Review Summary: A day in the life of this Urban Legend.
After the first of many jail sentences under the public eye, T.I. managed to put out "Urban Legend," a conscious and considerate outing that accounts for rivalries, troubles in Atlanta, and dominance, all the while dealing with the newfound fame instigated by "Trap Muzik's" success.
The album plays like a full 24 hour day in the life of this Southern gangster, starting on what feels like the evening of one day, playing into the night for a late party, and eventually settling down at early morning and sunrise. The most lovable qualities of T.I. are his old-fashioned nature and use of soulful beats. These attributes are in full-force on "Urban Legend" from start to finish.
In the beginning, "Tha King" and "U Don't Know Me" assert T.I.'s superiority and segregation from competing acts, as he sings on the opening track "I'm the King of the south, there is none flyer!" "Motivation" and "ASAP" grind on very R&B influenced beats that establish a hazy feeling of 'dankness.'
The tone of night time comes around starting with "Praying For Help," where T.I. confesses his concerns about the youth and future of his beloved hometown on a bass-thundering 90's-oriented beat that's to die for. "Why U Mad At Me" features another psychidelic beat as T.I. explains reasoning behind his past decisions and asks a question identical to the song's title.
The more mainstream and party-flavored section of the record comes next, with "Get Loose" featuring Nelly, a bouncy track clearly intended for the dance-floor. "What They Do" steps back into the light of trap music quickly while the energy is going, and effectively communicates T.I.'s strong relationships with friends and sturdy connections to associates. Mannie Phresh comes to aid the speakers on "The Greatest" where the celebration escalates. Phresh's comedic antics and T.I.'s justified self-esteem combine to make a notable jam. "Freak Though" stabs at soulful sexual innuendo, and Pharrell's presence on the song gives it a fluent R&B tone.
"Bring Em Out" is the last hit single on the album and the last banger of the rage-fest that has just elapsed. The song is an invitation to both conflict and unity in a mainstream fashion with a pop-friendly beat. The nocturnal attitude of "Urban Legend" peaks on "Limelight" where several artists gather to express extreme lust; T.I. barely appears on the track. The main beat of "Chillin With My Bitch" sets a scene for sunrise on the beach with his swirling effects and acoustic guitar. "Stand Up" and "My Life" send us on our way, as T.I. returns to bash and tarnish the names of rival crews, rappers and more, and at the end, it feels like we're right back where we started.
As a whole, "Urban Legend" is another grade-A T.I. record that lessens the aspects of mainstream-accessibility ever so slightly, and heightens the use of classy psychidelic beats that owe credit to Biggie, Nas, the 90s, and late 80s. T.I.'s rhymes aren't pure gold or as clever as they were on "Trap Muzik" but he doesn't stray from making a listenable rhyme, and his flow has taken on a spit-fire pattern that does a good job filling out the airspace. Themes are more mature, and respectable; T.I. clearly has a conscience and understands the repercussions for his actions.
"Urban Legend" is a rap album not to be missed, being one of T.I.'s top three records, but who knows, if this would've been released just a few years earlier, it could have easily been one of the greatest albums in Hip-hop.