"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon


Monday, September 29, 2008

T.I. - Paper Trail: Review


At least the cover's kind of cool... Right? Right?!

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. )

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=_9MzKJak_ZQ

DocZeus said...

Oh so that's what that song is called. Duly noted. And really? That song was produced by Just Blaze. Really?!

Jay (d)eff Kay said...

doc, you just killed all the buzz i had going into umm downloading this record tonight. havent heard it yet, but i feel pretty much the same way abt T.I - only paid attention to him when King blew up, and then had my hopes dashed with subsequent releases. damn, the southern swag, the glossy production - i was so sure at one point tht this dude had it in him to be in everyone's top 5 emcee alive list. and then ti vs tip happened, and then .."whatever you like" - could you please spend your next column unleashing some patented hatorade on this joint- you let it off waaay too easy. i was totally wrapped in the whole concept of this being his sincere, introspective, jail-makes-me-ponder-about life-and-death-and-family-and-self-actualization-and-what-does-this-all-mean-anyway?..but then bam. all gone ...does this dude really wanna enter the slammer known as the crooner of "you can have whatever you liiiiike ayyyyyyyy"? Ugh. p.s in other news, i started up a blog too. For all those who are tired of this whole articulate, intelligent rambling propogated by brandon soderberg, doc zeus et al., i present you with the alternative - Swangerrr Management

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

yea, just blaze fell the fuck off. you forgot to mention "what up," easily one of the best songs on the album, regardless of who it may be directed at.

what is most disappointing is there are no songs with P$C. i need more young dro and cars the color of ric flair hair. i guess, though, if it's your last album before prison, you better attempt to get your money's worth. shame hov can't rap, and kanye and wayne decided to be lazy as shit.

toomp came back though, which is never a bad thing.

DocZeus said...

Jesus-

I'm approximately one of the 1.2 people that actually liked "Swagger Like Us" which is why I didn't write an entry called "The Four Most Overrated Rappers On The Planet Attempt A Posse Cut: A Prayer For The Juice Crew" when it was released like everybody else did. I do think it's sad that everybody but T.I. got merked by a sample of M.I.A. on the hook. But yet again, I am a sucker for "Paper Planes." I don't think I'll ever tire of hearing that song.

Jay Kay-

Yeah, Whatever You Like is pretty awful. It's like a Nelly record, a late period Nelly record. I listened to it once and thought to myself: Well this was a mistake. And the next thing I know, two months later, it's inexplicably number one on iTunes. Who the hell likes that song? Do young teenage girls really think Tip is that good looking? He's all of 105 pounds soaking wet and I'm pretty sure my 5'9" ass could beat the shit out of him. I don't get humanity sometimes.

Jay (d)eff Kay said...

agree with jesus, dude rolls with a pretty sick crew, so a Grand Hustle showcase would have been nice. I need more Dro in my life. when's the young and restless supposed to out? And not having Alfamega on your record - like that dude needs ANOTHER reason to be mad and act psychotic. weirdest of all, did you know that big kuntry king's album was being released on the same day as 'paper trail'? - what kinda weird ass marekting move is that? Placing the release of the up and coming rapper from your roster against your superstar album release? The only way big kuntry would get any type of help is if his album came for free along w/ ti's release. 'My turn to eat' = Grand Hustle's free side dish to T.I's whopper - now that would make sense.

Anonymous said...

Since you were feeling the Term joint, you decided to do a Paper Trail review?
That's good logic.
On top of this being T.I.'s worst album...
The Term album is also weaker than most of his album..
Develop an ear for music nigga or develop a sense for when to shut the fuck up.

Marcus said...

King kinda sucks.

TIVSTIP was is solid, The TI section being clearly the weak shit.

Paper Trail is definitely his best since Urban Legend (classic).

Production is weak?? U straight trippin boo (nohomo)

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

SLU is pretty hot, honestly. jay-z just should never, ever attempt to sing. and tray is right about that last line, it's mush-mouthed nonsense.

"TIVSTIP was is solid"

yea, because any song featuring wyclef is worth a listen these days. i loathe "my swag." this album is worlds different and better.

DocZeus said...

"Since you were feeling the Term joint, you decided to do a Paper Trail review?
That's good logic.
On top of this being T.I.'s worst album...
The Term album is also weaker than most of his album..
Develop an ear for music nigga or develop a sense for when to shut the fuck up."

Someone's catching feelings. I bascially asserted this was T.I.'s worst album although I can't be for sure because I've never heard "I'm Serious" or "Urban Legend." The Term review is coming later today, jackass. I didn't finish it before I had to jet to work.

tray said...

"Do young teenage girls really think Tip is that good looking?"

This will sound gay but yeah, for a rapper he's pretty good-looking. Stillmatic's far from a classic. It all goes downhill after 2nd Childhood. I'm sure in your heart of hearts you know this.

DocZeus said...

"Stillmatic's far from a classic. It all goes downhill after 2nd Childhood. I'm sure in your heart of hearts you know this."

