16. T.I., Down With the King (2004)
In the hands of Jay-Z, Rick Rubin's bouncy, crunchy beat on "99 Problems" was a springboard for art in 2003, three concept stories set to some thunderous sonics. In the hands of T.I. a year later, the same beat was the foundation of one of the greatest and most thorough etherings in rap history, a devastating lyrical beatdown that launched one career and effectively ended another.
Looking back, it doesn't even seem like a fair fight. T.I., one of the biggest rappers of the 21st Century, versus Lil Flip, a dude who once dressed up like a leprechaun on an album cover. But at one point in 2004, Flip was the bigger name. He'd released two platinum albums to T.I.'s one, and Tip was plagued by legal woes that landed him in jail that spring, preventing him from properly promoting Trap Muzik.
While in jail, T.I. heard rumors (apparently unfounded, it turns out) that Flip had been dissing him around Atlanta, calling himself "King of the South," a title that neither youngster had any business claiming with Scarface still on the scene. Tip responded, first at a concert for ATL radio station 107.9 (a bill he shared with Flip), and later in Houston, confronting his rival on Flip's home turf. But it was Down With the King, one of the early entries in DJ Drama's Gangsta Grillz series, that Tip would obliterate Flip's career.
Actually, "obliterate" is an understatement; the vocabulary of particle physics doesn't encompass the damage T.I. does in the first awesome, sadly homophobic bars of infomercial raps for bros running garage sales. —Jack Erwin
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