T.I. Paper Trail

T.I. Paper Trail
For last year's T.I. vs T.I.P., Atlanta's self-proclaimed king pitted himself against his hustlin' alter ego, and it appears T.I.P. got the best of the rapper when he was arrested for possession of three machineguns. Written under house arrest while awaiting yet another stint in the slammer, T.I. has used his pending incarceration as inspiration to show a repentant side. For a rapper who built his career on the clichéd lifestyle and keeping all his lyrics in his head, T.I. has made inroads to change - the "paper trail" in question refers to his decision to actually write down his words for once. This personality crisis, however, dominates Paper Trail, leaving the chart-topper in a state of flux throughout. He appears to find it difficult balancing his remorse, moving from the reflective "Slide Show" (with John Legend) to the pissed off, "empathize for me" musing of "Ready for Whatever." With DJ Toomp, T.I. gets his message across best on "No Matter What," stating the case that "even the greatest gotta suffer some time" but that he "ain't dead" or done. And knowing full well that his money-maker is anthems, T.I. flips into the mode, calling on Usher for some contemplation, Rihanna for a yodellin' cameo, Ludacris and B.o.B. to forget his troubles and the all-star cast of Kanye, Jay-Z and Weezy to cop M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" and show their swagger. Paper Trail didn't need to be a testimonial, and it isn't always, but it improves on the messy concept of its predecessor and shows that T.I. can go deep, and perhaps become a self-aware prophet. But I hope not because I'd miss the king. (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)