Lyrically, Atlanta-bred T.I.
(TIP to kids around the way) isn’t
far behind a lot of other gifted young cats tryin’ to make it in the rap game.
But rather than doing stand-up on the mic or seeing how many words he can rhyme
with Versaci, this 20-year-old tells
wonderfully-detailed stories on I’m
about coming up when all the elements try to keep you down.

More country than red dirt, T.I. is
one-third Scarface with the
melancholy (What Happened), one-third
Ludacris with the confidence (the
title track, with Beenie Man) and
one-third Outkast with his
willingness to venture into new sounds (the heavy metal-esque You Ain’t Hard). Asking What’s Yo Name over a slinky, Neptunes-produced track, T.I. shows that he can take shit to the
club, too. Choose U, Hotel, with the always-lascivious Too $hort, and I Can’t Be Your Man elaborate on topics relating to the softer sex.
But T.I.‘s at his best when he uses
his head and not his, well, head. The album’s sincerest moment, Still Ain’t Forgave Myself, gets it done
with cautionary lyrics and a soulful beat. Similarly, I’m Serious gets it done by talking about familiar hip hop topics
(gats, girls and makin’ green), but doing it in a way that somehow comes off as
fresh and original.