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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 16, 2020 | Grand Hustle LLC - EMPIRE

Trap pioneer T.I. was one of the major players of Atlanta's ever-expanding rap scene as early as the start of the 2000s, slowly building from self-released mixtapes and regional airplay to number one albums. Over 20 years into his run, 11th studio album The L.I.B.R.A. finds T.I. joined by a host of talent from the waves of rap that followed him, all joining forces to celebrate his hard-earned legend status. The title itself, in addition to referring to T.I.'s star sign, is an acronym for "The Legend Is Back Running Atlanta," which gives a fair assessment of the album's tone and central themes. T.I. reflects on his accomplishments and contributions to rap on almost every track, finding a synthesis of old flows and new perspectives on songs like "Pardon," an elastic back-and-forth between T.I.'s bouncing ball meter and Lil Baby's slippery wordplay. The 20-track project includes plenty of guest stars, ranging from spoken interludes from Rapsody and Ernestine Johnson Morrison to featured verses from Snoop Dogg, Young Thug, 42 Dugg, Benny the Butcher, and many, many others. John Legend even sings the hook on the triumphant "We Did It Big." The L.I.B.R.A. tries to cover a lot of ground, swerving between R&B smoothness on "Moon Juice," the old-school beat flip of "Hypno," and interesting experiments like the collision of sentimental songwriting and trap drums on "Pantone Blue." The production is strong regardless of the style pursued on individual tracks, but the best moments of The L.I.B.R.A. come when T.I. is rapping over the kind of solid trap bangers that remind us of his best work from earlier albums. The entire record is a victorious display of self-celebration, but the impact of T.I.'s years in the rap game are felt most directly on tracks where he's matching wit and lyrical dexterity with rappers from the generation that directly followed him. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

House arrest would likely slow anyone's daily routine. It probably played a factor in T.I.'s decision to write down his rhymes for the first time since his debut. A year of jail time on the horizon would, just the same, impact a writer's output, and it has done just that on Paper Trail. Plenty of these tracks have nothing to do with T.I.'s federal weapons conviction -- escapist fare like the number one Hot 100 single "Whatever You Like" and the mindnumbing "Porn Star," where he's barely coasting -- but there is a sense of urgency and a new dimension of self-reflection not touched upon throughout the holding pattern that was T.I. vs T.I.P. And when he's just battling, as on "I'm Illy," he reaches a level of indignant rage that manages to top that of "I'm Talkin' to You." The M.I.A.-sampling, Kanye West-produced "Swagga Like Us" features verses from Jay-Z, West, and Lil Wayne, but its chunky, rugged, alien beat could've hit even harder with just T.I., whose pent-up swagger makes for the best vocal fit. The cut with multiple features that is deserving of even more talk is "On Top of the World," where B.o.B. and (especially) Ludacris complement atypical wealth-related T.I. boasts like "Cousins in college -- where you think they get tuition from?" The production work also helps place the album above T.I. vs T.I.P.; Toomp's return provides some much needed punch, as does Danja's slow motion, almost bluesy, organ-drenched beat for "No Matter What." © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

T.I. went through big ups and big downs after the release of 2003's Trap Muzik. Right after watching two successive singles -- "24s" and "Rubber Band Man" -- become the most successful hits of his career, he was put behind bars for violating probation that resulted from a 1997 arrest on cocaine distribution and the manufacturing and distribution of a controlled substance. He received a three-year prison sentence, only to be granted a work-release program that allowed him to continue making music (he proceeded to record several albums' worth of material). Then there was the MC's surprise performance at a concert for an Atlanta radio station, where he avenged the alleged shots Lil' Flip took at him while he was incarcerated. And that hardly covers all the events that transpired during the 15 months that led to Urban Legend, the follow-up to Trap Muzik. With all that chaos surrounding T.I., it's disappointing to hear him retracing his steps, rewriting old lines, developing with little progress. At the negative end, there's "Countdown," a flimsy rehash of "Rubber Band Man." At the positive end, there's "Bring Em Out" -- a rowdy Swizz Beatz production with blaring synth horns and a sampled Jay-Z (from "What More Can I Say") acting as hype man, in which T.I. rides the beat while bouncing off it at the same time. Some of his most incisive moments are delivered when the mood is somber, as on "Prayin for Help," where he expresses pain and regret without dealing in clichés. Mannie Fresh, the Neptunes, Jazze Pha, and Scott Storch also contribute beats; some are perfectly satisfactory, none are highlight-reel worthy. Perhaps it's asking too much to expect T.I. to show as much growth here as he did on Trap Muzik, but -- as is the case with Jadakiss -- remaining patient for that classic album (and you know he has one in him) is getting tough. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

