T.I has always been one of those individuals who has made a lot of money, won a lot of acclaim and yet had always left me puzzled as to just how his own talent supported this high status. He has always been something of a controversial figure and in fact this album was made while a heavy prison sentence hung over him for instructing his bodyguard to buy him an arsenal of guns. However in truth it is this flirting of criminality or past criminality which adds a compelling air to some of these rappers especially those who are able to articulate and paint vivid pictures of the life they once walked within. Therefore it was fair to say that I wasn't exactly holding out too much hope for this album but I am always happy to be proved wrong.
Proved wrong was indeed what I have been with this album. T.I has really taken the time to really focus upon his songs and craft songs that are both compelling, intelligent and intriguing. There are of course the quota of club oriented songs which bring with them, a bouncy beat and simple almost sing along lyrics. In truth though these are relatively few and indeed even for the few club songs, most of them strike a good balance between substance and instant radio songs.
At his best on this album, T.I conveys his own feelings towards the charges hanging over him, his regrets, his conviction to turn away from the troubles, with an effortless artistry of sharp focused and deep lyricism which I had not witnessed before. What really tunes the listener into this album is the fact that he has chosen to be so introspective and really provide the listener with a window into his mind. As a result of this personal album, guest appearances are kept at a minimum so the album does not threaten to lose it's focus. The music chosen for this album seems to sit very well with the theme of the individual songs, therefore creating a harmonious backdrop. An undeniable aspect of T.I's talent though has always been his his ability to get perfectly in sync with any beat and this is also fully present on this album.
There are quite a few excellent songs on this album but my standout tracks are:
Ready For Whatever
Dead and Gone
I still don't consider T.I to be one of the standout rappers but this has certainly been his best effort by some distance. There are a few songs which really feel like fillers but that is not to detract from an overall very good album.
This is my first music album review, so please be gentle with your ratings :)
I'm quite a big hip-hop/rap fan, mainly liking people such as: 2Pac, Tha Outlawz, DJ Quik, and Ice Cube. With most of these artists not releasing much music anymore, I decided that I wanted to listen to somebody new. I like Eminem and D12, but I'm not overly-bothered about The Game, DMX or 50 Cent but remembered that I liked T.I.'s verse on 2Pac's Pac's Life single. And so, with Spotify loaded-up I searched for T.I.
To my surprise, T.I. is something of a rap veteran, having released 6 albums since his recording debut in 2001. I say I was surprised as I was expecting him to be a newcomer that had been mixed into Pac's Life purely to gain some exposure. A little reading around tells you that T.I. is a bit of a bad boy - as I write this review he's currently incarcerated for several offences including weapons charges and drug-related offences. Going to prison is something that comes with the territory for rap stars, and so undeterred, I began listening to T.I.'s latest album Paper Trail.
Paper Trail features a few guest artists (including Usher, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake) on its 16 songs, which last for around an hour and a quarter.
Paper Trail is a very strong album and I'm quite enjoying listening to T.I.'s songs. The first few tracks set the scene for what's probably the album's biggest song titled Life Your Life which features Rhianna. Life Your Life starts with an odd sample from a song I've heard before, but can't remember what it was called (anyone?). T.I.'s rapping and Rhianna's chorus go well together together to create a catchy tune that will appeal to mainstream (non-rap) fans.
The other 2 stand-out songs are My Life Your Entertainment, featuring Usher in which T.I. has a pop at the media always being interested in his business - telling them to "sit back and enjoy the show" - and Slide Show with its distinctive piano tune and catchy chorus.
The rest of the album is also pretty good, even if it doesn't quite reach the heights of the tracks mentioned above.
Overall, I'm happy to say that I've really enjoyed listening to Paper Trail - enough so that I've actually bought the CD so that I can listen to it in the car and put it onto my iPod... and that's saying something cos I haven't bought a CD for years!
Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. is more well know in the entertainment industry as the rapper T.I. In fact T.I will be in prison for a year from the end of this month and I am not quite in the loop with this so he may already be in prison. The reasons for his sentence are due to weapons and possession charges and there is no point going into more detail here. Whilst under house arrest he wrote a lot of the lyrics for this album, Paper Trail.
