T.I. @ Key Club, 10/3/08
T.I. performs at the Key Club in West Hollywood | Photo by Michael Park courtesy of MySpace Music
Just like many of his peers, T.I. has a roster of nicknames as long as the chain around his neck. One of the most popular of those nicknames is "The King of the South," but on Friday night, at the Key Club T.I. was simply the King.
T.I. could have easily mailed this show in. His latest effort Paper Trail is already on shelves racking up sales that Billboard estimates to be the third highest debut week of 2008. Thanks to MySpace Music, who continues to bring big name acts to small intimate venues, none of the fans in attendance paid a dime for the show. With those two factors, there really wasn't a great deal of motivation for T.I. to put on decent show and he didn't put on a decent show, actually, he put together an incredible performance that would have won over any T.I. haters if there were any in the crowd.
The CEO of Grand Hustle Records was on his hustle during an approximately 90 minute long set that ran through the Atlanta native's impressive catalog of chart toppers, club bangers and every thing in between. While the downfall of many live hip-hop performances is the free-wheeling improvisational feel to them, where the emcee seems to be rattling their brain of which single he thinks will fit best, T.I. backed by DJ Drama was working off what appeared to be a cleverly crafted set list.
The show seemed to hit it's climax about 40 minutes in with "Big Things Poppin'." The Mannie Fresh produced single that lived near the top of the charts in 2007 had the energetic Key Club crowd hopping. Just when it seemed as though T.I. had the crowd completely in the palm of his hand though, he slipped up a bit. T.I. sat back and let an affiliate of his, Big Country Kane take the stage.
Guest spots at hip-hop shows can go one of two ways; bring out an artist the fans would love to be surprised by and sit back and watch the crowd lose their shit, or bring a member of your crew who could really use the plug and sit back and watch the crowd simply get lost. This was an example of the latter.
Fortunately for T.I. and those in attendance Big Country Kane was not the only artist to make a surprise performance Friday night.
Kanye West graces the stage at T.I.'s Key Club show | Photo by Michael Park courtesy of MySpace Music
Following the not-so-inspiring three songs mini-set from Big Country Kane, the King was able to get the crowd back by dropping his verse from the remix of Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar." Kane definitely presented a serviceable performance but unfortunately was unable to win over the crowd.
Soon after "Superstar," T.I. threw on his shades and performed his red hot single "Swagger Like Us," a certified banger which features verses from the game's biggest names: Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne and Kanye West. With the crowd looking towards the back of the stage to see if any of those three were going to hit the stage, T.I. performed his verse. Then when it seemed as though "Swagger" had concluded, Mr. West ran out on stage to a thunderous ovation to perform his verse.
While Kanye was getting to know the eager audience members reaching up at the stage to touch the producer/rapper/blogger, following "Swagger," T.I. asked 'Ye to extend his cameo with a performance of his latest single, "Love Lockdown." That was then followed up by a sneak peak at "Heartless" the next single off West's new album, 808's & Heartbreak, due out in November. (Video of West's surprise performance below via Consequence)
The guest spots did not stop there. With the crowd who waited for hours wrapped around the West Hollywood concert venue thoroughly won over, T.I. had one more surprise in store.
To close the show off, he performed another of his singles that is currently unavoidable on the radio, "Live Your Life." The single features a sampling of the "Numma Numma" tune that made the chubby guy with the headphones a viral video superstar and the voice of the lovely Rihanna. Fortunately, when T.I. walked towards the backstage area and said he needed some help for the track he brought back with him Rihanna and not the "Numma Numma" kid.
If he did appear on stage, however, he wouldn't have been the only "performer" who has racked up video views online. Standing in the back right corner of the stage was a collection of young ladies some men would pretend to be unfamiliar with including Jenaveve Jolie and other girls I have definitely NEVER seen before.
I definitely have never seen a show that exceeded my expectations quite like this one. Walking into the show, I was not the heaviest supporter of T.I. but by the end of the night that changed. Some lucky ladies walked out of the show with a t-shirt drenched in T.I.'s ball sweat, (yes he was sticking MySpace Music t-shirts down his pants and handing them out) I on the other hand walked out with a new found respect for The King.
Rihanna graces the stage at T.I.'s Key Club show | Photo by Michael Park courtesy of MySpace Music