In 1995, the rap world was put on notice by Andre 3000 that the South had something to say and if you look at the landscape of rap over the past two decades, that statement has proved to be prophetic. However, while Andre and Big Boi would earn the culture's utmost respect and help put Atlanta on the map with a string of classic bodies of work, for a long time, in reality, the group were outliers and the only real big show in town for a long stretch of time. This would change after the turn of the new millennium, with a new crop of rappers rising to prominence while proudly repping the A—T.I. being among them.
Coming out of Atlanta's notorious Bankhead area, T.I. caught his first break after catching the eye of music executive Kawan "KP" Prather, who helped earn Tip a record deal with Arista Records, releasing his debut album, I'm Serious, in 2001. Boasting a Neptunes-produced lead single as its title track, and a slew of guest appearances from some of the biggest names in the South, I'm Serious was a regional success, but would fail to connect nationally, causing T.I. to go back to the drawing board. Cutting ties with Arista the following year, T.I. hooked up with Jason Geter to form Grand Hustle Entertainment and regained steam with a string of mixtape releases, which caught the attention of Atlantic Records, who inked Tip and Grand Hustle to a joint-venture record deal. Making his first high-profile guest appearance on Bone Crusher's 2003 hit "Never Scared," T.I., Grand Hustle and Atlantic capitalized on the buzz surrounding the rapper with the release of his Atlantic debut, Trap Muzik, an album that would alter the playing field and perception of Atlanta rap.
Released on August 19, 2003, Trap Muzik, led by the DJ Toomp-produced hit single "24's," debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and would ultimately achieve platinum status off the strength of tracks like "Be Easy," "Rubber Band Man," and "Let's Get Away." However, Trap Muzik was well-received in its entirety, with listeners also gravitating to deep cuts like "Doin' My Job," "I Still Luv You" and "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," in addition to the album's numerous radio smashes. In the wake of Trap Muzik's release, T.I. would evolve into one of the biggest stars not only in rap, but music as a whole, cranking out a seemingly endless succession of hits and branding himself as a mogul while overcoming adversity and controversy. Other albums in his catalog may be more commercially successful and acclaimed, however, the core of T.I.'s fanbase will point to Trap Muzik as the rapper's magnum opus and the album that started it all.
To help commemorate and celebrate this landmark album's release, REVOLT spoke with four hip-hop figures out of the South about what makes Trap Muzik a classic and its impact on Atlanta and rap as a whole.
HOW WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO T.I. AND TRAP MUZIK?
Cyhi The Prynce: Through just growing up in Atlanta and being in the club. He used to tear it down, so that's how I really got familiar with Tip on that level. But his first album is one of my favorite albums ever, so I know Tip from before he dropped his first album.
Drumma Boy: I remember me and Yo Gotti were on the way to the studio listening to Trap Muzik like, 'DJ Toomp got some heat on here!' My birthday had just passed on August 11 and Trap Muzik dropped on August 19, 2003. Me and Gotti used to always listen to other trap rappers to stay on point with the culture. Yo Gotti's first album Life dropped on May 13, 2003 which I had produced four tracks on.
Scotty ATL: Through this group, they was called Coed. I was working at Brownsville Recreational Center in Decatur, Georgia and T.I. was featured on the remix [of Co-Ed's song]. They had a song called "Roll with Me" and then from there, I just kinda started listening to his music. The first song was "I'm Serious" and I started bumping that. [And] "Still Ain't Forgave Myself," that was like my favorite joint and then I just followed him from there.
Dae Dae: My daddy played T.I. and OutKast every morning I went to school.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SONG ON THE ALBUM?
Cyhi The Prynce: Aw, man. People don't even know that I was in the "Rubber Band Man" video, you know what I'm saying? [laughs] Growing up, just being a young dude, I would say my favorite song might be "I Still Love You" and probably, like, "Let's Get Away." "Rubber Band Man" was crazy too cause that's the video I was in, but musically I liked that he could go from a trap level to more of a mainstream pop level and still keep the integrity, so that was a real reason why I felt like T.I. was one of the best rappers, if not the best rapper in the South.
Drumma Boy: "ASAP," hands down, 'cause it matched the sound of trap the most. Coming from Memphis as a producer, I saw a lot that went down in the trap and all the OGs used the word "trap" as a location, a place to handle business, etc. The term "ASAP" also was a word used heavily especially when somebody owed you money: "I need that 'ASAP.'"
Scotty ATL: Man, I'd have to say "24's" because, in Atlanta, we're known for riding big cars, big wheels. Especially during that time, it was real hot if you had a Box Chevy on 24's with the woodgrain steering wheel with a Kenwood or an Alpine in that motherfucker—you was rocking. "24's" was like the anthem for the niggas that had those type of cars. I ain't have big wheels at that time, I had a Regal. I had a '84 Regal on Grand National Rallys, it was pearl white and I used to bump that Tip. I can't even flex.
Dae Dae: "Rubber Band Man."
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BEAT ON THE ALBUM?
