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The self-proclaimed king of Southern hip-hop, T.I. has built a career based on catchy nihilism that banks on both self-determination and dope-boy darkness. The frequently incarcerated Atlanta native is small in stature, ill-tempered and walks with the swagger of Jay-Z, a combination that prompts his critics to dub him hip-hop's Napoleon. His first offering, 2001's I'm Serious, didn't exactly burn up the charts, but it featured production from the Neptunes and displayed a tenderness that subsequent releases would downplay. In many ways, 2003's Trap Muzik was T.I.'s official unveiling; the irresistible single "Rubber Band Man" served as a raison d'etre of sorts for the star. After spending time in prison for cocaine charges, he returned in 2004 with the comparatively cheery Urban Legend. Between the release of that album and 2006's King, he had begun to challenge 50 Cent and Eminem as the most famous emcee in the world. T.I.'s next album, 2007's T.I. vs. T.I.P., explored the division between the rapper's street persona and his corporate interest. Mining dark territory and featuring Justin Timberlake, 2008's Paper Trail continued to cement his status as the king.
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