Sales Verzuz Substance
The T.I. and 50 Verzuz is a battle we need to see, but probably won’t.
“Sell a lot of records, I respect it and salute that,
But spitting real life on hot beats, I’m the truth at!!!”
Clifford T.I. Harris, Swagga Like Us
The year is 2009. T.I. released his comeback album, Paper Trail, to rave reviews. He’s on stage at the Grammys with Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne and on the same project collaborating with Rihanna and Justin Timberlake for chart-topping singles. T.I. was almost ten years into his career and still relevant. Criminal cases hurt the momentum he had gained two years prior, but in 09 he was climbing the mountaintop again.
Meanwhile, 50 Cent’s career was cooling off. He fought to keep the momentum he had generated with a massive debut album Get Rich or Die Trying in 2003, but found it almost impossible to do that. His first two albums alone already put him in rare air with almost 20 million in sales, but after losing the friendly battle with Kanye in 2007, he found his musical career at a standstill.
Still, in the eyes of many, 50 was considered the bigger artist of the two. Sure, his lucrative business deals and success with his record label G-Unit kept him relevant musically. But more than anything, his ability to make people talk about him and make controversial statements became his calling card.
Aside from his beef with the Game, 50 caused controversy with his verse on the 2008 Terminate on Sight album where he publicly accused T.I. of snitching on the song You So Tough. They traded jabs but repaired the relationship over the years, collaborating on songs together and speaking nicely of each other.
Here we are now eleven years later and T.I. has called out his one time foe and friend out in a Verzuz battle. 50 declined and displayed his trademark sarcasm, but the challenge was enough to get people thinking on Twitter about who was truly the better artist.
In my eyes, it is not a question of ability. T.I. is a better artist, 50 is a more successful artist. Simple. 50 knows how to generate controversy and use that momentum to sell records/shows. T.I. knows how to make great songs that top the charts and still maintain his core. We probably won’t see this battle, but that won’t stop me from weighing in on who would be the victor. If it were a boxing match, I would have T.I. winning by a judge’s decision. Here’s why.
#Reason 1: T.I’s musical catalogue is more varied.
We know T.I. and 50 Cent for their ability to paint vivid images in their music. T.I. popularized the word “trap music” and 50 became the world’s toughest gangster rapper. They legit laid the groundwork for the music we hear now. But there’s a difference in how they do what they do.
T.I’s biggest hits aren’t just songs full of exaggerated claims of violence and triumph: They are anecdotal tales of the shortcoming of selling drugs. His music contains the right blend of brashness and tough talk mixed in with realism. For every Dope Boyz in the Trap on his album, there was a Still Ain’t Forgave Myself or a Castle Walls to go with it. He’s got range. He ain’t telling us stories of him shooting a whole neighborhood up when we know differently.
In short, one man’s story is more believable while the other more a figment of imagination. Can you guess whose who? Look at his projects outside of his debut then. The music on The Massacre reflected that problem. When you base your image on being a tough guy, all of your music tends to stay in that realm which makes it hard to believe you still will kill when you’re posted in Tyson’s mansion.
Just look at his Billboard chart history.
A simple look will show you how his highest charting records were cuts for his female followers (In Da Club, Disco Inferno, 21 Questions, and Candy Shop) not the tough guy records he fed the industry for days. His most known records were all the same songs done over while T.I.’s were a blend of both street anthems and lady friendly songs. He got range bruh.
Both men were tough by rap standards, but only one made enough music for both ladies and fellas to rock with. One is the rap terminator and the other is more akin to your partner who left behind the streets and rapped about his life so well that he kept imitating even afterward. His believability makes for better records.
Records such as Live Your Life, What You Know, Whatever You Like, and Dead and Gone are some of T.I.’s top records and they all came at the height of his career. Not only did these records introduce him to a new fanbase, they helped rebrand his image. T.I. got enough music to have you and your wife twerking while also reminiscing on when you used to be in the streets. For a simple man like myself I can only be hard so long. You gotta have records that the ladies can dance too and there ain’t a single song 50 has that is beating What’s Yo Name with Pharrell.
Reason #2: T.I. has 20 hits. 50 doesn’t.
Forgive my bias. I will readily admit that I am from Atlanta and I grew up on T.I’s music. His music holds a place in my heart the same way Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas does for New Yorkers or in the way Too Short, Snoop and Pac does for Californians. With that said, I know T.I.’s catalogue of songs prior to his mainstream success.T.I. has the volume needed to match up. 50’s universally viewed as the larger artist however and so his songs will weigh more. Songs like Many Men, Wanksta, In Da Club, and I Get Money are bangers. But in a battle of 20 songs, I can’t think of ten songs by 50 that will sound better.
50 has the haymakers, but T.I. has the combination shots. The G-Unit catalogue would make it more interesting admittedly, but still would not be enough to best the king.
Northerners will argue with me for days, but ask yourself two questions: First, can you think of ten fifty cuts that are bangers? Not ten songs that you like. Not ten great album cuts, but ten songs that could be played anywhere and people from all walks of life would like? 50 doesn’t have ten. He definitely has one to five though. In Da Club is universal. But then again, so is Whatever You Like. Just ask 45 and his team.
Next, ask yourself this: How familiar are you with T.I.’s catalogue? No, not his albums. I mean all his music. How much of his music prior to 2006 did you listen to? If you know about 50’s mixtapes and the buzz they generated, but don’t know about In Da Streets Vol 1. & 2 then you can’t have this discussion. 24’s, T.I. breakout record was a favorite on the mix tape scene and it led to his success. Just ask any kids whose played the Need for Speed series and I assure you they’ll tell you the song is embedded in their heads permanently. Have you heard The Down With the King Series? What about the Leak? If not, stop it. Just because you didn’t hear him until 03 didn’t mean he wasn’t known. He’s got more than enough records to match up.
In short, T.I. has the volume to go hit for hit with 50, but depending on how the battle playlist was structured, 50 has enough material to ensure that his songs would win more rounds than expected. Ultimately, I believe that his success would weigh heavier than the actual songs and play a role in the decision, but if we judge the songs on a basis of memories and musicality, T.I. ‘s music would come out on top. Like a boxer in the ring, the battle would come down to the judge’s decision.