Atlantic and Grand Hustle recording artist T.I., infamously known as the “King of the South,” has done it again with his most poignant and potent LP to date: “Paper Trail,” the follow-up to his 2007 platinum-certified “T.I. vs. T.I.P.” The title is an allusion to T.I.’s return to literally writing down his lyrics on paper—a feat he hasn’t practiced since releasing his first album, “I’m Serious.” Simply put, “Paper Trail” is a monumental success. It is lyrically moving in its style and inspires others to transcend their natural boundaries.
T.I. finds a balance between lyrical ingenuity and pure entertainment. The lead single, “No Matter What,” addresses T.I.’s situation earlier this year when he was placed under house arrest due to gun charges. This track flows with sincerity and influences people to “Manage to conquer every obstacle / Make impossible possible / Even when winning’s illogical / Losing’s still far from optional.”
Then there is “Live Your Life,” a duo with Rihanna, that inspires anyone dealing with hardships to “Nevermind what haters say / Ignore ’em ‘till they fade away.”
A collaboration track with Justin Timberlake and perhaps with the most ear-pleasing beat, “Dead and Gone,” teaches the hot-tempered to think before acting in tense situations.
In one of the most arguably inspirational rap tracks of the year, “Slide Show,” featuring John Legend, T.I. comforts his fans by saying that “Mistakes don’t define you / They don’t dictate where you’re headed / They remind you.” T.I. compromises his Southern rap swagger with the soothing melodic chorus from John Legend, establishing a lyrical and rhythmic masterpiece.
The aforementioned tracks, and an additional one like “You Ain’t Missing Nothing,” not only show the maturity of “The King of the South’s” persona, but his ability to lyrically deliver his personal experiences into his tracks and inspire the masses.
One of his most important tracks, “Ready For Whatever,” allows T.I. to come clean with his fans and to explain the debacle he found himself in after being charged with two felonies — possession of three unregistered machine guns and two silencers, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He is painfully honest and informs his fans, “I’m a man, I ain’t perfect, I admit it I’m guilty / But understand — feel me — I was riding filthy / Because niggas out there plotting to rob me and kill me / 500,000 every year spent on security.”
“Paper Trail” also transitions from the serious and inspirational songs to the more light-hearted and carefree tracks like the album’s first official hit single, “Whatever You Like.”
“My Life Your Entertainment,” with five-time Grammy winner Usher, will most likely appeal to the younger demographic with its catchy and uplifting club-like beats. Then there are other head-bobbers like “Swing Ya Rag” and “Swagga Like Us,” a star-laden track featuring Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z that would be fitting for a Friday night college jam.
Other guest appearances include The Dream, Fall Out Boy, B.O.B., DJ Toomp, Swizz Beatz, Drumma Boy and Danja.
“Paper Trail” encompasses a variety of tracks that cater to listeners looking for an outlet, a message or even the occasional groove that gets them thumping on the dance floor. It is, without a doubt, one of the best rap albums of the year, appealing to people of all ages and teaching everyone to move forward despite struggles. T.I.’s “Paper Trail” leaves no question as to who the “King of the South” really is.