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Saturday, September 30, 2023


T.I. dons crown on ‘Paper Trail’

A "paper trail" is commonly considered a series of documentations left by a person in the course of their activities. In the case of Clifford Harris, Jr., better known as T.I., Paper Trail is a continuation of his own personal documentary and sits firmly in his career as his sixth full-length studio album.

It’s no secret that T.I. has seen his share of trouble in the past few years. Aside from his pending incarceration for felony weapons charges, he has lost an unborn daughter in a miscarriage and also lost his personal assistant in a shootout. However, the self-proclaimed "King of the South" channeled all of his energy, both positive and negative, into what may be his best work to date.

Fans of T.I. have been eagerly anticipating Paper Trail, especially since his last effort, T.I. vs. T.I.P. was an overall flop. In complete contrast, Paper Trail has very little filler, hits hard from the beginning and maintains momentum throughout.

T.I. reconnected with DJ Toomp, who helmed some of T.I.’s biggest hits, such as "U Don’t Know Me," and "What You Know." Toomp produces choice cuts on Paper Trail, including the relentless intro, "56 Bars," and "On Top of the World." Overall the production on Paper Trail consists of very generic beats that are often dispersed among southern rappers, but T.I. somehow makes every beat sound a lot more important.

For those who tend to stray away from feature-heavy hip-hop releases, Paper Trail is not for you. From Usher to Ludacris and Justin Timberlake to John Legend, there is an extremely diverse lineup for the album. It also features "Swagga Like Us," one of the most talked about collaborations in quite some time. The track arguably features three of the most relevant names in hip-hop right now: Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Throw in a sample of M.I.A.’s "Paper Planes," and you have one of the biggest tracks in years.

Paper Trail also sees a remorseful and reflective T.I. In "Ready for Whatever," the emcee takes responsibility for his weapons charges, but also lays into the reasoning behind his actions. In "No Matter What," he claims "even the greatest gotta suffer some time," and in "Dead and Gone," Justin Timberlake belts "the old me is dead and gone" in his trademark croon.

Many celebrities have let their run-ins with the law significantly change and even destroy their potential and career. R. Kelly and DMX come to mind immediately. However, T.I. has maintained his focus and is "ready for whatever." Considering the idea that this may be his last album for a while, he’ll sleep better at night knowing that Paper Trail is one of the best hip-hop releases of the year. Paper Trail is in stores today.

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