Producer: Sanchez Holmes
T.I.: “I was riding with my partner, Kawan ‘KP’ Prather, fresh out the trap. We were working on the Shaft soundtrack because he was the A&R for that. We were listening to one of Mystikal’s albums, and he called himself the Prince of the South. So I said that, ‘If he’s the prince, who’s ever been the King of the South?’ KP said there had never been one.
“KP always said he could see when I had a thought, like I show something on my face. So as soon as he said, ‘There has never been one,’ I looked a certain way. KP said, ‘I bet you won’t do it.’ I said, ‘Who won’t do it? Take me to the studio.’ That night, we recorded '2 Glock 9’s' with me and Beanie Sigel and I did it right then.
“I didn’t have a huge campaign or marketing intentions behind it. It was really just some shit my partner said I can’t do. If a motherfucker tells me I can’t do something, watch me do it. They told me I couldn’t run a 5K race without any preparation because I had been smoking weed and drinking liquor. The night before I did a show in Detroit, that morning I went and did a verse for Kid Rock in his studio, got on a jet, landed in Atlanta at 9. Slept in the car, went straight to the race in some Jordans and some basketball shorts. I ran 3.3 miles in 18 minutes and 45 seconds. No bullshit. True real talk. This shit is documented. I ain’t just talking shit. I was sore as fuck for about four or five days.
They told me I couldn’t run a 5K race without any preparation because I had been smoking weed and drinking liquor. I ran 3.3 miles in 18 minutes and 45 seconds. That's how King of the South started. It didn't have as much value to me as it did when people started saying I couldn't say it.
“That’s how the King of the South started. It didn’t have as much value to me as it did when people started saying I couldn’t say it. People started saying, ‘Who does he think he is? He can’t say that! OutKast are the Kings of the South. Scarface is the King of the South.’ Aye, listen man, who the fuck are you to tell me what I can’t say? If you don’t like what I’m saying, come stop me from saying it.
“What I did, because of the amount of respect I had for these people and the role they played in my upbringing as an artist and a lyricist, I spoke to all four members of Goodie Mob, I spoke to OutKast, I spoke to Bun, I spoke to MJG. I spoke to all of the people that I respected and everyone told me, ‘Do your thing. You cold as a motherfucker. You one of the coldest niggas coming out right now.’
“So I always felt like, if the legends aren’t saying shit to me, then fuck what you have to say. Not one of y’all niggas are on my level. Y’all can’t see me in the street, y’all can’t see me in the booth, so what the fuck can you tell me? Come stop me, come put your finger in my face. It won’t be the ending you want.
“[When I said ‘there’s only five rappers busting in Atlanta’] that was one of those things where you and I know who I am talking about. Me and my nigga Killer Mike had a discussion in the Stankonia studio, right around the time we were doing this record called 'Ready, Set, Go.' It was like, ‘For real, me and you are the only ones who are really repping the town and kicking some lyrics.’
Just from him calling himself the King of the South, a lot of the pioneers wanted to see what all of the riff raff was about. When they met him, it ended up being a great relationship. So the man’s Rolodex got a lot bigger off of him calling himself that. - DJ Toomp
“So when I said it in a rap, he knew what I was talking about. But, everyone else was like, ‘Who are the other four rappers?’ Killer was like, it was slick how you did that. It was well played. But me and Killer have that relationship, he still calls me. He sees things in verses and lyrics, he sees double entendres and metaphors and similes and analogies that go over other motherfuckers’ heads. He would call me and say, ‘Hey, slick how you did that young nigga.’”
DJ Toomp: “Just from him calling himself the King of the South, a lot of the pioneers wanted to see what all of the riff raff was about. When they met him, it ended up being a great relationship. So the man’s Rolodex got a lot bigger off of him calling himself that. He was able to call Pimp C when he felt like it. If he hadn’t called himself that and just came out as a regular rapper, he would have never attracted so much attention from the pioneers. Just calling himself that made everybody come say, ‘Let’s see what this lil’ nigga is talking about.’”