Released the same week as ATL, his big-screen debut, T.I.'s fourth album isn't the leap forward he's been threatening to make, but it does carry the best set of productions he has been given to work with, and it guarantees that he won't be leaving the singles charts any time soon. On a steady basis since 2003, the MC has been responsible for some of the most memorable rap singles of the decade. "24's," "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," "Rubberband Man," "Bring Em Out," "U Don't Know Me," and the underappreciated "ASAP" amount to a run as impressive as anyone else's during the same years, and the streak continued with King's first official single. The slow victory lap that is "What You Know" is T.I.'s greatest track yet, a Toomp production with high and low synthesizer notes -- all of which sound like severely pitched-down synthetic horn lines -- drawn out to the point where they're practically bleeding into one another; T.I. similarly extends his syllables ("Just keep it very cooool, or we will bury yooou") for maximum looming effect. The track is emblematic of the album in that T.I. is basically saying the same things he has said many times before, but he's finding slightly different ways to say them, and as long as he doesn't get lackadaisical and his producers keep up, he'll be at the top of his game. The swarming all-out-assault "I'm Talking to You" and the Rick Rubin-worthy "You Know Who" play roles similar to that of Urban Legend's "Bring Em Out," and though neither one is quite as swift, they add further muscle to an MC who tends to be regarded as smooth. Some of the less energetic tracks weigh the 75-minute album down, but "Why You Wanna" works surprisingly well, given that T.I. tends to sound out of place when he's playing loverman and that the plangent keyboards from Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman" really have no business being anywhere near a rap track. It is frustrating that T.I. has only been refining his material since 2003's Trap Muzik, but that has been more than enough to gradually raise his profile. Maybe he needs a flop to spark some risk-taking. For better or worse, it doesn't look like that will be happening anytime soon. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 17, 2014 | Grand Hustle - Columbia

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

Whatever promise T.I. showed on his flawed debut is almost fully realized throughout his excellent 2003 follow-up, Trap Muzik. On the surface, Trap Muzik can be viewed as another record built on glorious superficialities, concerned with little more than material wealth, drug dealing, and champion stature. Dig beneath that surface, and you'll come to appreciate an MC who uses the art of the metaphor like few others; "The Trap," for instance, comes to mean a number of things. David Banner, Kanye West, and DJ Toomp all chip in with key production work, but the MC is the real draw from beginning to end, from the supremely infectious chorus of "24's" to the complex self-analysis of "T.I. vs. T.I.P." By the time 2003 drew to a close, this album had spawned three chart hits -- "24's" had a particularly long-running presence on the video shows -- and the album itself scraped the Top Five of the Billboard album chart. With another record as good as this, T.I. just might become the King of the South that he continually claims to be. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 5, 2018 | Grand Hustle - Epic Records

Following his politically charged examination of life and injustice in America on 2016's Us or Else compilation combo, Atlanta rapper T.I. returned in 2018 with his tenth effort, The Dime Trap (Grand Hustle/Epic). The effort balances Us or Else social issues -- tackling police brutality, politics, race relations, and more -- while serving familiar themes concerned with money, street life, and fame, mixing aggressive, classic trap bangers such as "Wraith" with rousing anthems such as "Jefe" with Meek Mill and "Laugh at Em." On the Dime Trap, T.I. is joined by a long list of high-profile guests, including Sam Hook on the gospel-kissed "Seasons"; Young Thug and Swizz Beatz on the moving "The Weekend"; and Anderson .Paak on the booming R&B-trap hybrid "At Least I Know." Triumphant album highlight "More & More" with Jeezy harkens back to T.I.'s 2000s sound, a booming, bass-heavy anthem that recalls his early hit "What You Know" and P$C's "I'm a King." Watch the Duck, YFN Lucci, and Teyana Taylor also make appearances, alongside producers Bangladesh, David Banner, Just Blaze, London on da Track, Scott Storch, and more. Upon release, The Dime Trap debuted at number 13 on the Billboard 200 and entered the Top 10 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. © Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

