Album at a Glance: T.I., Paper Trail

Nick Graham

Listen/Download tracks off T.I.'s Paper Trail, one of our favorite recent releases, below.

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Paper Trail is fucking amazing, so I'll be damned if I don't give it some shine on the site. This album is one of the most focused and honest rap albums ever to be released. Some say it takes a tragedy in an artist's life to release a great album, and I guess that's true. After losing his baby daughter, watching his friend get shot and die right beside him and getting arrested for attempting to buy machine guns from a federal agent, it's safe to say Tip has had a rough couple of years.

Here are songs where T.I. raps directly to the listener now that a one year prison sentence is approaching. Here are a few of the standout tracks (and trust me, there are many of them).

T.I., “I'm Illy”

T.I. goes on this record and brags about his cash flow and his swagger, but, as most of us know, he does it better than most people. He even mentions his current legal woes in relation to his money, saying, “Of course this case lost all my endorsements/ Tripled up on real estate, still buying more shit”. Scott Storch provides the uncharacteristically southern, and characteristically hot beat.

T.I., “Ready for Whatever”

My absolute favorite song on the album. This is where T.I. tries to explain to us why he made the decision to buy machine guns last year: he feels he's in constant danger, even stating that he spends five hundred thousand dollars a year on security. Whether or not this is standard rapper hyperbole, the point is made. He's guilty, but he felt he had to do it at the time. The amazingly morose yet aggressive Drumma Boy beat sounds like it should have been featured over an early 80's John Carpenter movie trailer.

Live Your Life (Featuring Rihanna)

Made for the radio, this track accomplishes everything it set out to do. Club-worthy beat, great hook and a solid performance from the main act.

T.I., “Whatever You Like”

This is the main single out right now for the album, and it's a monster. Shawty Lo, T.I.'s main opponent in the game right now (who is also destroyed on the album, but I'll get to that later) even said in an interview that he couldn't write a song as good as T.I. can. This is a shining example of that song-writing ability. You've heard this song before, so I'll end it here.

T.I., “No Matter What”

(By the way, I'm only on track 7 on the CD. This album is pure gold.)

The first song to leak from the album, this DJ Toomp-helmed track made everyone start the talk that this was going to be an incredible album. This was important because his last album, T.I. vs. TIP, was mostly garbage. T.I. uses the time to apologize to the fans for his lack of moral judgment and let them know he will stick around to redeem himself.

T.I., “Swing Ya Rag” (feat. Swizz Beatz)

Heat. Swizz Beatz heat.

What Up, What's Haapnin'

This is the diss song of the record. Shawty Lo, member of D4L and native of Atlanta's rough neighborhood that T.I. also represents, made good use of Tip's long house arrest to build up his career by dissing him relentlessly. He drove around Bankhead and asked a few people if they ever saw T.I. there, and some people said they didn't. He claimed that the rapper could never come back to his home turf, and questioned whether or not he was even from the area. Well, T.I.'s house arrest time was up, and he went out and made this song and, as posted below, video. Rolled up in Shawty's own hood and shot a video and got a lot of love, thereby disproving all the rumors that were started by the D4L member. R.I.P. Shawty Lo 2008.

Swagga Like Us (Featuring Kanye, Jay Z and Lil Wayne)

The posse cut, and damn, what a posse. No wonder the features are so light on the album. How can you follow this up? The beat is a Kanye original, and, if you live in Brooklyn, you can stick your head out your window and hear this song playing out of the automobile of your choice. I say T.I. was the best, Wayne 2nd, Jay 3rd and Kanye last. What about you? List them in the comments.

Dead and Gone (Featuring Justin Timberlake)

This is a great follow up to “My Love”, which was the last song we saw these two industry beasts team up on. Timbo handles the production, so you know it's a good one. T.I. styles on this, as usual.

Alright, that's all I'm going to give you. There are a lot of other heaters on the album, so go out and get Paper Trail. And man, after this we still get the post-prison album! Good music ahead, friends. Oh, and while I just spent this whole post verbally making love to this album, I will not call it a classic. That has yet to be seen, but I will say that it is a very solid and honest release from one of the best artists in hip hop today.

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