If you’re a fan of rap music, then you’ve definitely heard of T.I. The Atlanta native burst onto the scene in 2001 with his debut album, I’m Serious. Since then, he’s gone on to become one of the biggest names in the industry. T.I. has been delivering raw street lyricism that’s made him a star for over a decade now. And let’s be real, who can deny that he’s the king of the South? Only Ludacris, Jeezy, and Gucci Mane come close to his solo act from Atlanta.
But T.I. isn’t just a rapper. He’s also an actor, and you might have seen him in movies like ATL, Takers, American Gangster, and Identity Thief. He even stars in his own reality show, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, and produces The Sisterhood of Hip-Hop. It’s safe to say he’s a busy guy, but that hasn’t stopped him from releasing hit after hit.
T.I. left Atlantic Records after a decade-long run and joined Columbia to release his ninth studio album, Paperwork. The album features some great collaborations like “About the Money” with Young Thug, which is one of the best rap records of 2014. And let’s not forget “No Mediocre,” featuring Iggy Azalea, which is doing pretty well on the Billboard charts.
Here are The 10 Best T.I. Songs.
10. T.I. “24’s” (2003)
If you’re a fan of T.I., you might be familiar with his classic hit “24’s” released in 2003. This song was produced by DJ Toomp and featured on T.I.’s album “Trap Muzik” under the Grand Hustle/Atlantic label.
When the song first hit the airwaves, it caused quite a stir among hip-hop fans outside the South. Many dismissed T.I. as an insignificant artist due to the song’s name, which referred to wheel diameters. At the time, the South’s cultural emergence was heavily ridiculed and mocked on the mainstream stage.
Despite the criticism, the song relied on a simple, hooky melody that was quite catchy. The remix later featured Juicy J and DJ Paul. In the song, T.I. shouts out various consumer goods like cars, clothes, and dro that his crew was into at the time. While the bulk of T.I.’s records then were post-Pimp C country rap tunes, “24’s” fit better with the clubs-and-cars vibes of the era’s bigger hip-hop hits.
Looking back now, “24’s” has aged incredibly well and provides a much-needed burst of adrenaline in the context of “Trap Muzik.” Interestingly, it’s not one of the grimey N.W.A. songs T.I. bumps in verse one while speeding down the highway. Instead, it’s track No. 8 from “Straight Outta Compton” called “Express Yourself.”
9. T.I. “Dope Boyz” (2001)
T.I.’s debut album, “I’m Serious,” didn’t sell as well as his other releases, which is surprising given the popularity of its lead single, “Dope Boyz.” The song was an instant hit among fans, and DJ Toomp, who produced the track, revealed in an interview with Complex that it was inspired by Pimp C’s organ-heavy country rap sound.
At the time, T.I.’s rapping style was more relaxed, and his deep accent made it difficult to hear some of his words. However, this only added to the song’s appeal, giving it a cool and slippery vibe that matched its raw energy.
Although T.I. wanted to make the song even more popular by releasing a music video, his label, Arista, didn’t share his vision. Despite his efforts to convince them otherwise, T.I. eventually left the label and went underground for a while. He eventually signed with Atlantic, where his career took off.
Looking back, it’s clear that “Dope Boyz” was the blueprint for T.I.’s future success. He delivered his rhymes with urgency, knew exactly who his audience was, and had a scrappy, no-nonsense attitude that resonated with fans. It’s no wonder that the song remains a fan favorite today.
8. T.I. “Doin’ My Job” (2003)
If you’re a fan of T.I. or Kanye West’s early works, you gotta check out “Doin’ My Job”! This jam was featured on T.I.’s album “Trap Muzik” under the Grand Hustle/Atlantic label.
Kanye’s beat on this track is undoubtedly one of his crown jewels in his early catalog (1998-2005), but T.I.’s persuasion of concept and charisma shine brighter than Leo DiCaprio’s wink. With lines like “From when the moon came out, till the sun came up/I was supplyin’ the days when where they flame up,” T.I. paints a cool and compassionate picture of curbside pharmaceutical retail.
It’s not hard to see how this track foreshadowed the themes and tone of T.I.’s best-selling album, “Paper Trail,” five years later. And who wouldn’t want to listen to a track with lyrics like “Our mamas passing by, trying to explain us / Pissing in the bushes like they never house trained us; but/Try to understand, that’s how we came up”?
7. T.I. “Motivation” (2004)
T.I.’s “Motivation,” produced by DJ Toomp and featured in his album “Urban Legend,” sets the tone for the entire record. In the song, T.I. addresses his critics and shows his unbreakable confidence, despite dealing with the challenges that come with fame, short stints in jail, and probation issues.
Right from the start, T.I. effortlessly flows over the beat, exuding charisma with his rhymes. He raps, “You can look me in my eyes, see I’m ready for whatever/Anything don’t kill me, make me better/I ain’t dead nigga, you can take the fame, and the cheddar/And the game, and the deal, I’m still a go-getter.”
Although “Motivation” was particularly relevant to T.I.’s life and career at the time of its release in 2004, the lyrics still hold a lot of weight today, and have only become more meaningful as T.I.’s rap journey has progressed.
T.I.’s setbacks and challenges have only served to make him stronger, like a seasoned boxer with calloused hands. In fact, if there was a mission statement for T.I., it would probably be “Motivation.”
