Album Review: T.I. “PAPER TRAIL”
1. 56 Bars (Intro)
There was no slow, dramatic style intro. T.I.P and Toomp just jumped right in it. The beat came right in with the usual swagger and down south bounce that T.I. usually laces. I personally would have preferred a more epic intro to back up the hype of the CD. But T.I. didn’t disappoint though. The wordplay was highly impressive and T.I. sounded confident as ever. The subject matter? Basically telling the listeners we don’t need the wack rappers. You can hear the advanced word usage and vocabulary in this joint and can automatically can say that T.I on the pen is the illest you’ve heard from here. 5/5 stars for the energetic intro.
2. I’m Illy
I’m Illy didn’t hesitant to come right in at all. It almost was like a continuance of the intro. The production followed a “Let the Beat Build” format. The King sounded just as confident and continued the extended advanced wordplay with an overabundance of similes in the style of playing with proper nouns of names and titles. I will say that I felt the hook could have used some work. It seemed real simple and didn’t exhibit the same focus that was given to the verses. It also made T.I sounds a tad bit like V.I.C (LOL….Silly….Illy….sounds the same). I give this song 3/5 stars.
3. Ready for Whatever
I really liked the introduction to the production. The electric guitar set it off. I felt the drum kit used could have been a tad more epic, with some harder kicks and snare hits. T.I gets introspective and personal on this joint. It’s definitely not single material, but a great album track. This type of personal subject matter really gives you a chance to look into the rapper’s life and it allows him to become tangible. Listeners are able to really understand the man and the gun charge situation more. Great respect points for T.I on this joint. The tones are motivational and real. His commentary at the end of the song definitely cosigned this idea. 5/5 stars for this joint from T.I.P.
4. On Top of The World
T.I & Ludacris together finally! I know you remembered them beefing backing in the day. It now seems that the two rappers have grown up and connected for a collaboration of supposed epic proportions. The production wasn’t super impressive with me. I felt it sounded pretty generic and didn’t capture my attention well. T.I’s verse was sort of boring and easily forgettable. Ludacris’ delivery alone NEVER allows him to be forgettable. He definitely outshines the album artists’ effort on this track, with plenty of energy and flow change-ups throughout. The hook was slightly annoying. It is semi-catchy though, but I felt could have used work.
5. Live Your Life (feat. Rihanna)
The track began with the presentation of an interesting sample used for the beat. Rihanna served the hook very nicely and the added background exclamations really set it off. It definitely had an “anthem” feel to it. The production was definitely catchy and had me bobbing my head back and forth. The beat and flow reminded me of a faster paced version of T.I’s style on his debut single “No Matter What”. T.I. basically discussed that his previous promotion of the “gangsta” life deserved a break. He’s grown up as a person and has began to value life more. He broke down what hip hop was all about and downplayed how most artists are on childish games involving beef and the glorification of material gain. Overall, the song is classic status. 5/5 stars for this joint.
6. Whatever You Like
I heard this single and viewed the video for the track about 3 weeks before the album’s release. The track overall was great and it showed T.I. in a different light. I felt he hadn’t didn’t do a track like this since “Why You Wanna” from the KING album. This track seemed less annoying than that track though. T.I.’s sing-song style resembled that of Nelly’s previous weeks. The production was very eclectic. I didn’t like the hook in it’s entirety as much as the “Whatever You Like” part…lol. The verses didn’t go too in depth. They definitely kept a melodic flow and catchy approached. I will say you will probably find yourself listening subconsciously and being trapped in the bounce of the track without actually listening in depth to the words. If that’s not a definite recipe for a successful single in this age’s music industry, I don’t know what is. Overall, though a great song, I only give this song 3/5 stars for it’s performance. I feel T.I. and/or his label played it safe with this record and it lacked substance and subject matter.