No Mercy's appearance is rather deceptive. After slipping off a stark wraparound sleeve bearing nothing but the ominous title, there’s the album’s proper cover, a black-and-white portrait of T.I. looking downward, alone and pensive. No Mercy does offer some revealing and poignant moments, as on the lyrically deep title track, otherwise a perplexing collaboration with the-Dream and Tricky Stewart that deploys churning guitars and a quasi-Evanescence chorus. However, they are significantly outnumbered by alternately defiant and deflated-sounding party tracks, as well as a taxing string of high-profile guest appearances. For every “How Life Changed” -- a soul-bearing anthem in which vivid wistfulness is tinted with a little regret -- there’s an “Amazing” -- hideous rhymes over a clunky Neptunes beat, a career low point for all involved. Neither redemptive nor triumphant, No Mercy is the MC's least compelling release thus far, but there's a sense that he'll regain focus once his legal matters settle. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 11, 2020 | Grand Hustle - EMPIRE

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

T.I. has been playing with the split-personality concept for years, most notably on 2003's "T.I. vs T.I.P.," where the only strict differences were laid out like this: T.I.P.'s women sell weed and have gold teeth, while T.I.'s women have jobs and good credit, and T.I.P. is neither as paid nor as laid-back as T.I. Four years on, after getting real paid (King was the most successful rap album of 2006), the MC constructs an entire album around the penthouse and pavement concept, dividing the program into three acts: T.I.P. (seven tracks), T.I. (seven tracks), and T.I. vs T.I.P. (four tracks). This is also signified in the album's outer sleeve and booklet photos. Roughneck T.I. scowls from a beat-down stoop, gripping a wad of cash; dapper T.I.P. kicks back in a plush den, holding a shot glass. T.I.P. tends to scowl through his rhymes, while you can picture a heavy-lidded T.I. in the vocal booth. Otherwise, the concept is only somewhat perceptible through the sequence of songs, and it's the only way of positioning the album as something beyond just another T.I. release. After the sustained greatness through Trap Muzik, Urban Legend, and King, a fall-off of some degree had to be expected -- especially after reaching the top after a steady climb -- and that's exactly what happens. Though he undeniably remains one of the top MCs, T.I. tends to either reheat familiar material with less fire or tread dangerously close to unrelatable Kingdom Come-like "Look at who's obnoxiously shedding his underdog status!" routines (as on "My Swag"). The productions similarly do not match up to past successes, and even some of obvious choices for singles fall short of past tracks that were never thought to be released as singles. The album is generally enjoyable, and it's doubtful T.I. has to worry about being dethroned within the near future. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

House arrest would likely slow anyone's daily routine. It probably played a factor in T.I.'s decision to write down his rhymes for the first time since his debut. A year of jail time on the horizon would, just the same, impact a writer's output, and it has done just that on Paper Trail. Plenty of these tracks have nothing to do with T.I.'s federal weapons conviction -- escapist fare like the number one Hot 100 single "Whatever You Like" and the mindnumbing "Porn Star," where he's barely coasting -- but there is a sense of urgency and a new dimension of self-reflection not touched upon throughout the holding pattern that was T.I. vs T.I.P. And when he's just battling, as on "I'm Illy," he reaches a level of indignant rage that manages to top that of "I'm Talkin' to You." The M.I.A.-sampling, Kanye West-produced "Swagga Like Us" features verses from Jay-Z, West, and Lil Wayne, but its chunky, rugged, alien beat could've hit even harder with just T.I., whose pent-up swagger makes for the best vocal fit. The cut with multiple features that is deserving of even more talk is "On Top of the World," where B.o.B. and (especially) Ludacris complement atypical wealth-related T.I. boasts like "Cousins in college -- where you think they get tuition from?" The production work also helps place the album above T.I. vs T.I.P.; Toomp's return provides some much needed punch, as does Danja's slow motion, almost bluesy, organ-drenched beat for "No Matter What." © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

Whatever promise T.I. showed on his flawed debut is almost fully realized throughout his excellent 2003 follow-up, Trap Muzik. On the surface, Trap Muzik can be viewed as another record built on glorious superficialities, concerned with little more than material wealth, drug dealing, and champion stature. Dig beneath that surface, and you'll come to appreciate an MC who uses the art of the metaphor like few others; "The Trap," for instance, comes to mean a number of things. David Banner, Kanye West, and DJ Toomp all chip in with key production work, but the MC is the real draw from beginning to end, from the supremely infectious chorus of "24's" to the complex self-analysis of "T.I. vs. T.I.P." By the time 2003 drew to a close, this album had spawned three chart hits -- "24's" had a particularly long-running presence on the video shows -- and the album itself scraped the Top Five of the Billboard album chart. With another record as good as this, T.I. just might become the King of the South that he continually claims to be. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released July 17, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