This title, Paper Trail, is due to him having written down a lot of his lyrics for the tracks on paper and well it has paid off with the album sealing the number 1 spot on its debut in America. It has been certified platinum and has become a critically acclaimed album from a wide range of sources.
Featuring artists include Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Ludacris, John legend, Kanye West, Jay Z and Lil Wayne. So with a line-up like this you are guaranteed at least a few quality tracks and this album more than delivers just a few quality tracks.
Before going into more detail about my specific favourite tracks, I do feel this is a quality album. A lot of rappers these days have become far too repetitive just rapping about girls and cars. It does become boring and it is great to see T.I talk about more down to earth issues. This definitely is the best album I have heard this year and follows closely behind The Game's album in my favourite rap album that I have in the last few months.
My Fav Tracks
Live Your Life - This is a track with Rihanna and is a pretty cool summer track. Rihanna seems to be featuring on a lot of artists tracks here and does a great job with T.I filling in with casual flow during the verse. In terms of lyrics this is as the title suggests, just about not letting the stress about life ruin you from making the most of your life. It really helps pump me up when I need motivating, although not as much as Eye Of The Tiger, which is my favourite motivational track. The beat is awesome and with a great set of speakers and Sub Woofers this can make the ground sway to the beat.
Whatever You Like - Here is a more playful track which is just about saying to the girls that they can have whatever have they like. It is not a track that should be taken too seriously and is really the only club style track in the album. From a recent trip in Miami this track sounds awesome though and just suits the atmosphere. It is the perfect holiday track to get you into the partying mood.
My Life, Your Entertainment - Usher features in this track to excellent effect. Usher always delivers and is an excellent artist in his own right. It is good to see that when featuring he makes sure that he sings in great tracks. This is more aimed towards T.I's critics with the rapping suggesting that everything in his life is entertainment towards the media and he just wants to live his life. You see it links in with the Rihanna track. This whole album is about fighting the critics and just doing what he wants. T.I provides great rapping verses and Usher's hooks are pretty catchy. He even has a go rapping towards the end and this is also pretty good although he should not give up his singing job.
Slide Show - John Legend always gives a soulful performance and there is no exception here. Essentially the lyrics of this track is just about how your life can be defined in moments that can be shown on a slideshow. Like with a lot of the other tracks where singers are featuring, T.I raps the verse and then the singer does the hook. It is a very nice track and a definite standout on this album.
Dead and Gone - I think this is my favourite track on the album and just ahead of the track featuring Usher. Justin Timberlake is excellent in the chorus parts of the track and shines in the finale. The track is just about leaving the past behind and I feel it is more to do with his prison sentence than anything else. T.I also shines are his best and raps straight from the heart. Top track.
Overall this album will definitely go down as a classic for me. Rap is not for everyone, but if anyone wants to get into rap then this album along with The Game's latest album come highly recommend by me. 5 Stars.
"Paper Trail" is T.I.'s sixth album. If you were not aware, this Atlanta rapper was arrested late in 2007 and had been under arrest for a few months on firearm-related charges. During this period of time he decided to record an entire album, he ended up recording in excess of 50 individual tracks so you can expect qulaity for this album in so much potential material.
1. "56 Bars"
T.I. doesn't mess around with any spoken introduction for this album, he gets straight inot his material, as ther is so much of it, it would be a waste to lose tracks for litte unneccesary sections. He establishes his status as a hardcore Gangsta rapper from the Dirty South in this Toomp-produced tune, and since his right-hand man, DJ Toomp didn't have any role in his last album "T.I. vs. T.I.P.", it was great to here him start things off here.
2. "I'm Illy"
Following on nicely from the tune whihc cmae before it, DJ Toomp return to come with his grimey beats for Tip to rhyme along to, and he is given the opportunity to continue exactly what he did on the first track, but I thought that the levels of variation in the beats is what made it seem much more exciting than the first. The subject the tune seems to vay, but he seems to focus upon himself and describing his ruthless TI.P. persona.
