Monday, September 29, 2008
T.I. - Paper Trail: Review
Sooooo...Yeaaaaah? Is...Is anybody else going to agree with me? Really? Nobody? Brandon?! Weiss? ! Dart?! Anybody?! I'll wait... Really?! It's just going to be me then? Ok. I'll just be the funcrusher in the room as usual, huh? Fine. It's always has to be me. It's a burden I know. When you been gifted with flawless taste sometimes you have to be a hater. (It's a noble profession.) So yeah, when did T.I. become...you know...like Nas?
No, Tip Harris did not suddenly transform into a the greatest lyrical wunderkind of all-time (Yeah, I said it!) although on his new album, Paper Trail, he does give arguably his best lyrical performance of his career. I'm talking about when did T.I. suddenly lose his ear for beats and suddenly become fond of the same monotonous easy-listening "snoozers" that Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones has been thrusting upon the world since "Stillmatic". Granted, I love that stuff. "Stillmatic's" a classic no matter what some rather unfortunate individuals tell you (And no, I will not accept any dissent to the contrary - Treyantraystopwritingthatcommentnowitwillbesummarilydeleted -
yesimcompletelyserious!) but the world already has one prodigiously talented lyricist wasting his career on his beats from (*shudders*) L.E.S. and Salaam Remi.* We most certainly do not need two (or whatever the Southern rap equivalent of Nas' charity cases are). This is a problem considering T.I. has never been the lyricist that Nas can be when he's not smoking himself functionally retarded. The album deeply, deeply suffers from the fact that the production is so bland and uniform that it's often hard to notice the greatness of T.I.'s lyrical performance on this record.
The weak production on T.I.'s disappointing new album, "Paper Trail", hides the fact that T.I. has a lot on his mind. "Paper Trail" is T.I.'s most personal album to date and he spends the vast majority of the tracks dealing with the fallout from T.I.'s assault weapon arrest and trial. T.I. has lot to reconcile with the obvious fact that attempting to purchase AK-47's and silencers is profoundly idiotic for a man who not only has multiple felony charges but is insanely rich and can clearly afford personal security with the idea that he feels little to no real guilt or remorse for his crimes because he's attempting to protect and feed his family. The best tracks on the album deal directly with these feelings of conflict and you can really feel the emotional resonance on these records. The album's best track, the stunningly underrated single "No Matter What", directly deals with this as T.I. stands defiant against the world he feels has wronged him in the face of these charges. It's the sort of the anthemic, triumphant song powered by Danja's titantic organs and guitars that not only works as therapy but also can inspire. What I garnered from the record is that T.I. knows he screwed up but feels insanely wronged by people for being forced in a situation that he feels is bullshit. The song's best cuts like "56 Bars", "Ready For Whatever", and "I'm Illy" all directly deal with this.
The rest of the album suffers when T.I. goes for the bald commercialism that tanked the album's predecessor, "T.I. vs. T.I.P." "Whatever You Like", the album's inexplicably number one single, is absolutely heinous in both execution and the general nasaeu that it causes on the listener. It seems as if T.I. as the more famous that Tip gets the inversely proportional his ability to write a decent crossover jam becomes. "Why You Wanna" is kind of a guilty pleasure (mostly because it sounds like the soundtrack to Mario Kart), "You Know What It Is" was generic but tolerable but "Whatever You Like" is just plain awful. The other crossover attempts don't work as well. "Porn Star" is the latest entry in the insipid sex rap genre and will probably be cracking my top ten worsts songs of the year list and "Slide Show" featuring the increasingly awful John Legend is so boring that it might well as be on a Talib Kweli album. The only song that is clearly designed for the Asher Roth-set that works is the odd Rihanna-duet, "Live Your Life", which sort of sounds like Umbrella Pt. 2 if it miraculously sampled the Numa Numa song (or whatever that song that dorky, overweight German kid lost his ability to lose his virginity, too). The song works in ways that probably shouldn't and is kind of goofily enjoyable in ways that are best not explained.
Ever since I discovered that I really, sort of loved "King" aftere completely ignoring the work of Clifford Harris prior, I have found that T.I.'s work is increasingly getting worse. I don't even like "Paper Trail" as much as I liked "T.I. vs. T.I.P." which was about half of a good album. "Paper Trail" has some very good moments but I found myself wondering has T.I. simply lost his ability to write hits (Obviously not because "Whatever You Like" is still inexplicably number one. Seriously, people of the world? Seriously?! I don't get you at all.) that don't suck or if the weight of the impending trial sabatoged any record that weren't directly about his tribulations. Somehow, I feel "Paper Trail" was derailed along the way because it feels like it could of or even should have been better. I'd like to see T.I. succeed, though. Maybe he should do a concept record about the "N' word. Yeah, that'll work!
* (I mean seriously, Nas?! Why in the world are you still working with L.E.S. the least talented producer on Illmatic? Terma -fucking- nology just turned in a pretty damn great album featuring production by practically everybody else on that damn record! People like Primo, Pete Rock, Large Professor and Easy Mo Bee! People you know and have made fantastic music with in the past! You're telling me Koch Records can shell out for these guys but Def Jam can't?! Fuck you. No, fuck you! That's ridiculous... Sorry, I just had to get that off of my chest. )