Inspired by Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man soundtrack, sampled during the intro, T.I.'s eighth album is almost as pieced together as 2010's No Mercy -- a quality somewhat smoothened by a handful of dramatic street-scene skits. No producer handles more than three tracks, and there's another extensive list of featured artists: Meek Mill, ASAP Rocky, Lil Wayne, Andre 3000, R. Kelly, P!nk, Cee Lo Green, and even Akon, who makes for a poor stand-in for Elton John and spoils one of the album's many meditative tracks. Otherwise, little differentiates this from No Mercy, but a greater portion of the content is memorable and striking. This includes the somber "Sorry" (in which T.I. and Andre 3000 drop verses that necessitate numerous listens to fully absorb), the unruly "Ball" (a whirlwind synthesis of throwback and contemporary sounds), and the energizing "Who Want Some" (something of a slowed down sibling to King's "I'm Talkin' to You" with heavier bottom). This is a step forward from the MC's previous effort, but it's been six years since the he has made an album that must be heard. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

T.I. has been playing with the split-personality concept for years, most notably on 2003's "T.I. vs T.I.P.," where the only strict differences were laid out like this: T.I.P.'s women sell weed and have gold teeth, while T.I.'s women have jobs and good credit, and T.I.P. is neither as paid nor as laid-back as T.I. Four years on, after getting real paid (King was the most successful rap album of 2006), the MC constructs an entire album around the penthouse and pavement concept, dividing the program into three acts: T.I.P. (seven tracks), T.I. (seven tracks), and T.I. vs T.I.P. (four tracks). This is also signified in the album's outer sleeve and booklet photos. Roughneck T.I. scowls from a beat-down stoop, gripping a wad of cash; dapper T.I.P. kicks back in a plush den, holding a shot glass. T.I.P. tends to scowl through his rhymes, while you can picture a heavy-lidded T.I. in the vocal booth. Otherwise, the concept is only somewhat perceptible through the sequence of songs, and it's the only way of positioning the album as something beyond just another T.I. release. After the sustained greatness through Trap Muzik, Urban Legend, and King, a fall-off of some degree had to be expected -- especially after reaching the top after a steady climb -- and that's exactly what happens. Though he undeniably remains one of the top MCs, T.I. tends to either reheat familiar material with less fire or tread dangerously close to unrelatable Kingdom Come-like "Look at who's obnoxiously shedding his underdog status!" routines (as on "My Swag"). The productions similarly do not match up to past successes, and even some of obvious choices for singles fall short of past tracks that were never thought to be released as singles. The album is generally enjoyable, and it's doubtful T.I. has to worry about being dethroned within the near future. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 1, 2001 | Arista

Atlanta rookie T.I. wants to be taken seriously, but after listening to the first couple of tracks on his debut album, it's hard to do that. The young rapper is filled with so much bluster and confidence that it's hard to take him at face value. I'm Serious is, after all, his first album, and he has the audacity to call himself the king of the South. Despite all the bravado, T.I. still has plenty of lyrical ability and uses it to chronicle his ability to get women ("The Hotel") and to dump women ("I Can't Be Your Man"). He also shows a more sensitive side on the track "I Still Ain't Forgave Myself." Production-wise, I'm Serious doles out plenty of typical Southern-fried funk, with the Neptunes producing one of the best tracks on the album with "What's Yo Name," as well as the title track, "I'm Serious." Unfortunately, too many of the other tracks sound the same and a few are blatant rip-offs, namely "Do It," which is a note-for-note remake of Juvenile's hit "Back That Azz Up." T.I. claims to be the king of the South, but on I'm Serious he fails to show and prove. He does, however, have potential. If his talent ever matches his confidence, he may be headed for stardom. © Jon Azpiri /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 29, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

