Review Summary: T.I.'s ready to make the album of his career, and this could very well be the stepping stone to his magnum opus.
Since returning home from his incarceration, T.I. seems to have made it a strong point to make some changes in his life, looking to abandon the poor decisions that staggered his prodigious rise to fame and self-proclaimed triumph over the southern hip-hop scene back in 2006 and adopt significantly more responsibilities. Perhaps his time in the public eye vis-a-vis the reality tv shows he has arranged has forced some maturation, or maybe it’s that his kids are old enough to understand the morality of his decisions, but Harris has strived to stress through his charity and parenting that he understands his responsibilities and is, perhaps, turning over a new leaf. As a musician, T.I. has lately been meticulous about the projects he wishes to sign on to – and he’s had the Midas touch throughout 2012, renegading tracks on both the restlessly anticipated follow up to Big Boi’s 2009 masterpiece Sir Lucious Left Foot
and the highly touted mammoth of an El-P produced LP that was Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music
, as well as leaking the introspective and overtly lyrical “Sorry,” which with Andre 3000’s stellar verse established a strong buzz for Harris’ eighth studio album: Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head
. As a prominent rapper in the mainstream, Harris has always had strong impetus to deliver both club-friendly tracks and hard-mouthed bangers, but the growth he hopes for demands scrutiny and contemplation. In a way, the title of the album is a perfect juxtaposition of the variety of styles Tip wishes to employ; he’s still the same cold-ass trouble man that he’s always been, but the lifestyle is incongruent with his evolution as a man and a father, and the immediacy of his transformation weighs on him. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much of a thread that promotes any sort of continuity between the two competing ideas, and the album comes off more as a medley of songs hoping to develop the same general ideas than a consistent album with a strong and carefully devised direction, which his 2007 album T.I. vs. T.I.P.
had at least a semblance of. What Trouble Man
has on any of Harris’ previous efforts, however, is that it is much more mature on all fronts.
is pretty top heavy with the hard cuts, picking up directly where “Big Beast” and “In the A” leave off; “G Season” features a thunderous beat underneath adamant braggadocio, and though Meek Mill’s verse is all but forgettable, T.I.’s unyielding fury on the track is the affirmation that the verses we heard from him earlier this year weren’t flukes. “Addresses” is a brazen-as-fuck punch straight to the throat of irrelevant Atlanta rapper Alley Boy, with Tip snarling his credentials with animus chagrin and authoritative swagger. Looking past the anger and smashmouth hip-hop, there are several tracks on the album that serve as Tip’s emotional outlet; he still laments the loss of his best friend Philant Johnson and wants to do right by his family. “Wonderful Life” features a heartfelt dialogue between the two, with a crestfallen T.I. still coping with the guilt of Johnson taking a bullet that wasn’t meant for him. And album closer “Hallelujah” is a straight-out-of-left-field ode to Jesus that sees T.I. meditating on his faith and the struggles he has faced as an adult. The album’s primary issue though is that it is too rife with undeveloped filler tracks that detract from the album’s direction by pausing briefly to attempt a top 40 hit, and with a 70+ minute runtime, the bland or otherwise downright awful tracks take a huge toll on the listener. “Guns and Roses” is an underdeveloped break-up song on which T.I. describes in minute, vapid detail the extreme love and hate he has for a woman, not knowing whether to “kiss her or kill her,” but it’s done so poorly and such claims seem to be so unfounded that the lyrics almost feel like comedic shock rap, impossible to take seriously. And “Cruisin’” is a vacuous autotuned ballad dedicated to his girl, with the unreal lyrics “shawty came out the house with/ a bra and panties and her jeans/ that’s an outfit,” and about a third of the album (including the above two songs) are strongly catered to the mainstream with obvious hopes of breaking onto the radio. It’s not enough to outweigh the standout tracks on the album but it does force the album to drag far too often to warrant complete listens; one would be better off just skipping through the album or otherwise purging the filler from his/her library. Ultimately, Trouble Man
showcases T.I.’s acerbic rhymes and aggressive delivery, and there are brief flashes of an inspired man that pepper the album, but it isn’t an album that needs to be heard; it’s merely the stepping stone to what could truly be a remarkable hip-hop album the next time he brings an LP to the table.