Nope, I think other than maybe 3 songs (Braveheart Party, My Country, Smokin') the album's straight. It's a total fabrication of people who don't like Nas that Stillmatic ain't good. The fact that album is front loaded for the first 11 or so songs with great songs, it works wonders for it's listenability.

Anybody's who says Stillmatic's wack gets the gas face.

tray said...

Classics don't have three bad songs (unless they're called Ice Cream Man). Destroy and Rebuild - not a good song. Who wants to hear him boringly bitching in this awkward faux-old-school flow about no-names like Nature, guys who he legitimately screwed over like Cormega, and people who have better catalogues than him (that would be Prodigy). Of course it's a good album, but I still prefer the highlights on Lost Tapes.

DocZeus said...

"Classics don't have three bad songs (unless they're called Ice Cream Man"
See I fundamentally disagree with that statement if that were true than virtually every album between 1981 - 1988 would be excluded from that list. There's a lot of undisputed classic albums that have at least half of the album that is completely unlistenable.

See *Paid In Full*

And your crazy if you think I don't like "Destroy and Rebuild." I love that beat. And Prodigy most certainly does not have a better catalogue than Nas.

DocZeus said...

New Rule: No more talking about Nas in this thread. I'm banning it. I don't want to have this argument, again.

Anonymous said...

1. Destroy and Rebuild is a great song that works on three levels. It only DOESN'T work if you pick apart every verse (even though Cormega was bitching for like 4 years at Nas through various interviews about The Firm, and there's no way in hell Prodigy has a better catalogue than Nas, missteps or not.) Funny, Slick-Rick like, and a little Pac-ish (which I'm sure rubs folks the wrong way nowadays), it's a good-great condescending little diss song.

2. So none of you guys checked out TI during his "Trap Muzik" days? THAT'S the reason I became a fan.

JustChad

Anonymous said...

Just read your comment above mine, Doc. Do you know how hard that will be? Everything in blogland (this blog included) comes back to Nas! He's the Kevin Bacon of rap.

JustChad

Anonymous said...

Album of the year. The Best rapper out. No album comes close 5 stars

JK said...

I actually like the album. Listened to it a lot over the first few days and then...I haven't...listened to it since. Hmmm...maybe I'll get back to you on my opinion of it.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

"2. So none of you guys checked out TI during his "Trap Muzik" days? THAT'S the reason I became a fan."

24's and Be Easy are kind of the shit. he also came off on his "Never Scared" scared verse. King, for whatever reason, was not for me.

Trey Stone said...

your continued joking-except-not about your flawless opinion aside, i agree with you on this album. only thing i don't get is how you can like the Jeezy album when it has the exact same problem, plus way worse rapping.

but yeah, "No Matter What," "What Up" and "Swagga Like Us" are the only good songs. and not to be totally predictable, but i still wanna hear dude rap over a "3 A.M." caliber Timbaland beat now that he's rapped over four beats from Timbaland Jr. cuz "No Matter What" isn't that good. never think Danjahandz layers his drums quite right

DocZeus said...

"only thing i don't get is how you can like the Jeezy album when it has the exact same problem, plus way worse rapping."

I think the beats are better on Jeezy's and I literally had no expectations for that album. A profound feeling of disappointment can generate a negative review faster than you can imagine.

GoRapsGo said...

Agree with the guy above me, How do you liek the Jeezy album and hate on this? Even TI vs TIP was better then Jeezys pile of crap. Dude can't rap at all.

Trap Muzik Is Ti's best album easily I think, "better then me" "long live da game" " Ti vs TIP" lots of great songs on that album.

And Whatever you like is GARBAGE. fuck that song.

DocZeus said...

For the record, I absolutely DO NOT like Young Jeezy in any shape or form. I think he's a terrible rapper even in my review, I pretty much say that. I just happen to like that album. What's so wrong with that?!

Gorapsgo said...

Nothing wrong with that I guesss, I think 50 Cent is a terrible rapper but enjoy "get rich or die trying", just seems weird given what appears to be your taste in music that you like that terrible album.

DocZeus said...

Did I give the impression that I loved The Recession or something? I thought only marginally praised it. I thought I gave it a tentative thumbs up. This album gets a tentative thumbs down.

tray said...

Back to T.I., is this worse than Urban Legend? No one talks about that album anymore - I thought it had quite a few moments. Especially the song with Daz. Anyway, we should drop Nas, but I just feel that The Infamous = Illmatic, and Hell On Earth is manifestly better than any non-Illmatic album Nas ever made. In fact, it would be just as good as The Infamous if it weren't for the Nas feature.

JK said...

I think it's better than Urban Legend. I definitely think the production is better than Urban Legend. And that song with Daz might be my favorite song off of that album

gorapsgo said...

Hell on Earth is better then infamous in my opinion. And there is no way in hell that nas verse on that album is worse then nore's on the infamous.

