September 26, 2008

T.I. - Paper Trail: Album Review

On Tuesday Sept. 30, T.I. will release his sixth studio album “Paper Trail”. Now before I get into critiquing the brotha’s album, I want to make it clear that I listened to a bootleg version for this review but will be purchasing the actual CD to support a fellow artist. Plus, the album is good enough to get bought anyway.

1. 56 Barz – The intro to the album, this song is clearly a lyrical warm-up jog for the versatile MC. The anti-climactic beat puts listeners in position to expect more from the next 17 cuts, and he makes sure we know what other rappers are in his league. (3/5)

2. I’m Illy – No, not “A Millie”. DJ Toomp gives you something to make trunks thump from ATL to NYC, while T.I. lets us know how fresh he is in every aspect of his career. He even challenges us to re-evaluate his position as a Hip-hop heavyweight by declaring he’s “the hottest n*gga rappin’ since Tupac”. (4/5)

3. Ready For Whatever – Since he has a 1 year bid to serve for purchasing machine guns as an ex-felon, it’s of no surprise that he’d dedicate a track to getting his thoughts off his mind about the situation. He explains his situation with a sense of understanding and humility, which is refreshing to see out of a rapper these days. (5/5)

4. On Top Of The World (feat. Ludacris & B.o.B.) – Hotlanta definitely gets some good representation in this song. DJ Toomp is a maestro on the beats once again, recent Grand Hustle signee B.o.B. handles the hook like a seasoned pro, and Ludacris takes some shots back at Samuel L. Jackson for saying rappers couldn’t act. There’s so much goin on T.I. almost gets overshadowed on this song… almost. (4/5)

5. Live Your Life (feat. Rihanna) – When I first heard this song at the MTV Awards, I thought it was a good commercial move by sampling the “Numa Numa Song” and getting Rihanna to switch up the lyrics, but now it’s getting just as annoying as the original. Fun while it lasted tho. (3.5/5)

6. Whatever You Like – T.I. always has one or two songs for the folks who are tryna get their grown & sexy on. Jim Jonsin keeps listeners mesmerized by the synthesizer soundscape and T.I.’s hook tugs on ladies’ heartstrings, while giving the fellas something to whisper in her ear. (4.5/5)

7. No Matter What – On this song, he really shows the world Cliff Harris. Coming at the haters & naysayers, putting Shawty Lo in his place, and letting us know the strength of his faith. If anything happens to him in prison, this album will really be his paper trail. Props to Danja on the beat. (5/5)

8. My Life, Your Entertainment – ATL reppin’ once again, this time bringing in R&B sensation Usher. For a minute I thought getting Usher on a track might be a played out move, but the minute I listened I regretted thinking that. Drumma Boy is really establishing himself as a producer-to-be-reckoned-with and T.I. & Usher get the chance to come back at all the gossip outlets and rumor mill stories about them. (4/5)

9. Porn Star – Another song for those folks getting their grown & sexy on… or just getting their sex on for that matter. “Porn Star” delves deep into the sexual escapades that T.I. wants to take a lucky lady on. Decent production, generic topic, but good wordplay. (3/5)

10. Swing Ya Rag (feat. Swizz Beatz) – I swear, Swizz Beatz is one of the best producers in the game at making you want to stand on your desk at the office and tear your shirt off on some ol’ wild out sh*t. It kinda reminds me of that Petey Pablo song, but definitely revamped for 2K8. (3.5/5)

11. What Up, What’s Haapnin’ – This song is the “Ether” to Shawty Lo’s flimsy career. Classic. (5/5)

12. Every Chance I Get – Back to ballin’. T.I. takes up the generic “I’m gonna ball” theme for this track. He still manages to do it better than a lot of other rappers, but at this point I want to hear some other topics. Decent effort. (3/5)

13. Swagger Like Us (feat. Kanye West, Jay-Z, & Lil’ Wayne) – Probably the song of the season. The four biggest heavyweights in Hip-hop collab for this effort. Kanye is a genius for finding that M.I.A. sample for the hook, and every single MC murders their verse. I swear they all co-ghostwrote Diddy’s version of this track too. (5/5)

14. Slide Show (feat. John Legend) – T.I. gets reminiscent again, this time running through memories of his past and how he visualizes them as pictures in a slideshow. His impending prison sentence is really bringing a side out of him that I don’t think has been revealed much on any of his other albums. Kanye helmed the boards for this song too. (4/5)

15. You Ain’t Missin’ Nothin’ – This song is soaked full of emotion, letting his fallen comrades know that even though they are gone they’re in a better place. He’s really been through a lot, and once again isn’t afraid to show it. DJ Toomp gets more soulful with the beat and it matches the verses perfectly. (5/5)

16. Dead and Gone (feat. Justin Timberlake) – It seems JT is really learning from Timbaland, cuz at first I thought it was Timbo on the beat and sure enough it was Justin. If that wasn’t impressive enough, T.I. brings back his classic flow and rounds out the album with a very solid single. (5/5)

Overall Rating: (4/5)
If T.I. can keep his head on his shoulders while in prison, and comes out a more focused and determined agent of positivity, I think his next album will be even more impressive and personal than this one. At first listen, the album didn’t live up to his best in my opinion (“King”), but the more I hear its songs over & over the more I have grown to appreciate it. It’s definitely worth picking up when it drops next Tuesday, so enjoy.

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