December 14, 2009

Reader Review: T.I. - Paper Trail (September 26, 2008)

(Today, The Ginger Kid gives his insights on T.I.'s Paper Trail. Yes, you two, T.I. technically counts as hip hop, and he shouldn't be ignored just because most purists don't care for him. (Soulja Boy, on the other hand, you can dismiss entirely if you wish.) His post is from the point of view of a fan who got into hip hop through an avenue which most folks travel these days: with the songs that are pervasive on the radio, which seep into your daily lives, acting as a gateway drug. Be sure to leave your comments for The Ginger Kid below.)

I wasn’t really sure how to start this review, so I decided to just get all nostalgic and tell a nice story.

I’ve been a huge fan of rap music since I first heard “Without Me,” the radio-friendly first single from Eminem's The Eminem Show. Upon hearing that song, I immediately decided I loved rap music and bought my first rap album, Curtis Jackson’s debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, shortly after. I continued to listen to the bullshit on the radio for almost six years; I listened to all the popular rap songs on the radio and loved every minute of them. I’ll even admit that, at one point in time, The Carter III was on my iPod (I didn’t actually waste any of my money on it, though).

This past year was my junior year in high school. Throughout the year, the only really good rap music I listened to was all by my favorite rapper, Marshall Mathers. While looking for more of Eminem’s music, I came across a song with him and The Notorious B.I.G. titled “Dead Wrong”. When I listened to it, I realized two things: (1) Marshall’s verse sounded very similar to the first verse Royce Da 5’9” had on the unreleased version of “Renagade”, and (2) I really liked Biggie Smalls. So ,I went on iTunes and started to search and, holy shit, the closest I had come to music this good was The Marshall Mathers LP. I was blown away by the storytelling and I wanted more. I purchased both Ready to Die and Life After Death, and upon hearing those albums, I decided to stop listening to bullshit pop-rap. I I picked up Illmatic and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) as well as The Infamous and Reasonable Doubt (I got the majority of these albums from a friend of mine who introduced me to Max’s blog, which he was a huge fan of, hence all the east-coast favoritism).

Before this shift in my musical tastes, my second favorite rapper was Atlanta native Clifford Harris, also known as T.I. I first heard him on his King album, and then went on to purchase T.I. vs. T.I.P. When I heard he had been arrested for federal weapons charges, I was devastated at the thought that I might not hear a new T.I. song for 30-plus years. So, naturally, when I heard about Paper Trail I was pumped up to hear it. The title was inspired by the fact that, for the first time in his career, Clifford wrote his lyrics down on paper, instead of simply memorizing all of his lines. The album was written and recorded while T.I. was on house arrest in his Atlanta home. I bought it the day it came out, and I listened to it so many times that, even to this day, ten of the top twenty-five most listened to songs on my iPod are from Paper Trail. I memorized every single song on this album.

When I moved away from the pop-rap bullshit on the radio, I stopped listening to Paper Trail. So today, I’m going to write a review of the album while listening to it for the first time since I discovered “New York State of Mind” and “Shook Ones Pt. II”, and we’ll see if I still love this album.

Plus, I figured I’d send my review to Max since I thought he would probably never review this album anyway.

1. 56 BARS (INTRO)
Well, yeah, it’s an intro, but at least it isn't a skit: T.I. spits a three-minute verse. I thought I remembered this song, which only consists of cocky bullshit, being really good, but it isn't anything too special. However, I already understand what he's saying more than before: I knew who he was talking about when he compared himself to Andre 3000, Jay-Z, and Lupe Fiasco, but I never knew he compared himself to 2Pac, because he calls him Makaveli. Now that I have 2Pac’s whole discography, I finally understand.

Seeing as how T.I. was incarcerated when Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli” came out, he never got to appear on one of the hundreds of remixes that came out. So he made his own version with a beat that was nowhere near as annoying as Lil’ Wayne’s was. This is the most listened to song on my iPod (I’ve listened to it about eighty-five times now). Needless to say, I fucking loved this song since when I first heard it on the radio the day before Paper Trail came out. Upon hearing it again, I found that it was pretty good for T.I., but overall this is just more pop-rap bullshit. T.I. compares himself to 2Pac again, which is a recurring theme throughout the album.

This shit is actually pretty good. In reference to his legal troubles, T.I. comes out and says that he knows he was wrong, but at the time, he didn’t think he had a choice. Considering that T.I. normally sticks with songs such as the previous two tracks, this track carries an unexpected emotional weight.

The overall concept was a good one: T.I. and Luda go back and forth between reminiscing about harder times and being two of the biggest rappers in the game. The only problem I had was that there was too much time spent bragging and not enough time reminiscing. But as Paper Trail be about how he’s turning his life around, I guess it still fits the overall theme. B.o.B.’s chorus was nothing special, but wasn’t exactly horrible, either. Overall, T.I. and Luda still have yet to make a track together where they reach their full potential.