T.I. went through big ups and big downs after the release of 2003's Trap Muzik. Right after watching two successive singles -- "24s" and "Rubber Band Man" -- become the most successful hits of his career, he was put behind bars for violating probation that resulted from a 1997 arrest on cocaine distribution and the manufacturing and distribution of a controlled substance. He received a three-year prison sentence, only to be granted a work-release program that allowed him to continue making music (he proceeded to record several albums' worth of material). Then there was the MC's surprise performance at a concert for an Atlanta radio station, where he avenged the alleged shots Lil' Flip took at him while he was incarcerated. And that hardly covers all the events that transpired during the 15 months that led to Urban Legend, the follow-up to Trap Muzik. With all that chaos surrounding T.I., it's disappointing to hear him retracing his steps, rewriting old lines, developing with little progress. At the negative end, there's "Countdown," a flimsy rehash of "Rubber Band Man." At the positive end, there's "Bring Em Out" -- a rowdy Swizz Beatz production with blaring synth horns and a sampled Jay-Z (from "What More Can I Say") acting as hype man, in which T.I. rides the beat while bouncing off it at the same time. Some of his most incisive moments are delivered when the mood is somber, as on "Prayin for Help," where he expresses pain and regret without dealing in clichés. Mannie Fresh, the Neptunes, Jazze Pha, and Scott Storch also contribute beats; some are perfectly satisfactory, none are highlight-reel worthy. Perhaps it's asking too much to expect T.I. to show as much growth here as he did on Trap Muzik, but -- as is the case with Jadakiss -- remaining patient for that classic album (and you know he has one in him) is getting tough. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released December 16, 2016 | T.I. - Roc Nation

"'Picture Me Mobbin' is a floating, ego-boosting, cerebral bout of ecstasy assisted by the-Dream. The reflective closer 'Take Da Wheel' offers a peek into his faith..." © TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 28, 2017 | Grand Hustle, LLC

Released the same week as ATL, his big-screen debut, T.I.'s fourth album isn't the leap forward he's been threatening to make, but it does carry the best set of productions he has been given to work with, and it guarantees that he won't be leaving the singles charts any time soon. On a steady basis since 2003, the MC has been responsible for some of the most memorable rap singles of the decade. "24's," "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," "Rubberband Man," "Bring Em Out," "U Don't Know Me," and the underappreciated "ASAP" amount to a run as impressive as anyone else's during the same years, and the streak continued with King's first official single. The slow victory lap that is "What You Know" is T.I.'s greatest track yet, a Toomp production with high and low synthesizer notes -- all of which sound like severely pitched-down synthetic horn lines -- drawn out to the point where they're practically bleeding into one another; T.I. similarly extends his syllables ("Just keep it very cooool, or we will bury yooou") for maximum looming effect. The track is emblematic of the album in that T.I. is basically saying the same things he has said many times before, but he's finding slightly different ways to say them, and as long as he doesn't get lackadaisical and his producers keep up, he'll be at the top of his game. The swarming all-out-assault "I'm Talking to You" and the Rick Rubin-worthy "You Know Who" play roles similar to that of Urban Legend's "Bring Em Out," and though neither one is quite as swift, they add further muscle to an MC who tends to be regarded as smooth. Some of the less energetic tracks weigh the 75-minute album down, but "Why You Wanna" works surprisingly well, given that T.I. tends to sound out of place when he's playing loverman and that the plangent keyboards from Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman" really have no business being anywhere near a rap track. It is frustrating that T.I. has only been refining his material since 2003's Trap Muzik, but that has been more than enough to gradually raise his profile. Maybe he needs a flop to spark some risk-taking. For better or worse, it doesn't look like that will be happening anytime soon. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 23, 2016 | T.I. - Roc Nation

In a year that witnessed news headlines and race relations bubble to a dangerous boiling point, the artist formerly known as T.I. returned with his fourth EP, 2016's Us or Else. Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, the six-song release presented an unflinching and socially conscious look at race and power in America. One of Tip's most honest works to date, Us or Else collects outspoken guest voices like Big K.R.I.T. ("Switchin Lanes"), Meek Mill and Migos' Quavo ("Black Man"), and Killer Mike ("40 Acres") on a raw collection of protest rap. Like Vince Staples, Kendrick Lamar, and Deniro Farrar, T.I.'s delivery is focused and deadly serious, especially on the album centerpiece and highlight "Warzone." Strategically employing classic soul and R&B samples atop contemporary production, Us or Else serves as a sonic link between periods of historic struggle with a message and intent that remain painfully relevant. © Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 16, 2014 | Grand Hustle - Columbia