3. "Ready For Whatever"
The Dirty South specialist, Drumma Boy, who has worked with Rick Ross, Lil' Scrappy and Ludacris in the past, finds himself on this Cd doing the production, and just as all the times before he manages to come with something big, and quite experimental in comparison to all the safe options he's gone for in the past. You find the rapper, T.I. performign some raps which you woudl expect from him, and by this point in the abum its quite annoying as he hasn't really surprised me, and it hasn't had that much energy.
4. "On Top of the World" (feat. B.o.B and Ludacris)
B.o.B, a rapper signed to T.I.'s Grand Hustle record label, and another southern star in Ludacris, come together to collaborate with T.I. on this tune. With so many Atlanta rappers you find yourself overloaded with quality, and I foudn that this was the first time where I was really excited by the album as Toomp comes with some high-energy club-suited beats, and the featured artists brign something ne to the release. Here they rap about their past ambitions as opposed to their current positions, "...On Top of the World".
5. "Live Your Life" (feat. Rihanna)
This one has some experimental production as Justy Blaze went for somethign new by using O-Zone's "Dragostea din tei" as part of the chorus, this part is re-sung by Rihanna in a much more appealing form as she gives it some urban appeal. I liked the contrast of the clean chorus from this sampled cut, and then a hard set of beats through the rest of the tune.
6. "Whatever You Like"
In reference to his last album, this one has the rapper summerged in his T.I. persona (as opposed to his gritty T.I.P. conuterpart) as he does a tune just for the girls. you have him singing, as well as rapping in this one . It was very suitable, as his harsh accent may be slightly too rough for rapping in a nice way, and so you could tell that with the aid on Jim Jonsin's production he was motivated tyo change his style up.
7. "No Matter What"
This is the first single from the album, and I felt that it was too slow to really hype up T.I.'s return, but as he had been away for so long, peole reacted well once he brought this track out.
There a hard drum beat at a slow marching pace throughout this track and it sets up the feeling of this track, quite a negative one where he explains his climb to strive coming out of a difficult situation. The track excalated the beef between him and Shawty Lo, which resulted in Shawty Lo exposing T.I. as a resident of Riverdale and not Bankhead as he previously claimed, but this changes nothing.
8. "My Life, Your Entertainment" (feat. Usher)
This one has T.I. do an unexpected collab with A-Town's finest R&B talent in the form of Usher. Yourarely have tracks in which Ush takes a secondary role, but with this one, it's nice to only have Ush take part in the chorus to it, as T.I really needs to make a poitn here by explaining the situation which occurred last year, regarding the firearm-related arrest.
9. "Porn Star"
To make it clear what mindset his in for this part of the album, T.I. comes with a sensual track for the ladies here. I found that it possessed similarities which you woudl be able to relate to "Whatever you Like" as the way that the rapper goes about performing the tune in a laid-back manner seems to reflect the way that he is seen to do things in the other single off the album.
10. "Swing Ya Rag" (feat. Swizz Beatz)
This tune has T.I. collaborate with Swizz Beatz once again for yet another club banger, especially considering "Bring 'Em Out" (produced by Swizzy) was what allowed T.I. to break through as a mainstream rap artist. It is a lot more reserved than a lot of what is expected by Swizzy's beats, but as he's doing it for Gnagsta Rap, proper dance tunes are out of the question. Thus you have
11. "What Up, What's Haapin'"
This track directly refers to T.I.'s beef with Shawty Lo and has him lyrically shot-down his competeion. I wouldn't say that its up there with the great diss tracks of the '90s, but along with the video and hype surrounding it, it seems to have a similar amount of tension surrounding it.
12. "Every Chance I Get"
This one has T.I. just having as much fun as he can. It is a nice one to listen to as you can tell that there's absolutely no pressure on the rapper at the time when this was recorded, he just rapped about whatever he wanted, and you can tell this by the content as well as the way in which the words seem to naturally flow from his mouth.
13. "Swagga Like Us" (feat. Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne and Kanye West)
The tune, often shortened to "S.L.U", is an unexpected smasher which has T.I, collaborate with the undisputed kings of Hip Hop. To be honest, I hadn't really written up a list of top artists in this genre, but when you have them in front of you, you realise that here you have the best rappers in the game collaborating together in an experimental piece, produced by Kanye West.
