In 2001, Arista decided to introduce T.I. to the world with the single "I'm Serious." It had production from The Neptunes and a hook done by Beenie Man (who had just come off of "Girls Dem Sugar" with Mya the year before). On paper, it looks pretty good; on Spotify, it sounds terrible. Predictably, it didn't do well; he got dropped from the label.
And so began the long crawl upwards, with appearances on DJ Drama's Gangsta Grillz mixtapes and—most importantly—Bone Crusher's "Neva Scared" remix in 2003. With Atlantic Records now backing him, T.I. surged. Hits came easily; his albums opened up in the Top 10, with first-week numbers stretching six digits. By 2004, Destiny's Child put him and Lil' Wayne in the video for "Soldier;" it's easy to see both of their crossover success tracing back to that moment.
And then there was King, a modern masterpiece, which obviously put him on top. None of his subsequent not-so-great albums have been able to knock him off. Even one very publicized federal prison visit couldn't stop T.I. His return from the stint can be considered a comeback of sorts, as well. His release resulted in Paper Trail, the most successful album of his career.