Written by Brandon Jenkins, this song is a testament to T.I.’s resilience and unwavering confidence, and it’s no wonder why it remains a fan favorite even today.
6. T.I. “I’m Illy” (2008)
In the year leading up to the release of his album Paper Trail in 2008, T.I. was on house arrest and on trial for violating federal gun possession statutes. Despite these legal troubles, Paper Trail featured several standout tracks, including “I’m Illy,” which showcases T.I.’s wordplay, pacing, tension, and masterful delivery.
The beat is simple yet sturdy, with modest synth choir strains and an understated bassline, which serve as a perfect backdrop for T.I.’s confident and assertive lyrics. He proclaims himself as the ruler of the city and tells his detractors to get lost. “I’m Illy” is a bold and fearless track that solidified T.I.’s position as one of the most talented rappers of his time.
5. T.I. “ASAP” (2004)
If you’re a fan of T.I., you probably know “ASAP” is one of his best street singles ever. Produced by Sanchez Holmes, the track is from his album “Urban Legend” and released under Grand Hustle/Atlantic.
In the song, T.I. asserts his dominance as the self-proclaimed King of the South, and takes aim at Lil Flip, who dared to question his status. But it’s not just about Flip’s insult; T.I. uses “ASAP” to show that he’s not a rapper to be trifled with.
Holmes’ production on the track is underrated, with twangy guitars and skipping drums adding to the song’s two-tone synth and horn riff chorus. It all emphasizes T.I.’s deliberate steps and controlled delivery.
While T.I. was known for his energy and speed in rapping, “ASAP” showcases his matter-of-fact approach. The track makes it clear that T.I. was willing to die for his respect, and that the stakes were high.
In short, “ASAP” is a masterful street single that solidifies T.I.’s status as one of the best rappers of his time.
4. T.I. “Kingofdasouth” (2003)
Produced by Ryan “LiquidSound” Katz and released under the Grand Hustle/Atlantic label, the song is one of T.I.’s boldest moves. In the second verse, he confidently proclaims himself a legend and a prophet in his own rhymes. While some might see this as an arrogant move, it also shows T.I.’s immense artistic confidence.
T.I. didn’t just make a record about hits or street rap cliches. He was an artist documenting his experiences and emotions with a director’s sensitivity. “Kingofdasouth” was a personal readout of his life experiences. The song was a trap, no pun intended, that he used to shout out the five rappers in Atlanta who were killing it, including himself. He left the others unworthy of a mention.
Interestingly, it was a Texas rapper who took the bait. The song had a tauntingly languid beat, perfect for a hot Southern summer day. It wasn’t aggressive like “The Ruler’s Back.” With “Kingofdasouth,” T.I. was claiming the throne of an entire region. And now, it’s pretty much undeniable that he succeeded.
3. T.I. “U Don’t Know Me” (2004)
This song was a relief for Tip’s fans who were worried that he might lose his signature sound while trying to go mainstream. And, honestly, that was a valid concern ’cause some of the other tracks in the album did sound a bit forced in trying to appeal to a broader audience.
But not “U Don’t Know Me”! The song had the hardest pan flute beat that’ll make you think you’re in South America, and it perfectly balanced Tip’s nimble flow with his tough persona that he’s known for. The chorus was super catchy and easy to rap along with, and the theme was relatable to everyone.
Although the lead single “Bring Em Out” was also great, it had a different sound that was more bounce-y and used a Jay Z sample, which was cool but not quite as familiar to the region. “U Don’t Know Me,” on the other hand, was just right in the sweet spot.
2. T.I. “Rubber Band Man” (2003)
The song was produced by David Banner and was part of the “Trap Muzik” album released under Grand Hustle/Atlantic label.
T.I.’s rise to fame was a gradual process, marked by a series of hit records that led him closer to stardom. While “Dope Boyz” laid the groundwork as a regional hit and “24s” became a street single that rocked the Southern club scene, it was “Rubber Band Man” that pushed T.I. into the mainstream rap conversation. Later on, he’d even surpass this success with his No. 1 smash hit “Whatever You Like” in 2008.
What made “Rubber Band Man” stand out was David Banner’s beat, which sold T.I.’s music to a national audience by balancing his sharp persona with the quaint charm of a children’s chorus. The song’s catchy cyclical organ loop perfectly embodied the Trap Muzik sound while also presenting it in the most accessible way possible.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the music video featured a co-sign from Diddy, who also sported a matching fur coat. But let’s not forget that T.I.’s own unique persona played a huge role in the song’s success. His sharp edge was delivered with a nursery rhyme cadence and the whimsical nickname “Rubber Band Man.”
1. T.I. “What You Know” (2006)
Produced by DJ Toomp, who also worked on Kanye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’,” this track is a timeless banger that still hits hard today.
DJ Toomp is a veteran in the game, having been active since the mid-’80s and working with several Southern acts. He worked his magic on “What You Know” by sampling Roberta Flack and turning it into a Grammy-winning hit.
This song is still an anthem that can be used in any situation to ask someone what they know about something. It’s like the “chirp” feature on the old Nextel phones that dealers used to handle.
King, the album that “What You Know” is featured on, was T.I.’s “crossover” album that helped him become a star and transition into Hollywood. It was his third album after two back-to-back classics in Trap Muzik and Urban Legend.