Almost SoS: 2006 – T.I.’s “What You Know”

Posted: July 30, 2010 by RA in Uncategorized
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Song of the Summer: “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado
Subtitled “OMG Nelly Furtado is totally rapping!”, this gimmicky track made its bones on the novelty of Furtado trading Pop-Rap come-ons with Timbaland over a boilerplate Tim beat. To be sure, Furtado had proclaimed her love for Hip-Hop as far back as her debut (and decidedly more Adult-Contemporary-leaning) album, but from its sound to the completely superfluous Timberlake cameo in the video, this was as cynical a chart-chaser as they come. It worked, spending 6 weeks at the top of the Hot 100. But try playing it now and ask yourself how well it’s aged.

Yeah, I thought so.

Almost SoS: “What You Know” by T.I.
With its orchestral synth bed taking the “I Believe it to My Soul” bassline far higher than Donny Hathaway could have imagined, T.I.’s breakout single is best described in one short word — big. Actually, fucking colossal. With the aforementioned synth brilliance, its anthemic hook, and the call-and-response of its rhythmic verses, performing this anywhere smaller than a stadium is doing the song a great injustice. Crafted by wickedly talented producer DJ Toomp, this cut is so insanely, brilliantly, exuberantly infectious, it’ll make you a fan on the first listen. And Tip’s ad-libs are so well considered and crucial to the song, you’ll envy the hype-man who gets to perform this with him live.

When it’s all said and done, “What You Know” should rightly go down as the biggest moment in Hip-Hop, post-Biggie and ‘Pac, and I don’t see anything coming close in the near future.

Why it Could’ve Been:
After the success of 2005’s “Bring ‘Em Out” (his first top-ten hit), Atlantic made his next release, King a priority. Combined with the respectable buzz surrounding his film debut in ATL, he was primed for breakout success.

Why it Wasn’t:
Early Release. Before “What You Know”, T.I. was still considered far too “urban” for Pop radio. So while its #3 peak on the Billboard airplay charts was admirable, it couldn’t maintain dominance long enough to compensate for its early (March) release. By the time summer was in full swing, it was on a downard slide.

The Video:

NEXT: 2007


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