Also, Nas has probably 3 albums better then both those albums, Stillmatic, Illmatic, IT was Written, and if you don't a specific one of those, you got a whole bunch of other good bu t not quite great albums i Lost Tapes, Hip hop is Dead and Untitled Gods son even, that shit on anything but those 2 albums from Mobb Deep.

I thought Urban Legend was pretty good also though, maybe his second best album after Trap Muzik. Was good even with all the blatant commercialism, as even his biggest hits off that album were listenable songs.

Trey Stone said...

one more thing, not to sound like i'm finding reasons to disagree on a review i basically agree with, but i can never tell what importance you put on flow/style with all the talk about lyricosity. maybe it's just me but i feel like the guy was improving up through T.I. vs T.I.P.. he was trying a lot of flows on that album, where on this one a lot of his rapping sounds the same to me. another way it could be compared to that one rapper

Trey Stone said...

as for Urban Legend, "The Greatest" alone makes it better than this. 'course "U Don't Know Me," "Freak Though" and some other good songs don't hurt either

JK said...

Woah. You liked "Freak Though"? That goes to show me that tastes are diverse. Ha, cuz I couldn't stand that. That song is like this album's "Porno Star" song to me

tray said...

Freak Though was pretty bland; now that I look it up, though, it's not as bad as I remembered. The Greatest was slept on. One of the few late Mannie Fresh beats that doesn't sound like he just pulled it out of his washed up Mannie Fresh beat drawer.

And, um, I don't remember there being any Nore verse on the Infamous. It's not Nas's verse that's bad in particular, anyway - just the whole song that sucks.

DocZeus said...

"Eye For An Eye" sucks?! When did this happen?



Trey-

What I mean is with his lyrical performance that I think the writing on the record is pretty thorough. His topics, his concepts, the way he puts together a song. It's really soft-spoken and understate on this album which works well with the tone. It's not nearly as scatterbrained as some of his other work and that I think is a direct effect of him writing his shit down on paper. Of course, there's trade-off you lose some of the spontaneity that some of his previous albums had.

The album desperately could use an "I'm Talkin' To You" or a "Hurt" which are my two favorite T.I. records.

tray said...

No, Give It Up Fast sucks. I was clear on that.

GorapsGO said...

The Nore verse where he starts out like " I;m the r-a-double -p -e-r-"
haha soo bad. I think the song is called..give up the goods.

And give it up fast I liked If I remember correctly.

tray said...

That's Big Noyd, not Nore! And it's a great verse. I won't try to cut ya, I'll pull out the 44 and bust ya. Anonymous blog commenters these days.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

that's the greatest verse noyd ever had, and maybe the best on that song.

anyone have any thoughts on t.i.'s "stand up?" i imagine there is very little love for anything with lil jon here, but i'm curious.

DocZeus said...

"No, Give It Up Fast sucks."

Ah that makes more sense. I thought you said the song from the Infamous that had Nas' sucks which is clearly insanity in it's highest forms.

tray said...

Stand Up, I thought, was one of those formulaic Lil Jon songs that didn't really work. But I am a fan of Crunk Juice (the album, not the drink) and even of "Real Gangstaz," his universally bashed song with Mobb Deep.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

really, for me, it sounds like lil jon toned down his style so that the song would work outside th context of just the club. if anything, i don't think it is as formulaic a lil jon beat as that new e-40 song, which sounds just like snap yo fingers.

gorapsgo said...

You guys like that verse?:S...I thought it was terrible, you could basically predict the next line before he even said it.

Prodigy's first verse was the best on that song easy I thought, Noyd's flow was all over the place to, and that voice just drives me nuts.

tray said...

I can recite it from memory. It's the r-a-double-p-e-r-, n-o-y-d, niggas can't fuck with me, comin straight outta qb, pushin a infinti, you ask do I rip it constantly, mentally? Definitely, to the death of me...

gorapsgo said...

I kow the entire thing off by heart as well, But not cause its any good, its simple ABC rhyming, thats easy to predict and easy to remember. ITs a young jeezy verse, or a Young Buck verse, nothing special in the lyrics except perhaps how he delivered it if you liked his flow or swagger or whatever.

But this is a really pointless argument I suppose, the song is 10 years old and still a good one, regardless of that shitty verse:)

Jordan said...

Know I'm late here, but yeah, I agree. It's like he told the producers to focus on really bland electro-farts and completely ignore percussion or you know, rhythm. It does help Swagger Like Us and No Matter What seem a lot better/more sophisticated. On "I'm Illy" the beat is de-emphasized enough for me to enjoy it just focusing on the rapping, but still, where's the "hurt" or at least the "tell 'em I said that" or "help is coming?" And Trey's right, Tip really should have worked with Timbo by now.

This kind of shit makes me almost bored with rap on an Andre 3000 level. Not that anyone's doing anything interesting now in any other genre now, but you know I just discovered the first Lydia Lunch album the other day and I'm way more excited about that than I've been about rap in a while.

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