7. No Matter What
One of the hottest singles I’ve ever heard released from T.I ever. As a matter of fact, one of the hottest songs from his plethora of discography ever. It definitely makes the top 5. This song revealed nothing but confident, introspective personal rhymes about T.I’s legal issues, his response to the criticism and his triumph over trial (pun intended). The hook served straightforward inspirational lines stating “I ain’t dead, I ain’t done”, letting the world know that Mr. Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. is far from finished. It took shots at whoever has been trying to throw salt (Shawty Lo, blog sites, media) that people always want to take shots at someone when they are down. He’s now’s back and all their plans are ruined. As the drum kit fades out in the last four bars of the third verse, the platinum rapper states “Wonder how I face years and I’m still chillin’? Easy, let go and let god deal wit it.” I couldn’t have said it better.
8. My Life, Your Entertainment (featuring Usher)
This song features one of Usher’s very low list of hook feature appearances. T.I. continues to spit personally introspective rhymes about his life and what he’s went through as a star. As the title states, the fans watch it like a show, but it’s his real life. Overall, this track didn’t move me to well. It easily became boring as it continued and Usher’s solo part could have completely been removed because he really brought the songs energy down. Drumma Boy’s production was the highlight of this track. Overall, I give it 3/5 stars for the effort, but definitely not a standout track on the album in my opinion.
9. Porn Star
Lil C’ served up some really eclectic styled production on this track. It sounded like a well-flipped jazz sample with some rim shots and simple kicks and snares added and the signature transitional sound known from Young Dro’s “Shoulder Lean”. T.I. serves up the track with some commentary to a beautiful woman he is wooing at the club for a late night rendezvous. The title definitely is appropriate for the inappropriate for young ears, explicit subject matter. The chorus was served up by an unknown, sultry tenor vocalist. Overall, the track was decent, but not a standout track for me. I’m sure it will be in heavy rotation for the ladies though. 3/5 stars.
10. Swing Ya Rag
Bring Em” Out Pt. 2 maybe? Swizz Beats served up the catchy and epic production as usual. The hook was highly catchy and the track had it’s capital S-W-agger up. The swing back and forth production on the verses makes for a great street anthem to bang in the speakers. T.I. gets his cocky swagger flow on while name-dropping high priced and well known brand names from Gucci or Louie rags. This is definitely a standout track on the album production and lyrically/delivery wise. I would probably say one of the best tracks on the album period. 5/5 stars for this Swizzy/T.I.P connection.
11. What’s Up, What’s Happening
I heard this song previous to the release. The production in my opinion is absolutely nuts! Drumma Boy really goes in on this with an original digital composition of hi-hats, hard hitting kicks and high energy tempo transitions and crescendos. T.I. gets his confident, aggressive flow on as he talks directly to his “haters”, (more likely an extended diss response to Shawty Lo, an artist who has been the most vocal of his criticism of the rapper). On the second verse, he breaks down his accomplishments in the game and how he still keeps his status in the streets and where he came from. Confirmation of it’s direction towards Shawty Lo are lines such as “Tell em take ya best shot gon get yourself hot, cuz I yelled “Bankhead” and you felt left out, I ain’t mention yo’ name that’s what all this bout?!”, as well as a satirical reenactment of a possible conversation that went down between Shawty Lo and other “hater” comrades of their plans to try to take T.I.’s career out when he was under fire for his gun charge.
“”I really hate his a**
I don’t like him neither”
“We’ll do a song together maybe then we could beat him”
“Somehow he must be stopped, something must be done”
“If we can’t knock him off lets just try him when he get caught with guns”
“Then he’ll be really done, and we really won”
“Any more ideas? Suggestions anyone?”
“How about we stay up all night? On the blog site”
“Spread vicious lies and nasty rumors we could all write”
Overall, I felt it was a very solid song and worthy of classic status. 5/5 stars for this joint.
12. Every Chance I Get
DJ Toomp served as a usual signature sounding “trill” sounding epic production. I felt the hook could have used work. I really wasn’t feeling T.I’s lyrics on the hook. I don’t know…I just didn’t personally like the subject matter. His lyrics were decent on this and it certainly didn’t lack clever wordplay. It’s a tad cockier and a little more on the obnoxious side than the previous tracks. Overall, I give this joint 3/5 stars. The beat bangs though. It certainly bangs. He definitely snapped on [Shawty Lo] hard with his angry commentary at the end of the song. LOL . Nice T.I.