It’s extremely radio-friendly, but at least T.I. has a positive message, and he’s pretty solid lyrically. Rihanna’s chorus is fucking awesome, too. That shit pumps me up, as does Just Blaze’s beat. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this song is actually better than I remembered it to be.

Technically the second single, but the first one (which happens to be the next track) was released to keep the diehard fans happy. This was the first single released with the intention of trying to sell Paper Trail and, well, it wouldn’t be a T.I. album unless he had at least one song for the ladies. He sings (yes, sings) it with the help of the Auto-Tune. This was never supposed to be a super lyrical song: it’s supposed to get girls to go crazy so that they’ll buy the album, and it’s supposed to get guys to buy the album because if they play this song, girls will go crazy. So with that purpose in mind, T.I. succeeds.

First of all, I forgot how much I loved Danja’s beat. That shit is fucking crazy, especially during the chorus. Once again, an emotional T.I. song is not something we’re really used to hearing, but I think it suits the beat perfectly. He also takes a few shots at fellow Atlanta rapper Shawty Lo of D4L, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing.

I love Usher’s chorus more than Rihanna’s chorus from “Live Your Life.” In this song he talks about, well, the title really says it all. Basically, he's comparing himself to 2Pac again.

Another track for the ladies. This one is definitely a filler track, though. T.I. convinces a girl that he just met to go home with him, have sex with him, and give him head. For the guys who want to use this song to pick up girls, I would suggest you shut it off after the second verse.

This song never did much for me, and it still doesn’t.

Another T.I. dis track to Shawty Lo. I know it’s stupid, and a lot of people probably find it annoying, but I always liked the chorus. It reminds me that the best way to get revenge is by living a happy life. That’s kind of what T.I. does in the chorus. Then in the verses he fucking destroys Shawty Lo. T.I. has always said that he wouldn’t say Shawty Lo’s name because that will make him popular, which is why T.I. thinks he started the beef in the first place, so I love it when he says “I ain’t mention yo name / That’s what all this ‘bout?” Lyrically T.I.’s solid, but Drumma Boy’s beat makes this a great song to play in your car, especially when there’s another car nearby that you can taunt.

Seeing as how T.I. doesn’t say anything really worth listening to on this song, I’m going to borrow one of Max’s favorite words to describe it: Meh.

Dammit! I thought I finally emptied my iPod of Lil’ Wayne and his bullshit. He just keeps popping up. This is credited to both T.I. and Jay-Z because, originally, this was also going to appear on The Blueprint 3. I'm sure everyone’s heard this by now, but if you haven’t, it’s all about how these guys are the four biggest rappers in the game, and it samples a line fromM.I.A.'s “Paper Planes” for the title. Anyway, I didn’t care for anyone’s verse but T.I.’s. Overall, though, none of them really talk about anything.

I fucking love this song. This song is what “On Top Of The World” should have been. T.I. reminisces about the past and, at the same time, gives advice to up and coming artists and people in general (specifically, kids with dope boy ambitions) that if you just be patient and don’t always do dumb shit, you can get somewhere in life. John Legend’s chorus is awesome, and the beat by Elvis “Blac Elvis” Williams goes perfectly with the overall feel of the song. The only thing I felt it was missing was a third verse from T.I, but this shit is still pretty good.

T.I.’s tribute to all his friends in prison. Not the kind of beat you would really expect from Drumma Boy, but I liked it. T.I.’s lyrics are once again solid, and he continues to send positive messages to people, telling everyone who’s locked up to have a plan for how they can turn their life around once released. Then he starts to rhyme about real friends of his who are in prison and the conversations he had with them,and the song ends with shout-outs to, like, forty-five people in prison (I might have exaggerated that number a little bit).

This song got quite a lot of deserved radio play, in my opinion. T.I.’s lyrics on this song are great, and Justin Timberlake comes through with a great chorus. This is like “Slide Show” in that T.I. reminisces about mistakes he’s made. However, T.I. states that T.I.P. (his drug dealing alter-ego; T.I.P. was also his rap name, before he was forced to drop the “P” since that handle was too similar too Q-Tip’s) is officially dead and from this point on, he won’t be doing all the dumb shit he used to do.

The deluxe edition of Paper Trail (available on iTunes) included two bonus tracks.

All I can say is that the lyrics on here were solid.

This one wasn't as good lyrically, as it was more of a radio-friendly song. It doesn't qualify as speed rap, but T.I. does spit faster than he usually does.

FINAL THOUGHTS: T.I.'s Paper Trail was a pretty good album from a guy who is not an amazing lyricist, but a decent rapper who will probably never make anything that can really be considered classic. There are some filler tracks, but if you ignore those, T.I. actually has something to say on the remainder. He’s not a phenomenal lyricist, but he brings his A-game on this album. Although there are a number of tracks on here where T.I. brags his ass off, he has grown as an artist and as a person. In the past, he was called the Jay-Z of the south, and he wore a T-shirt with the album cover for Reasonable Doubt in a music video because he was rapping about selling drugs and the shit he used to do, just like Jay-Z tends to do, but on Paper Trail he keeps comparing himself to 2Pac, and his many emotional tracks do manage to make him come across as more similar to Pac than Hova. Another consistent trait was the fact that when T.I. had an R&B artist sing the chorus, they all did excellent work. Rihanna, Usher, John Legend, and Justin Timberlake all had great hooks on the tracks they appeared on. Now while T.I. could be considered a pop-rap artist, I have always thought of him as the best pop-rap artist. You look at Young Jeezy, Lil’ Wayne, & 50 Cent, and all they rap about is drugs, sex, and money. While T.I. isn’t necessarily a higher caliber of rapper than those three examples, I always saw him as one of the better ones because he can rap about other shit, too.

