, even if they rap they ass off, blast off, and have outstandin' quality. Sell a lot of records, I'll respect it and salute that, but spittin' real life on hot beats I'm the truth at
So there's a lot going on here, so lets take it piece by piece. T.I. does indeed only rap about what he's lived. There's no fictional stories and his criminal record vouches for that. In fact other artists have vouched for him. On David Banner's album Greatest Story Ever Told there's an interlude that features T.I. speaking about how he met David Banner in windowless white van and David Banner had a gun in clear view in case someone wanted to rob him. T.I. knew he wanted to work with Banner immediately because Banner was "a nigga like me," and that made T.I. purchase the Rubber Band Man beat that night. It is autobiographical, it's his real life and countless people vouch for it. That's more than a lot of rappers can say.

The bigger part is the fact that he admits that people see him as out of his weight class on a song that features a lineup like this. Yet T.I. bets it all on his catalogue that he can stand next to them. There's a difference between just claiming you're an elite rapper and actually believing it. The fact that T.I. so boldly believes and tells people he's elite in this verse makes it just that much better because you actually hear the anger. It's as if he's recording it and getting mad because he thinks people will overlook him so he refuses to be out rapped so the verse takes on a more aggressive tone than any other verse on the track or even T.I.'s whole Paper Trail album.

"Even if they rap they ass off, blast off, and have outstandin' quality," just shows how much T.I. believes in the quality of his music. It's such an outlandish statement and he says it with such seriousness that you believe it and while T.I. may have been the underdog going into this track, he was the only one who brought his A game to the track. Kanye says "How it feel to wake up and be the shit in the urinal," Wayne says "Running this shit like I got four thighs," only for Jay to say "You can learn how to dress just by checkin' my fresh, checkin', checkin' my fresh; checkin', checkin' my fresh." Kanye was saying stupid stuff as he often does, Wayne was making no sense, and Jay was dropping filler bars like he wandered into the room by accident and owed Kanye a verse. T.I. came to prove his point and he did everything he could to drop the hottest verse. He was not going to be washed by everyone using throw away verses. He ends the verse as follows:
You kick it like me, no exaggeration necessary, livin' revolutionary, nothin' less than legendary. Gangsta shit hereditary, got it from my dad, flow colder than February, with extraordinary swag
Let's get to the basics, we've already stated that T.I. raps about his own life, his father was indeed a well know gangster. Sure, he's got a lot of swag and his flow is indeed cold, legendary and can't be duplicated. But, let's talk about that revolutionary part. Some people aren't going to like what I say here, but T.I. invented trap music. Is T.I. the first person to rap about selling drugs or violence? Not by a long shot. He's 30 years too young for that. Did he pair it with a distinctive sound that others would copy for over a decade? Yes. Before Gucci, before Jeezy, before anyone else T.I. was making Trap Music and calling it that. He created the term to define his music style. A style that would be copied to revitalize Southern music as more than Soul Music or Snap Music. T.I. is indeed a hip hop revolutionary and he knows it.

Nobody expected T.I. to have the best verse on this song. T.I. even referenced it. That's why this verse is so great because it makes you step back and ask is T.I. really that good? The answer is yes, when he wants to be. I became a fan because of this verse. Three rappers who were on top of their game let T.I. walk right out of prison and assault them on the track, from his home studio because he was on house arrest, then he walked right back into jail. That's why you see T.I. for controversy.

You can hear Darrell on the CP Time and Powerbomb Jutsu podcasts. He also plays classic arcade games on The Cabinet. You can also check out his playthrough of Sleeping Dogs or Skyrim
Unexpected Great Verses: T.I. - Swagger Like Us Unexpected Great Verses: T.I. - Swagger Like Us Reviewed by Darrell S. on Friday, July 07, 2017 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. you missed a lyric. "absolutely classical. Last thing I'm worried bout is what another rapper do"


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