We'll stay in the ATL for this next post. The self-proclaimed "King of the South," T.I. has never quite lived up to his title. While other Southern rappers such as OutKast, Scarface, and Wayne (pre-CIII) all offer better claims to the title, Clifford Harris's reign only occurred for a short period of 2006. While King was a monumental album and one of the best, non-OutKast, projects to come out of Atlanta, the rest to T.I.'s career has been marked predominantly by popular singles rather than critically-acclaimed albums.
You can't quite dismiss T.I. as simple (This is Southern, face it/ if we too simple, then y'all don't get the basics). T.I. offers a view from a different perspective coming from an impoverished area of Georgia that otherwise might be forgotten about and does have some truly beautiful songs ("Live In The Sky"). You can dismiss him for no longer producing songs of substance, for promoting a consumerist lifestyle unadvisable and unachievable to targeted consumers, and for generally acting foolishly, but you can't dismiss him as simple.
Hip hop can't take itself too seriously. It can't just be the Black Stars and Blue Scholars, you need to have the Ludacrises and the Beastie Boys who just have fun with hip hop and keep it lighthearted and balanced and whose contrast provides the listener with a greater appreciation for those deeper artists. Hip hop at its best is a movement that speaks for the people, but the proletariat don't always want social upheaval. Everyone deserves to have fun and just relax from time to time and that's where the "Ride Wit Mes" and "Why You Wannas" of the world step in and find their niches in hip hop.
You don't have to like T.I. or listen to his music, but you have to accept him as being just a much a part of hip hop as any other artist. If, like me, you don't like the direction his career has taken and would prefer him to go back to that "Rubberband Man" or "Bring 'Em Out" style, you can voice your opinion as a consumer by not purchasing his latest releases. In the meantime, you can still appreciate these songs for what they are: ridiculous, and meant for enjoyment rather than to be taken seriously.
Is you happy?
Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,