The King of the South vs. The City of Champions: T.I. makes his Edmonton debut [Review]
Edmonton, AB – I remember it like it was yesterday: T.I. just dropped his fifth studio album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., in the summer of 2007. That following October the news dropped that the ATL heavyweight was to perform a live show at the Edmonton Event Centre. I was beyond geeked and scrounged up every dollar I had to afford my ticket. With about two or three weeks to go until showtime – more news dropped – and not the kind you ever want to hear. T.I. caught a case, the show was canceled, and I (along with the rest of my fellow hip-hop heads) was crushed. However I remained hopeful, waited patiently, and knew it was only a matter of time until we tried this again.
Fast forward seven years: November 8, just shy of three weeks after the release of his ninth studio album Paperwork, Edmonton finally had our long-waited moment. The Troubleman made his debut at (an almost sold-out) Union Hall, brought to us by Delux Entertainment and Macc Promotions.
By 10:00 p.m. the venue was close to half-full. The love for ATL was real in the room as most peeps were sporting (T.I.-branded) Hustle Gang gear, Hawks gear, Braves gear – you name it. Opening spins were done by local DJ Akademic; right from the moment I walked into the building to Joe Budden’s “Fire” and Mally Mall’s “Wake Up in it”, I knew Akademic would set the tone to keep the crowd hype throughout the evening.
Prior to the headliner we were treated with local performances from Dizzy with Habe Kitne, Mitchell Lawler & Conch, and C.O.B. (featuring Young Tox, Rome Angel and K-Blitz). A Game, a duo who hails from the Dot, and Cali-native FriskOlay (accompanied by DJ Dave Rukus) also performed as special guests. Each act put in work and held their own while engaging the crowd.
A special mention goes out to C.O.B., who had technical problems right from the jump. Thinking quickly, Young Tox jumped on the mic and freestyled acapella as his team scurried to resolve the issues behind him. I was feeling it but unfortunately it still didn’t give the crew enough time get their music together and ultimately had to shutdown their set. Roughly 20 minutes later – C.O.B., with music intact, came back victorious and smashed their set. It’s not easy being under that kind of pressure and C.O.B. handled it like pros.
T.I. was set to perform at midnight (or in hip-hop time, 1:00 a.m., naturally). By that time Union Hall was body-to-body and shouts of “T.I.!, T.I.!” echoed through the room. It was finally time for YEG to get their lives. The intro music to Paperwork’s “King” filled the speakers and Tip slowly made his way down the stairs and on to the stage. The crowd roared with adulation, as the MC began to spit bars heavy. From that moment on – what we witnessed was a full hour of nostalgia as T.I. reminded us why he hails his title as the King of South (but did we really forget?). His setlist was nothing short of immaculate, performing some of the most iconic songs from his lengthy discography; “Top Back”, “Rubber Band Man”, “24’s”, “U Don’t Know Me,” the list goes on and on.
The intensity and energy in the room was something I haven’t felt [at a show] in quite sometime. Was it the weather? Nah. Was it a full moon? Nope. It was the crowd letting out seven long-awaited years of steam for one of the biggest titans in the game. With no question T.I. knew the page we were on; he gave that intensity right back as he spit each and every song with conviction and purpose.
Not only a titan – Tip is also a ladies man – lets not forget about that. He serenaded us with “Whatever You Like”, paid homeage to Grand Hustles’ latest protege Iggy with “Fancy”, he even did a freestyle over Nico and Vinz’s “Am I Wrong” (swoon on a whole other level). With the ladies there also comes, “the bad bitches”, and before T.I. broke into his smash-hit “Mediocre” he had to make it known that there were plenty in the room. “Do we have any bad bitches in the house tonight?” [cue screams] “Ladies make some noise if you a bad bitch!” [cue deafening screams]. Misogyny aside – the girls in the room ate it up like cake.
The Troubleman’s victory lap continued with “Swing Ya Rag”, “G’ Shit”, “ASAP”, and “Bring Em Out” (which was beyond real). Tip also played a special tribute to the late Doe B with “Kemosabe”. As mentioned T.I.’s setlist was fire – whether a day one fan or only keen on his last few albums – he catered to us all. I couldn’t think of a better choice of songs for T.I. to go out with, as he closed off the night with “Live Your Life”, “What You Know” and “About the Money”.
I went into this knowing that this review wasn’t going to be an easy one to write. This could just be my biased-self speaking, but how can one possibly elaborate on such a staple in hip-hop without writing for days? I hope my words did at least a fraction of justice. T.I. did not disappoint; his stage presence was flooring, his swag was flawless, and the reception of the crowd was so turnt that it could’ve torn the roof off.
With 2014 slowly coming to an end, it’s safe to say that T.I.’s performance was the ultimate game changer of the year. A moment you would have to see to believe and experience all over again in a heartbeat. Hopefully – just hopefully – it’s not in another seven years.
Written by Rosa Jason for HipHopCanada
Photos: T.I. at Union Hall in Edmonton
Photography by Andrew Lynn for HipHopCanada
Tags: A-Game, C.O.B., Delux Entertainment, DJ Akademic, DJ Dave Rukus, DJ MLK, FriskOlay, Grand Hustle, Habe Kitne, Hustle Gang, K-Blitz, Mitchell Lawler & Conch, Rome Angel, Substance Entertainment Group, T.I., Union Hall, Young Tox