BUY OR BURN?: I’m going to recommend a buy, but only because of T.I.’s growth as an artist. If you can’t appreciate the fact that he is an alright rapper and this is his best work, than look away now. However, if you can recognize that the guy is working harder than he ever has on these songs and it is paying off in the musical quality, than this might be for you.

BEST TRACKS: “Slide Show”; “Dead And Gone”; “No Matter What”; “Ready For Whatever”; “Live Your Life”

-The Ginger Kid

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Be sure to leave your comments below. If you have something to say about T.I.'s Paper Trail, now's the time to speak your mind, because who knows when this will pop up again.)


  1. i can respect that you're not afraid to admit you were a big fan of candy rap but i stopped reading once you said you bought reasonable doubt

  2. hi there... just something to add about "live your life"... this is the cover of a romanian pop song, which was all over the charts in europe. And its one of the worst songs ever made.
    check youtube for o-zone dragostea din tei.
    so i guess just blaze did a pretty wack job on that.

  3. i agree the album is solid.

    im tired of all the hip hop purists who think anything mainstream is bad they seriously need to get over themselves.

    btw i enjoyed the carter III

  4. i respect the fact that reader reviewers have the balls to admit they like candy rap, but we hip hop purist know better music then you do, and if you think that TI is hip hop, then you are blind as hell, he counts as rap

  5. Listen to what you want to listen. If you enjoy some of that candy rap you used to listen to, keep doing it. I can shower cats on hip hop knowledge, doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good T.I or Young Jeezy track every now and then. But big ups to Illmatic & 36 Chambers, your library pretty much has jumped 400 points in credibilty.

    ...(I also bought 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Trying)

  6. wow protoman, what the fuck. candy rap sucks, T.I sucks.. but come on, reasonable doubt? thats a fucking crazy album.

  7. This blog is getting worst day by day...
    Pure garbage
    HIP HOP IS DEAD in this POP-RAP blog

  8. Anyone reading this... don't take this guys work.

    This album was terrible.

    Go and listen to Tha Carter III, Untitled or even LAX from 2008 rather than this shit

  9. @anonymous #5

    fuck jay-z

  10. I was actually disappointed in this album, imo King is his best work.

    There's nothing wrong with balancing out your Nas or Wu-Tang with some new school cats.

  11. I bet MAX is just laughing at all of these "purists" who bag on him for giving TI and Lil Wayne a voice on this site. The point of this blog is clearly stated to be an overview of all contributions to hip-hop - good or bad - and see how they measure up over time. Like it or not, Wyane and TI have a voice, and for that reason alone, the value of their contributions to the genre should be debated.

  12. Max, the problem with reader reviews is that they only review albums that they like...and most of the ones featured are absolute garbage

    at one point not too long ago i religiously checked this blog and read every post you made, nowadays i skip through from tmie to time because it is clogged up with crap like this

  13. the stage youre in right now is pretty dangerous, and every hip hop head goes through this shit

    soon you'll develop your own judgment and start to listen to music for music

  14. I think this is real hiphop man

  15. T.I. and Lil Wayne young yeezy al - candy rap word i cant believe people can listen to that trash and by the way reasonable doubt is a fucking good album man that shit is bangin Premo shit!

  16. The sneering condescension you guys have toward Southern rap is really nauseating, not to mention 100% off base.

    But yeah, guys. Keep living in your fantasy world where UGK, Outkast, 8ball & MJG, Scarface, and countless other artists don't exist.

    You don't sound like hipster douchebags at all.

  17. u cannot really say that this album sucks, it has some really good potential, and u can't say that he's a pop-rap artist, that's definitely not true. i mean, I am a huge T.I. fan and u can't say that he sucks! I'm listenin to old school hip hop but really T.I. is holding the line at today's hip hop. Paper Trail is probably one of his best albums, because it's really about findin himself and dealin with his prison sentence. And about the song "Whatever you like", yeah, ur partially correct, but he's really makin it to satisfy his other fans, like one's like the girly thingzsabout T.I., some o' them like thug things, some of them just like them old shit songs. If u said T.I. was ur second favorite rapper, u should really search youtube and his interviews, probably read his books or see Family Hustle, just sayin, u'll see what I'm talkin about. Btw, really nice work on da preview! :)

  18. Best work to date? Obviously you never heard Trap Muzik(Classic) Im Serious, King, and Urban Legend. T.I.P is a legend in the game not just the south!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!