Sampling M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes", you have a track which follows the same sort of feel as what alternative sound M.I.A. comes out with here, as Kanye keeps it quite simple with the marching beat, and then he, and the other rappers just do what they do best. Interestingly they all use the T-Pain auto-tuner, matching the sound of M.I.A.'s voice in the hook, and the effect seems to complement the sound of the raps.
As it gradually began to build, I couldn't imagine what T.I. would sound like with such an effect, and luckily we didn't have to find out as I'm sure it wouldn't have suited his chilled speach as with the other rappers, who have all recently been known to experiment with the technique (Kanye on "Lollipop (Remix)", Jay-Z on "Put On (Remix)" and Lil' Wayne on just about every tune he's recorded since his last album, "Tha Carter III".
14. "Slide Show" (feat. John Legend)
I was expecting to hear T.I. performing a track with Joh Legend, but since the run-up to Legend's new album has come, it seem like he's a good choice to work with, as he's got a lot of momentum going for himslef at this time. have to say that aside fom the well put-together production from kanye, this one didn't really work for me and it was all too clean for me, and didn't really do thie things I like T.I. for, but as it is along the same lines that the Soul musican John Lenged does, it does make sense to go in this direction.
15. "You Ain't Missin' Nothin"
As with the track which came before this one, you have T.I. rapping to some piano-bass music to match his shift in emotions, here you have an emotionally-charged track which has him talk about life without his friend and how things have changed since he's gone whilst in prison. Since he has experienced it all himself, it's very authentic and would probably mean a lot to whoever it's directed towards.
16. "Dead and Gone" (feat. Justin Timberlake)
After there great collab in 2006 with "My love", T.I. come to work with T.I once agian, and just as before you seem to have beats which suit both of the artist, especially since Timberlake has worked closely with Timbaland for so long, it sound to have a lot of his style of drum work added to it. i foudn that this was a great way to end the release and it certainly gives a good lasting impression upon the labum.
A few tunes were turned away from the album, and managed to get leaked, a recommend that if you enjoy this album, then you should also find "Let My Beat Pound".
"Hunt 'Em Down"
This is a very hard track as T.I. comes right up into your face with some hardcore intimidating lyrics about attempting to hunt down and kill people, and it doesn't somund fake as most artists who do this, he raps it with a passion.
The reason for this is as it was recorded directly after his friend, Philant, died in 2006. He just saved it up to release it with this album because it didn't fit in with "T.I. vs. T.I.P." at all. So all of T.I.'s emotions at the time are expressed here with a rage an aggression which you don't doubt.
He says that he didn't even want it released as the quality of the raps and Toomp's production weren't really on the level that they are today, so it's no surprise that I didn't really enjoy it, but I appreciated that he need to express his emotions at the time through music.
For me this album is quite varied in terms of both quality and actual material as T.i chnges his style in lots of different ways just as he has since about the relase of "Urban Legend", although I can appreciate that he shows lots of diffrent aspects to his personality and music, sometimes he goes a little too far into his emotional side for my liking, and this could prevent people from believing the harder material.
Early in the record there ins't much enrgy, but the strength of his rhymes keep you focussed in, however once the club tracks and the singles come out, you find it hard to dislike the material. I found that after this period passed, he went into some really boring tracks which seemed to really put me off. I would have to say that this is far from being one of his best albums, but I still expect it to sell well and top the US Billboards Charts in its first week. In comparison to his newest albums, I would say that this one is weaker than "urabn Legend" "T.I. vs T.I.P.", but better than "King". I expected a lot more from it, but he did give me a few suprising collaborations through the album.
Who is T.I.?
2007 saw the release of TI's fifth studio album, 'TI vs TIP', which I subsequently reviewed -- and although this album wasn't as well received as it's predecessor, 'King' -- it still topped the US Billboard and was one of the most impressive rap albums of the year. Back a year later, 'Paper Trail' is an album inspired by the fact that all the lyrics were written down on paper whilst TI was under house arrest on pending gun charges.
After serving 1,000 hours of community service, TI shall be serving a year prison sentence. The initial arrest came a matter of hours before the Black Entertainment Television award ceremony, and he was charged for the possession of three unregistered machine guns as well as two silencers. Some may wonder why on earth he required these, and although clearly not setting the best example for his fanbase, these charges have prompted him to write some of the best music of his career. Luckily his millions of albums sold worldwide were enough to pay his $3,000,000,000 bail -- although only having little success in the UK.
