On Friday, thousands of hip-hop fans might have felt just like the Geto Boys' Bushwick Bill: "Ah man, homie, my mind's playin' tricks on me!" A song called "Swagger Like Us" -- featuring the rap dream team of T.I., Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye West -leaked onto the Internet. How could a song so big -- a real song, too, not something a DJ patched together by extracting verses from other records -- just appear out of nowhere?
One of the record's stars has some questions of his own: T.I. would like to know how the song leaked. It's one of the premier records from his forthcoming LP, Paper Trail. The album -- which Tip previewed for MTV News back in May -- isn't due out until September 30, and the King of the South said the cut wasn't supposed to be debuted so soon.
"That's some bullsh--," a disappointed Tip told MTV News Saturday afternoon (August 23) via phone. "I'm beating down the Internet as we speak."
The MC -- who will perform a song from Paper Trail at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 7 -- obviously isn't upset with how well "Swagger Like Us" (or "S.L.U.") turned out or even the immediate positive reaction it's gotten. He just had planned on presenting his song properly rather than having it just thrown out there. He said it could have been "that much bigger" if he'd had the chance to roll it out in grand fashion.
"Don't ruin the event," he lamented. "Wait till the cake comes out the kitchen before you eat it. That's like a kid who sees his toys before Christmas; it takes away from me and I think it takes away from the fans as well. When it's time, I'mma give it to you. They leaked my record with me and The-Dream ["Like I Do"] too. Leakage is never a problem I have had. I'm not used to it."
Tip theorized that the high anticipation for Paper Trail may be the reason why songs such as "S.L.U.," "Like I Do" and "Life of the Party" (the latter isn't even slated to be on the LP) have found their way onto the Internet without his permission, but he quickly said "that's neither here nor there" and moved onto discussing the creation of "S.L.U."
"It's been done about a month," he said. "It was a song that Kanye and I had done first; me featuring Kanye. An idea had presented itself -- 'What if we included these people and made it an event record?' -- and I was like, 'That's a very ambitious idea but a lovely one.' "
Soon after, Hov and Weezy submitted verses. Jay liked the song so much that Tip said it will also appear on Jay's The Blueprint 3 album later this year. He did note that Paper Trail is where it will officially be released first.
"Swagger Like Us" was produced by Kanye West and features a sample of M.I.A.'s ubiquitous "Paper Planes," where she declares "No one on the corner got swagger like us." Kanye, who compares his swagger to singer Mick Jagger, starts off with punchlines aplenty: "I know I got it first/ I'm Christopher Columbus, y'all just the Pilgrims/ How it feel to wake up and be the sh--and the urine?/ Nah-na-na, trying to get that Kobe number, one over Jordan."
Jay follows -- "You can pay for school, but you can't buy class" -- Weezy bats third and Tip is the cleanup hitter. T.I. raps about his real-life controversies and how he doesn't worry about other rappers. "Sell a lot of records, I respect it and salute that/ But spitting real life on hot beats, I'm the truth at/ When you kick it like me, no exaggeration necessary."
In addition to the aforementioned trio of guests, Paper Trail has even more A-list guests: Usher has been added to "My Life, Your Entertainment," Rihanna appears on "Living My Life" and Justin Timberlake joins him on "Dead and Gone."
"I really appreciate it, man," Tip said humbly about the support he's gotten from his peers. "It's definitely an honor man to be among the elite in the game. To have as much respect from them as they have for me is also a privilege. I just wanna live up to all the expectations."
He talked a bit about "Dead and Gone," the Timberlake collaboration. "Basically, man, it's about the lessons I've learned in life, the old me being dead and gone. How I've changed, how my life has taken new meaning."
Surprisingly, a Kanye West cameo has been removed from a song on the album: "Sitting on Top of the World," which features B.O.B. from T.I.'s Grand Hustle label.
"Kanye's verse has been swapped," Tip said. "I still have Kanye's verse so maybe we'll a remix down the line."
T.I.'s current video and single is "Whatever You Like." Videos have also been shot for "Swing Your Rag" and "What Up."