This album shows a new dimension of self-reflection, not previously seen in any of T.I.’s work. ..he’s embraced his situation by transforming his woes into a reflective, enjoyable album that may be his most honest work to date.
On T.I.’s new album, “Paper Trail,” the battle between the Atlanta rapper (born Clifford Harris) and his thugging alter ego Tip has already taken it’s toll. The story of how T.I., already an ex-felon, was snitched on by his bodyguard, busted in a sting operation, caught with automatic weapons & silencers, and brung up on federal weapons charges has been well told by the media over the past year. He’s in the middle of serving 1,000 hours of community service and will soon serve a year in prison for gun possession. So unlike his previous effort, “T.I. vs. T.I.P,” this new LP arrives with drama and baggage that has not been completely manufactured.
The self proclaimed “King of the South” recorded his sixth album while under house arrest, which probably played a factor in T.I.’s decision to write down his rhymes for the first time since 2003’s “Trap Muzik.” Through this process he comes out on “Paper Trail” sounding more creative & more polished than ever before. Although some recent mixtape tracks suggested we might be getting a “25th Hour”-like confessional from Tip on his way to his upcoming jail term, “Paper Trail” bases itself on the assumption that everything’s going to be all right for him, personally and financially. But with that said, this album also shows a new dimension of self-reflection, not previously seen in any of T.I.’s work.
Throughout “Paper Trail,” T.I. has the urgency of a man rapping on borrowed time, showing up the best rappers in the game on the epic collaboration “Swagga Like Us” (feat. Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne & Kanye West) which samples M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” (supposedly, Jay-Z will be putting this track on his new album as well). T.I. keeps the intensity up while insulting rappers he doesn’t like (namely Shawty Lo) on “What Up, What’s Haapnin’,” and making up with the rapper he has battled with for most of his career when he comes together with Ludacris for the triumphant cut, “On Top of the World” (also feat. B.o.B.). Despite a few pop-leaning hip hop anthems, (including the playful No. 1 single “Whatever You Like”) and appearances by Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Swizz Beatz & John Legend, the focus remains squarely on T.I. throughout.
When you’ve got a lot of distractions, especially looming prison time on the horizon, it’s not always the best to keep everything (including your emotions) bottled up. But T.I. hasn’t given in to his situation. Instead, he’s embraced his situation by transforming his woes into a reflective, enjoyable album that may be his most honest work to date. Pharrell Williams said it best when describing T.I. as the “Jay-Z of the south.” Truer words have never been spoken & “Paper Trail” is certainly a candidate for “Album of the Year.”
-“Ready For Whatever”
-“On Top of the World”
-“No Matter What”
-“Swagga Like Us”
-“You Ain’t Missin’ Nothing”
-“Dead And Gone”