How was 'Paper Trail' received?
TI's previous albums have all been relatively successful in their own right, however with over 500,000 sales in the opening week, 'Paper Trail' became his most successful debut to date -- even in the climate of lower music sales. Now being the third fastest selling album of the year in the US, it is still a long-way behind Lil Wayne who sold over a million copies of 'The Carter III' in the opening seven-days. Critics have described the album as a mixture of party anthems as well as 'sloppy crossovers' into other genres.
Clifford Harris Jr is still at the highest point of his career at the age of 28, despite being a convicted felon. The trial is still out however on whether or not he can conquer the UK market, being much smaller we are yet to take a liking to him with the album charting at #49.
What do I think?
01, 56 Bars (Intro) (3.02), 2*
02, I'm Illy (4.06), 2*
03, Ready for Whatever (5.12), 3*
'56 Bars' is not the track to base your opinion of the album on, and is nothing like the material that has been released. Everytime an artist opens an album with his biggest single though, I judge them for it. So, I am happy to see TI get this one out of the way as his intro. 'I'm Illy' almost blends into the previous track, and although this opening gives TI an opportunity to express himself the way he knows best -- it doesn't really begin to simmer until half way through and is a track to skip. 'Ready for Whatever' is one of four tracks produced by a relatively new producer in Drumma Boy, who off the back of this project is going on to work with bigger and better artists. 'Ready for Whatever' benefits from the better end of it's track before, and I am beginning to get that this album is going to be just as much about the powerful lyrics as all of TI's five other albums have been. Running a little longer, 'Whatever' would be much better if it had ended when you expected it to. "Officially the hottest n*gga rapping since Tupac."
04, On Top of the World ft. Ludacris & BoB (5.00), 4*
05, Live Your Life ft. Rihanna (5.38), 5*
There's those that love to see the name Ludacris featured on a big record, and then there's those that don't even know who Ludacris is. I'm a bit of an inbetweener -- I'm not a huge Ludacris fan, and he's a bit of a poor-mans Will Smith with his work in the movies. 'On Top of the World' is the exception, and it's one of my favourite tracks on the enitre album even though I forget most of the time just how much I enjoy it. The beat is superb, and the 'Oha-Wo-aah' is the Umbrella-ella of 2008. The only crime is it hasn't been released as a single. On the subject of Rihanna, who brought us the rain dance, she features on another absolutely huge track. Sampling a track that many will remember as an infectuous Euro dance track recorded by O-Zone, 'Live Your Life' will come as a bit of a shock to the system. The track shall be the sixth single released from 'Paper Trail' and has benefited from the biggest marketing campaign after a live performance at the MTV VMA awards. Whilst the music video has not even been released yet, it has already became TI's biggest track ever after peaking at #3 on the Irish charts. Watch out. _"I'm the opposite of moderate, immaculately polished with the spirit of a husler."
