n the way to the Amtrak, my Mom and Dad asked, “Who is T.I.?” I looked to my Brother who sighed. “A rapper from Atlanta that I loved since age 10,” I replied. “Paper Trail was the first rap CD I ever purchased. It’s what we listened to on the way home from third grade every day.” With that, my Mom remembered but my Dad still shrugged.
A frigid feeling crept over me, as I witnessed a real OG Rapper being forgotten. Or so it seemed, as the majority of people getting off the Amtrak in Milwaukee headed away from Summerfest to see Ariana Grande. Luckily, the Lyft driver showed love. Having witnessed The King’s live performance before, she assured my brother and I that we were in for a treat.
People in the world today seem to blindly believe that newer means better especially in regards to music. However, the reality is music ages like wine, especially in today’s climate. T.I. could not be a better example. Compare his rap to the new “rap”. They’re best described as different genres of music. T.I. reigns with Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and other G.O.A.T.S from an era where rappers were realer. A true Poet who fought his way off mean streets. This generation’s Andre 3000. But like my brother said as we walked to the show “He’s just old so they don’t know.”
Suddenly, my sadness was hijacked by excitement. I realized each body headed to Ariana Grande represented one less crowd-member to compete with. Most of Summerfest was at the main stage watching The Killers when we arrived at the U.S Cellular Stage with other T.I. fans. Grinning, I surveyed a respectably sized crowd and traveled like water through rock, reaching a close, center spot. I may have stuck out, but I was among a lot of true fans.
Then, the King swaggered on stage in a black and red jumpsuit with a crop-top. The beat dropped and he won the crowd. T.I. may be 38 now but he hasn’t lost an ounce of energy. The King of Atlanta went hard, spitting entire verses without music putting his flow on full display. Sweat dripping down his face, the A-Town Monarch left no doubt telling the crowd, “Oh, ya’ll want to hear hits? We could play hits. We got hits for days.”
He went on to prove it, performing jams like “Big Shit Popping”, “What You Know”, “Whatever You Like” and “We Still in this Bitch”. Midway through the show, he got real serious. “This next song for all the real day one fans,” he stated. I got all giddy hoping to hear “Touchdown” but ready for whatever. Then, the beat for “Dead and Gone” dropped. The crowd melted. It’s a song my Dad would have clapped for. Everyone was ecstatic, except me.
I was confused. I love the song don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the track for day ones. I’m no day one. I’m just that suburban white kid checking out “T.I. vs. T.I.P” and “T.I. King” CDs from the local library 12 years ago. Still even I realized T.I. was being ironic. Through slick shades, he watched the crowd chant Justin Timberlake’s refrain fiending for the radio smash hit.
TIP grinned as the speaker blasted three gunshots ending the euphoria and silencing the beat. T.I. didn’t come to cater to Top 40 fans. He rapped not one word from “Dead and Gone”. He teased the crowd with the beat, then dismissed it moving on to new tracks from “Dime Trap” and more classics like “24s”. Towards the end, T.I. blasted Nipsey Hustle mouthing the lyrics and lamenting his admiration for a fallen fellow Rapper.
After an hour and some change of murdering, T.I. concluded his set. Shirtless and wiping sweat off with a do-rag, he was noticeably tired. However, there were countless hits he had yet to play. “Swagger Like Us”, “I’m Back”, “All She Wrote”, and “Ye vs. The People” to name just a few. But T.I. didn’t play for radio fans looking for popular jams. Instead, TIP played for the Day Ones.
For which, I felt overwhelming gratitude. Though, I saw what my brother said was true: “T.I. got old”. I also realized age is what makes him an OG. Like wine, age is what makes him better. Here’s a tycoon with countless other revenue streams. A rapper half the people don’t know, and the other half think got washed up. Realistically, a King with less than nothing left to prove. Yet, he sweat through his shirt to prove to everyone in attendance that T.I. will always be the King, bitch!