Review: 4 out of 5
Best Songs: Ready for Whatever, On Top ff the World, Gimme Some, Live Your Life, Porn Star, Dead and Gone
Let’s be real T.I.’s last two albums King and T.I. Vs. T.I.P. were sub-par efforts that didn’t really showcase T.I.’s song making abilities but rather came off as rushed efforts to turn T.I. into a star. Don’t get me wrong, I still maintain that one of the best albums of the decade is T.I.’s third album Urban Legend -which if you are T.I. fan should check out. After his last album T.I. Vs T.I.P, I was pretty sure that the T.I. from the Urban Legend days was gone because T.I. had no obstacles in his life and seemed to be fresh out of passion and new ideas. When he was arrested for buying Bid laden guns and faced the possibility of doing football numbers I had a feeling he would come back harder than ever because he put out Urban Legend right after he came out of jail. Needless to say, my predication was bang on. Even though we have yet to hear Kanye’s upcoming 808’s & Heartbreak, Paper Trail is looking to be the most complete album of 2008. Now let’s get into the breakdown.
1. 56 Barz (Produced by Dj Toomp)
T.I. reunites with long time beatsmith Dj Toomp for the intro song which sees T.I. in classic Urban Legend form over a signature Toomp drum line. He also surprisingly rates Lupe Fiasco as one of the greats. Not that I disagree, but it at least shows T.I.’s listening to real lyricists and not just Big Kuntry King.
2. I’m Illy (Produced by Chuck Diesel)
Every album T.I. puts out he puts one of these aggressive lyrical joints which don’t usually come out right. This time around, however, he puts together a joint that isn’t corny, doesn’t have a wack beat, or isn’t too “try hard”. T.I. also brings up his gun case and you can already figure it’s going to be his primary force throughout the album.
3. Ready for Whatever (Produced by Drumma Boy)
A really deep joint about, you guessed it, T.I.’s gun case. He tries to explain that his reason for his gun purchases was based on being paranoid from the fact that his friend’s killer hadn’t been caught and that he needed to protect himself and his family. Even though I once called T.I. a blithering idiot, I’m buying his argument simply because if I had so much to lose I would probably do whatever I could to protect it too.
4. On Top of the World featuring Ludacris and B.O.B. (Produced by Nard & B)
Who would have thought T.I. and Ludacris would actually make a hot song together? This is one of the stand out tracks on the album which will likely make it a single choice.
5. Live Your Life featuring Rihanna (Produced by Canei, co-produced by Just Blaze
The moment you hear that weird sample at the beginning and Rihanna’s incredible hook you know this is going to be one of the biggest songs of the year. To top things off, T.I. dedicates the song to U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq which is a perfect set up for an “army themed” video and subsequent Grammy award. Let’s not forget T.I.’s inspirational vocals, something he has always been really good at.
6. Whatever You Like (Produced by Jim Jonsin)
Even though I still have disdain for this song it has slightly grown on me. Slightly being the operative word. I just can’t imagine tricking on a girl to the extent T.I. would, I guess I come from that Big L era. And why does T.I. keep talking to “Jim”? Even though I heard that’s his engineer it’s a little homo when your saying “Hey Jim” after talking about tricking.
7. No Matter What (Produced by Danja)
This has to be the most boring beat ever. It reminds me of Elvis in Hawaii. Thought I’m sure if I we’re high…wait Danja produced this? WTF.
8. My Life Your Entertainment (Produced by Usher)
As soon as I saw Usher was on this song I thought about the abortion that he and Jay-Z made on Kingdom Come and shuttered to think what would he make with T.I. Surprisingly, the pair come up with a hot joint that has potential to be a single if Usher gets his weight up. Again this song is motivated by T.I.’s gun conviction.
9. Porn Star featuring Ricco Barrino (Produced by Lil’ C)
This is one of T.I.’s girl songs that didn’t make me cringe. The production is superb and provides for a sexy backdrop for T.I. to spit his A game to his huge female base. Speaking of which, do you know how many females would sell their soul for this guy? Anyway, if the song wasn’t named Porn Star it would probably be the “girl single”.
10. Swing Ya Rag (Produced by Swizz Beatz)
A classic T.I. stadium anthem in the same vein as “What You Know” and “Bring ‘Em Out”. It just doesn’t make sense that you swing your rag and yet you claim you don’t dance.
11. What Up, What’s Happenin (Produced by Drumma Boy)
This is the song where T.I. goes awol on that super wack Shawty Lo. Even though T.I. doesn’t have punchlines in the traditional sense, he has a way of just humiliating opponents through “lyrical arguments” (and carefully shot videos).
12. Every Chance I Get (Produced by DJ Toomp)
What would a T.I. album be without baseless threats to f*ck your wife? I wonder how T.I.’s wifey Tiny feels about this, my girl gets mad at Weekend Jump Off.
13. Swagga Like Us (Produced by Kanye West)
You’ve already heard this and are probably working on your remix. The question on everyone’s mind is who came the hardest? I’m swaying toward T.I.
14. Slide Show featuring John Legend (Produced by Elvis ‘Blac Elvis’ Williams)
T.I. pairs up with John Legend to talk about his up bringing in the streets. There’s line where he says, “Maybe I’d a been Kanye, instead of seeing gun play”. I wonder how big headed Yeezy will take this?
15. You Ain’t Missin’ Nothin (Produced by Drumma Boy)
Aside from being great at creating stadium anthems, T.I. rekindles his talent for writing deeply personal songs. Following in the tradition of Pray from Urban Legend T.I. breaks down the outside world for his locked up comrades.
16. Dead and Gone featuring Justin Timberlake (Produced by Rob Knox)
One of the best joints on the album hands down. Who would have thought T.I. and Timberlake would do it again? Over what sounds like a Timbo beat, T.I. rapid flow delivery meticulously details the consequences of getting into frivolous beef. Even though I think most kids today know it’s stupid to kill someone if they step on your sneakers it’s still a message that needs to be put out there.
I can’t believe how much this album reminds me of Urban Legend. I might even say it’s the new and improved Urban Legend because for one, the production is much better and secondly the guest spots are better. The only thing lacking from making this a real classic is that T.I. could have varied his subject matter up and switched up his flow more. What happened to that cookie monster flow from Top Back and What You Know? That was amazing.