06, Whatever You Like (4.09), 4*
07, No Matter What (5.15), 4*
'Whatever You Like' was the first physical release from the album and was the front track for the advertising campaign. Jim Jonsin produced the track, the same mastermind behind the Lil Wayne track 'Lollipop' that helped bolster his albums huge sales. The premise of the track is that a woman with TI can have anything they want, and obviously this idea sat well with all his female fans as the track set US Billboard records when it made the largest jump from the bottom of the chart to the very top in the history of Billboard. Although TI has today broke that record with 'Live Your Life' making the jump from 80 to #1. TI has also became the first artist to replace himself at the top of the chart since Usher in 2004. 'No Matter What' was an immediate success in my eyes and used as a promotional tool earlier this year for the album, although it has not repeated the success of its more recent singles. 'No Matter' seems to sum up in a more casual feeling the thoughts running through TI's head about his jail sentence. _"Even in sollitude, there's still no hotter dude."_
08, My Life, Your Entertainment ft. Usher (4.56), 4*
09, Porn Star (3.31), 2*
10, Swing Ya Rag ft. Swizz Beats (3.18), 3*
11, What's Up, What's Haapnin (5.01), 2*
TI may have just stolen Usher's record, but he's still here to land a helping hand on what is fast becoming one of my favourite records of the year. 'My Life, Your Entertainment' can get overlooked amongst the vast list of huge artists also featuring, but Usher makes for one of the most easy-listening chorus vocals on the album. The track sums up the life of a celebrity, almost comparing life in the public eye as that of an animal in a cage. Poetic. Drumma Boy also makes his second appearance, "Drumma did the f*cking track." Suddenly after all these massive tracks, it seems like we're going to take a break with a 'Porn Star'. It is no surprise that it is one of the shortest tracks on the album, and isn't really about anything. 'Swing Ya Rag' was another track released as a promotional single, and although a video was shot featuring TI waving a red around in the air, it was not released. 'What's Up, What's Haapnin' became one of the most successful promotional singles, although it is more of a one listen and then your done with it, throwaway, track. _"Could you play with it, with your tongue just a little."_
12, Every Chance I Get (4.49), 2*
13, Swagga Like Us ft. Jay Z, Kanye West & Lil Wayne (5.27), 3*
14, Slide Show ft. John Legend (3.42), 2*
'Every Chance I Get' is a track you will recognise, but are unlikely to keep listening to in order to get 30-seconds and remind yourself what the track is actually called. The track is similar to some of TI's best work, although the hook just isn't as catchy as 'What You Know' or 'Why You Wanna?' Interestingly, 'Swagga Like Us' is also a track to feature on Jay-Z's upcoming album, 'The Blueprint 3'. Produced by Kanye West and featuring man of the moment Lil Wayne, the track is destined for success and has became TI's most successful track since 2006, however don't get too excited -- it's only peaked at #33. After a pretty hard hitting track, we're getting taken to the beach at dusk with John Legend and his 'Slide Show' of puzzle pictures. John Legend is one of those crossovers the critics are talking about.
15, You Ain't Missin Nothin (5.10), 4*
16, Dead and Gone ft. Justin Timberlake (5.00), 4*
'Ain't Missin' is the fourth and final track produced by Drumma Boy, and I want to remind everyone that if he ever turns up anywhere big in the future -- I called it first. I've actually listened to this track many times, however didn't realise just how much I do it. Having been relaxed by John Legend, this track will not get the blood pumping too hard again. Barely even rapping, this is one of TI's greatest "ballads" of all time. Prison anthem. You just knew that after the big favour that TI did with Justin Timberlake on, 'My Love', it wouldn't be long until Justin had to return the favour to his convict friend. Not in that way. I was hugely excited when I heard this track existed, but was a little bemused by the length. Justin works well on the chorus, whilst TI gives us his final rap before his prison stint. Although lacking the one big last bow out to be five stars, it's a good enough note to end on.
Any final conclusions?
Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z sell albums. Need I really say again how Lil Wayne sells albums? TI is now selling records of his own and I feel this is guarenteed to be the biggest moment that he shall probably ever have in his music lifeline. Having said that, you never know what genius may emerge from 12-months behind bars (if he serves that long). I know when Akon appeared in the music industry it was due to the inspiration he had earnt from being locked up. There are very few disappointments with 'Paper Trail', and if I had to search for one I would probably put it down to the lack of one big solo track. That would be pretty harsh though. In all honestly, this album is the finished article and I have no idea why we can't get enough interest in him over our shores. I presume he's not allowed to fly? Rhyming yet parental advisory is advised, it doesn't get any sweeter.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 56 Bars
2 I'm Illy
3 Ready For Whatever
4 On Top Of The World - TI & Ludacris/BOB
5 Live Your Life - TI & Rihanna
6 Whatever You Like
7 No Matter What
8 My Life Your Entertainment - TI & Usher
9 Porn Star
10 Swing Ya Rag - TI & Swizz Beatz
11 What's Up What's Haapnin'
12 Every Chance I Get
13 Swagga Like Us - TI & Jay-Z/Kanye West/Lil' Wayne
14 Slide Show - TI & John Legend
15 You Ain't Missin' Nothing
16 Dead And Gone - TI & Justin Timberlake
17 56 Bars
18 Whatever You Like
19 Slide Show