Review Summary: A year after the birth of his alter ego, Southern-born rapper T.I. still knows how to burn the charts and impress the critics.
A year after the birth of his alter ego, southern-born rapper T.I. still knows how to burn the charts and impress the critics. With a grand total of 7 singles all topping the #1 spot over the last few years, much was expected of Paper Trail
. It delivered, but not to its fullest. While the production promised to be his best, it still leaves empty spaces. However, the maturity evolves through his lyrics, which seem less occupied with his cars and more focused on problems concerning politics. Also, he lets go of some of the reasons that dropped his game. The leap is risky, especially since his last album, the mediocre T.I. vs T.I.P.
, popped out more pointless skits than The College Dropout
. Needless to say, the album flows perfectly from start to finish without distraction.
The first thing you would notice is the change in production, which is surprisingly good. The beats present long snare drums, violent basslines and sample-driven tracks. If all else fails about the album, production-wise it proves to be more than just flash. The first single, Whatever You Like
, is your typical radio-friendly song. From the catchy hook, to the catchy chorus, and not to mention T.I.'s unmistakebly catchy flow, it screams attention to the mainstream. Athe end of the day, it lacks that Grand Hustle hardness we've all grown to like, but there are signs of progression. Swagga Like Us
is the next song to raise a few eyebrows. The structure is built up of a sample from MIA's Paper Planes
and repeated in a similar tone to Lil Wayne's A Milli
. The beat is basically drum and bass over siren noises. It could've been one of the most impressive tracks on the album, except for the fact that it drew way too much attention with the features of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye West. With that said, if you'd wish to sell out any further, getting T-Pain in the song would've been a waste of potential. Although both Wayne and West use a vocoder during their verses, its much more distinguishable than their horrid solo efforts. What Swagga Like Us
has failed to do is show any originality along with the album, even with a beat as good as that.
does have its fair share of moments in the spotlight. Ready For Whatever
has T.I. spitting some of his best rhymes over a stylish modern beat. His split personality makes it impossible to tell this track apart from his previous album, but definitely keeps his hardcore image without bragging too much. Live Your Life
is possibly the strangest song on the album. The intro samples the very popular techno song, Numa Numa, and transforms it into Rihanna's flowing vocals. Its also the official second single, and not hard to see why. T.I.'s choice of topic is strange, since he raps against the usual cars and bling. His rhymes are intelligent, clean and innovative:
I’m the opposite of moderate, immaculately polished with the spirit of a hustler and the swagger of a college kid.
Allergic to the counterfeit, impartial to the politics.
Articulate but still will grab a nigga by the collar quick.
While I can't stand the sound of Rihanna's voice any further, Live Your Life
has some exceptions. A definite highlight of the album, and amazingly accurate to its topic. No Matter What
is another shining hit, with T.I.'s trademark guitar riff samples thrown in over beats by Timbaland's prodigy producer, Danja. It might've just been a promo for the album, but quickly become one of my favorites. The rest of Paper Trail
flows into each other with stunning production work, and some of T.I.'s best and hardest rhymes to date.
The Dirty King of the South is no perfectionist when it comes to extraordinary hip-hop, but always takes his place as an entertainer. Paper Trail
holds up well, and dare I say, surpasses Tha Carter III in almost every way. T.I. might be one of the best mainstream rappers on the market, but in the eyes of the matured musicians who look for something innovative, this album sinks under its own pressure. Your money is well spent, as Paper Trail
is worthwhile and, well... fun to listen to.
Definitely check out:
No Matter What
Ready For Whatever
What Up, What's Happenin'