Cyhi The Prynce: That's hard 'cause Toomp did a lot of those beats. Shout out to Toomp. Man..."24's" beat was hard, and "Be Easy." "Be Easy" probably was the best beat on the album, though. "You ever seen a dope boy play the piano," boy, stop playing [laughs]. When he said that, I was like, 'Aw, this nigga is outta here' [laughs].
Drumma Boy: "Be Easy" was my favorite because of the vibe it gave you. Uplifting and fly music that us hustlers could relate to. The pianos and horns mixed with the inventive flows from T.I. made it an instant classic.
Scotty ATL: It's probably that "Be Easy," though. I like that beat.
Dae Dae: "Rubber Band Man." It's catchy, club sound.
WHICH SONG WOULD YOU HAVE WANTED A GUEST VERSE ON?
Cyhi The Prynce: That would've been more of my style? Probably "Doin My Job." Didn't 'Ye do that? Damn, see, that's what I'm saying. That's what I would've did [laughs].
Scotty ATL: It probably would've been that "24's." I can't even gonna lie, I would've went hard on that. To this day, that motherfucker come on in Atlanta, it's going down.
Dae Dae: "24's."
EXPLAIN THE ALBUM'S IMPACT ON THE PERCEPTION OF ATLANTA RAPPERS AND LYRICISTS.
Cyhi The Prynce: Man, to be all the way honest, he's one of my top five favorite rappers. So my style is a little bit from T.I.'s style because he gave me more confidence to keep mine. I think a lot of times when I was growing up in Atlanta, I was kind of unorthodox because I wasn't really intrigued by rap until I heard East Coast, up-North rap. I just felt like they was doing something I couldn't do, versus in Atlanta, I felt I could freestyle that. So he gave me the courage, like 3 Stacks always did, but [Andre 3000] was always looked at as artsy and weird at moments. But Tip gave it where you could be from the street and still have some intellect in what you're saying and be from the South. So he killed these stereotypes for me that got me to where I was at or where I'm at today. I think Tip did a lot of that encouragement. And it came from him being from that Organized Noize, Dungeon Family family and then he gave it to artists like B.O.B. He gave us the courage; it's like Tip is one of those guys that really had his arm around real Atlanta rappers culture first. That was a dope outlet for a lot of artists in Atlanta that probably took pride in doing lyricism versus like cool club songs.
Drumma Boy: I think this album put further emphasis on "The South Got Something to Say" movement that OutKast started. It instantly got worldwide attention. The broad beat selection and diverse topics set the vibe for all coasts in my opinion. You could tell it was well thought-out, and even the flow of the album from start to finish was well-arranged.
Scotty ATL: I remember when niggas used to say shit like' you wanna be the rapper that the fellas wanna be like and that the ladies wanna fuck,' and T.I. was really the ushering in of those type of dudes with Atlanta. Before that, of course people was making good music, but he came out with that dope boy swag, but he was clean though. He wasn't just dope boy, like, country; he was dope boy fresh. That's how he came out in Atlanta and I feel like that's what he really ushered in, as far as that whole wave.
Dae Dae: I think this album lets artists understand that rap isn't all about flexing, jewelry, [and being] up in life. T.I. was speaking on real life situations, which helped me as an artist.
WHAT MAKES TRAP MUZIK A CLASSIC?
Cyhi The Prynce: Because he might've had seven singles. I remember seven videos from that. I remember "Be Easy" being a video, "Let's Get Away" with Jazzy Pha, "24's," "Rubber Band Man," you know what I'm saying? But that whole album is just classic, man, people can't deny that. And I think if bruh didn't go to jail and went through his issues, I think he would've eclipsed a lot of things. In a respectful way, I say, you seen when he [T.I.] went to jail that one time, [Lil] Wayne catapulted 'cause that was all we had that was similar to Tip. It was like, 'Damn, we can't get no lyricism unless it's from Wayne now 'cause Tip gone,' so that was a moment. I was heartbroken when he went to jail. I remember that in the city and then, the second time Tip went in, Jeezy came. So you seen two great artists kind of came out of the absence of Tip because we need that much of Tip, we needed that authenticity, and I think Jeezy and Wayne are those two artists that gave us that in that absence.
Drumma Boy: I think the fact that every song on the album made you daydream or visualize the words. The way he painted the picture on top of such perfected tracks made the album feel like a well-tailored suit. Each producer catered to his pimp, hustler, trap mentality which allowed him to be him. You can hear his comfort in every track as he delivered flows effortlessly. 400 Degreez, ATLiens, Trap Muzik , Thug Motivation 101, all albums I can listen to start to finish, which is rare.
Scotty ATL: You know, it's a lot of controversy about who started trap music and I think that the word, just the title alone, makes it still have a place in today's conversation. The word 'trap' is used so much, it's like niggas done overused the shit. But Tip was one of the first ones to say it out here in the streets and in the A, so I feel like that's why it's still relevant right now.
Dae Dae: Trap Muzik will always be a classic, that's one of T.I.'s best projects that people still listen to.
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