February 26th, 2009 at 5:09 pm
The Northwest Arkansas Times was not granted permission to take photos of T.I. during the concert. This photo is courtesy of Scott Flanagin/University of Arkansas.
Several times during his Wednesday evening (Feb. 25) performance at Barnhill Arena on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, Atlanta rapper T.I. had a message for his haters.
It went like this: I’m the King, and you are wrong.
It was particularly ironic on this night, when a sold-out (or very nearly sold-out) crowd sang the lyrics to all of his songs, screamed each time another layer of his clothing came off and transformed on more than one occasion into a 7,000-member sea of waving arms.
Click the ‘more’ link below to continue reading about T.I.’s recent performance.
If he had haters in the building — and he claimed he certainly did — they weren’t sitting around me, nor were they among the swirling masses in the pit area.
T.I. certainly has to be among the top five current rap artists in terms of creative output, notoriety and hit-making ability, and his 2008 album, “Paper Trail,” did nothing to ebb his flow.
It earned him a Grammy for the compilation “Swagga Like Us,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and has sold 1.8 millions copies.
He currently has three songs on Billboards Hot 100 singles chart with “Whatever You Like,” “Live Your Life” and “Dead and Gone,” which is in the No. 2 position.
He played all of those songs in his 70-minute set, which, in addition to the current hits, delved back into his catalog for songs such as “Rubberband Man” and “U Don’t Know Me,” among others.
He interspersed his set with profanity-laced tirades against haters, record executives who didn’t believe he was a hitmaker and anyone else who didn’t sing along.
He didn’t find many of those types at his show on Wednesday. He touched off singalongs to nearly all of his cuts, most notably “Dead And Gone,” “Swing Ya Rag,” where many people did just that, and “Live Your Life,” which he dedicated to Rihanna, the singer who shared guest vocals with T.I. on the studio version and made headlines recently when her boyfriend, R&B singer Chris Brown, was accused of beating her prior to the Grammys.
T.I. has been making news, too, of course, as he prepares to go to jail in late March after pleading guilty to weapons-related charges. He acknowledged that, too, thanking those in attendance — in a rare moment that wasn’t a boast or an accusation of hatred — for “supporting me as I’m going through one of the toughest parts of my life.”
Likely because of that impending incarceration, T.I.’s stage was bare bones, and he deserved better. Backed by a DJ and another emcee, T.I. spent most of the time roaming an empty stage, jumping on top of amplifiers and putting on what amounted to a long, drawn-out striptease act, starting with a polo shirt before tossing off clothing and towels before ripping his A-Shirt in two about 45 minutes into the show.
Although T.I. remained spot-on and enthusiastic throughout the evening, the same can’t be said about his DJ. I thought the lowlight of the concert were the inconsistent transitions between the droning bass beats and T.I.’s call for the crowd to sing with him.
These are minor things, however. T.I.’s goal was to entertain, and he certainly did that. And when he was finished for the night, he reminded everyone he was king, dropped the mic to the ground and left.
King? That’s a matter of opinion, perhaps. But among rap’s royal court? You’ll get no argument here.
A note about the opener:
While I don’t know this for certain, I’d have to suspect the 6,000 who were present at 8 p.m. when Arkansas emcee Epiphany took the stage made up the largest crowd he’s ever played for.
He didn’t look comfortable until about three or four songs into his set. Backed by a full band, and accompanied by vocalist Gina Gee, Epiphany and company were best on the cover of John Legend’s “Green Light” and Piph’s own “Five Dollars,” a timely track about the economy.
T.I. set list, as best as can be determined:
1) 56 Bars (Intro); 2) Top Back; 3) Rubberband Man; 4) 24’s; 5) Ride Wit Me; 6) Dope Boyz (I think); 7) U Don’t Know Me; 8) Let’s Get Away; 9) Why You Wanna; 10) Bring ‘Em Out; 11) Swing Ya Rag; 12) What Up, What’s Haapnin’; 13) No Matter What; 14) Dead and Gone; 15) I’m Illy; 16) Swagga Like Us; 17) Big Things Poppin’ (Do It); 18) What You Know; 19) Live Your Life; 20) Whatever You Like
Someone’s got some vids up. Caution, rap star language present. The song is “Live Your Life.”: