Release Date: Sep 30, 2008
Record label: Grand Hustle/Atlantic
T.I. :: Paper TrailGrand Hustle/Atlantic RecordsAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonThe hype leading into Clifford Harris' highly-anticipated "Paper Trail" has been hard to avoid. It's hard to say for certain if it's been overkill. On the one hand releasing SIX singles before your full-length album even hits stores is a potential album killer.
T.I.’s sixth CD Paper Trail is full of self-reflection laced with gangsta bravado. He’s haunted by the shooting death of his best friend, concerned that he’ll meet a similar fate, and uncertain about his future (which is likely to include a stint in prison for felony weapons charges). Despite his often earnest lyrics, the radio-friendly party anthems, flirty come-ons, collaborations with A-list pals (Rihanna, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake), and outstanding production prove this beleaguered bad boy still knows how to have a good time.
The King holds courtTip Harris wrote and recorded most of Paper Trail while under house arrest; the title is as much a nod to his criminal record as his return to writing lyrics on paper. T.I. is a different beast here than the scrappy ATLien he wrestled with on T.I. vs. T.I.P. He's still cocky ….
House arrest would likely slow anyone's daily routine. It probably played a factor in T.I.'s decision to write down his rhymes for the first time since his debut. A year of jail time on the horizon would, just the same, impact a writer's output, and it has done just that on Paper Trail. Plenty of these tracks have nothing to do with T.I.'s federal weapons conviction -- escapist fare like the number one Hot 100 single "Whatever You Like" and the mindnumbing "Porn Star," where he's barely coasting -- but there is a sense of urgency and a new dimension of self-reflection not touched upon throughout the holding pattern that was T.I.
Review Summary: another T.I. album. another T.I. personality split.T.I.'s "Paper Trail" is a definite progress from the artist's previous effort. Following up "King" was certainly not an easy task but the amount of mediocrity on "T.I. vs T.I.P." left plenty of fans addressing T.I.'s legitimacy. The ….
Harris would first like to remind us that despite it all he is doing quite well, thanks very much: “56 Barz” and “I’m Illy” are carefully constructed swagger demos. And then he gloriously blows all that detached cool with “Ready for Whatever,” the album’s best moment and a track that probably deserves its own individual review. On King's “Live in the Sky,” Tip touched on the unfortunate realities of his superstar life with a few pointed lines: “Fuck how many millions I got, nigga, so what if I’m hot/ When I got prices on my head, feds rushing my spot/ A million haters want me dead, forced to carry a gat/ But you a seven-time felon, whatch you doing with that?/ It’s a catch-22, either you lose or you lose.
While rap's other blue-chip brands watch their stock prices plummet, Clifford Harris continues to beat the market. Paper Trail is his third album in succession to outsell its rivals. The cynic might see this as the result of careful market analysis. It certainly helps that he combines 2Pac's persecution complexes, 50 Cent's true-crime past, Kanye West's ambivalence about fame and the southern slur of Lil' Wayne (the latter pair join Jay-Z for the good-on-paper, less-so-in-the-booth Swagga Like Us).