13. Swagger Like Us (featuring Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne & MIA [through the sample]
We’ve heard enough of this for the past few weeks! LOL. Definitely an all star lineup. Kanye’s production is decent. I wouldn’t say it’s his best, just like that “Jockin Jay-Z”. It really wasn’t moving me. The track sort of became boring after a while. Kanye’s verse was pretty decent, though I did expect more for Ye, and the voice box needs to go. Jay’s verse was decent, but it wasn’t classic Jay. I was a little disappointed with his effort. Lil Wayne did pretty straight. His verse wasn’t too bad. But T.I smashed the track. In my opinion he had the best verse. That’s how it should be on your own song, but with all those other legends, that’s not how it should be. But that’s how it panned out. This song is decent though. It’s a definite banger. I can’t comment if it’s a classic or not yet. It needs a little more time to marinate. My favorite rapper Kanye seems to be dropping in illness to me, and I am a bit concerned with that. I’m hoping to hear some better stuff in the future. I will say though, this is a standout track on the album! Probably the second best on here. What T.I. said was straight truth: these verses on this album were definitely autobiographical.
14. Slide Show (featuring John Legend)
I’m loving the production from Blac Elvis. This is exactly what I expected from a T.I./John Legend collaboration. You have a classic John Legend vibe and T.I.’s introspective, soulful style flow with a twist of southern slur. I really hope this becomes a single. This is some true and absolutely real talk from T.I.P. The very soulful ballad sums up what true talent T.I has as an artist, one of the greatest of our times. 5/5 Stars. This is a definite classic. I wished for a third verse from T.I. It seemed like the track ended too quickly. That really leads me to believe it may be a single though and it’s short for radio purposes.
My favorite passage was:
As a juvenile, caught cases so fluently
Look at my life and learn from it, don’t do it
If I only knew back then what I know now
How much better life would’ve been if I’d have slowed down
Maybe I’d have been Kanye
Instead of seeing gunplay, but God got a plan
How I understand one day
But one day of life like a snapshot taken
Just believe you can make it
That definitely summed up T.I’s aim for this album which was to move away from the negative connotations of his image and begin to be anti-detrimental to his fans and listeners and society as a whole. He asks the generation to observe his life and learn from it, not glorify it.
15. You Ain’t Missing Nothing
T.I. follows up with another slow ballad style joint. Drumma Boy showed an entirely style with the jazzy, melodic backdrop. T.I dropped some heartfelt rhymes about some people he’s lost and a good message to people he knows behind bars. This is definite classic status. A very sincere track for T.I’s peoples.
16. Dead and Gone
Justin Timberlake served up the track nicely. Production was great! T.I decided to end the album with a third slower, ballad style track. But he also returned to a fast paced “My Love” style flow, with a taste of Timbo style on the production. Definite autobiographical lyrics about the death of the old T.I. and the rebirth of the new T.I. Also, in my opinion, classic track. I hope it becomes a single as well. 5/5 Stars.
Overall, this was the greatest T.I. album I’ve ever heard and definitely one of the best from this year (Yes…way better than L.A.X in my opinion). I feel this puts T.I. up into primetime caliber, like the status of a Kanye West or Jay-Z, for the most part. He’s found himself as a person and taken responsibility, and above all else, he’s presented himself absolutely real. He opened his life up and spilled it into a notebook and recited it for us. You can’t argue with that. Not one bit! Not at all! I’m definitely not mad at the brother. Since EVERY track wasn’t a classic, I’ll have to give an overall rating of 4/5 stars, instead of perfection status, but it’s definitely close. I’d say it’s caught in that position between an above average album and a hip hop classic…wherever that place is…that’s where the album lies. So much so, I might even have to throw in an extra .5. Yeah. 4.5 stars for “Paper Trail.”. The last three tracks of the album were the kicker. Awesome composition from one of the greatest of our time in hip hop. I look forward to see what the future brings for T.I. Hope you enjoyed as well. That’s just my two cents…and then some.