Bun B: “I probably felt the same way some of these rappers are feeling now with Kendrick calling himself the King of New York [as I did with T.I. calling himself the King of the South]. We reached out to him and had a talk about it. He explained that he was trying to make a statement and carve out his niche, it wasn’t necessarily meant so much as a disrespect to the people that came before him but more a word to send out to those that were coming after.
“Initially people might’ve felt a certain way but again, it’s the same thing that Kendrick did. It made a lot of people from the South step their lyrics up to try to prove him wrong. Like, ‘I’m making this statement, this is how I feel, if you don’t believe what I believe about me then come and prove me wrong.’ It was never a title I aspired to have. I wasn’t necessarily worried about the South, I wanted to be the best at everything over everybody. I wanted to be the king of everything.”
I probably felt the same way some of these rappers are feeling now with Kendrick calling himself the King of New York [as I did with T.I. calling himself the King of the South]. - Bun B
Jason Geter: “If you look at the artists that were around in Atlanta prior to this, everyone followed a blueprint of what Dungeon Family and OutKast were doing. Then Lil Jon came along during that time with the whole Crunk movement—so people followed that. Tip was the young, arrogant kid in the city that wanted to start his own branch on the tree.
“When he came out and said, 'Hey, I’m the King of the South,' truth is a lot of people had a problem with that. So he didn’t get help from certain people. It was frustrating for him because the guys he looked up to didn’t embrace him just because he said, 'I’m the King of the South.'
“Whereas an artist like Ludacris that was doing his thing—but wasn’t doing it in a threatening way—was embraced by a lot of the older rappers. King of the South was something that he threw out there as a goal to reach and something to live up to. Tip was definitely going through the things and trials and tribulations within himself like, 'I gotta prove to the world that I’m worthy.'
“More than anything, you want the co-sign of the people that you grew up listening to. Tip was all about UGK and OutKast. Those are the first cosigns or nods of recognition that you looking for. During that time, Big Boi was the shit in Atlanta. Dre’s always been Dre, but Big Boi was like the guy that was in the streets.
“Those looks, those offerings or extensions of hands, he didn’t get that. There were some artists that he noticed like, 'Damn, they’re getting that?’ It was kind of like a blessing in disguise because that’s really how Grand Hustle all came about. That whole process was saying, 'Fuck everybody else. Let’s continue doing what we doing.’
It was frustrating for him because the guys he looked up to didn't embrace him just because he said, 'I’m the King of the South.' “Whereas an artist like Ludacris that was doing his thing—but wasn't doing it in a threatening way—was embraced by a lot of the older rappers. - Jason Geter
“It’s so corny. I forget the name of the record, but we were in the studio and he recorded this track with Mystikal. He did a hook for the record first and Mystikal said, 'Alright, I’mma let you do a verse for the record, but if you outbust me, I ain’t gone keep you on the record.' Tip did his verse and Mystikal was like, 'I’m not gonna keep you on this record.’
“You want the nod from Pimp C. Tip loves Pimp C. Bun B was on the album. Pimp C, I don’t know if he was locked up during that time or what. It wasn’t a bad blood or a loss of love. We all got to know Pimp C and accept him for the guy he was. Put yourself where Pimp C was at. During that time, Pimp C didn’t wanna be on the 'Big Pimpin’' with Jay Z.
“I remember seeing Pimp C at Stankonia Studios right around the I’m Serious time. He was like, 'I ain’t got time for that.’ For Tip he was getting used to this. People get in and they think that everyone’s friendly with each other, like it’s one big fraternity. Once you get in, you start to see the realities. That was eye-opening for him as well.”
Sanchez Holmes: “Tiny sang the background on that. Nobody knows that she’s the one humming “ah’s” in the background. That’s me playing the guitar on that shit too, man. That’s when I was starting to feel good about my hard work. I had someone that actually gravitated to my sound and fucked with it. That made me excited about doing it so I was being more creative.”