ATL heavyweight T.I. has unleashed his long-awaited eighth studio album. The follow-up to 2010's No Mercy, Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head will feature 16 brand new records from the Southern hitmaker, among them reader-approved singles "Love this Life," "Go Get It," "Trap Back Jumpin'" and "Sorry."

Throughout the set, Tip collaborates with such high profile artists as Akon, Andre 3000, ASAP Rocky, Cee-Lo Green, Lil Wayne, Meek Mill, Pink and R. Kelly. Beats come courtesy of DJ Toomp, Earl & E, Jazze Pha, Mars (of 1500 or Nothin’), No I.D., Pharrell Williams, Rico Love and T-Minus.

Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head Album Review

T.I. could easily be forgiven for just not caring that much anymore. After all, what does he have left to prove? Millions of records sold, Grammys lining his wall, enough money for Scrooge McDuck to swim through, widespread respect – hell, he even talked a suicidal man down from jumping. On TIP’s worst days he could still record an album good enough to go gold, so why kill himself? Why do six takes of the same verse when the fifth was good enough?

Frankly, I don’t know why. If I was in T.I.’s position I’d be taking a nap in the Bahamas right now, justifiably telling myself I’d earned it. But Clifford Harris apparently just isn’t built like I am, or anyone else. It’d be ridiculous to say that his last two albums, Paper Trail and No Mercy, were lacking, they were both solid albums that went double platinum and platinum, respectively, but one listen to his latest effort, Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head, and in retrospect it’s obvious both were lacking something; that next level passion, that extra hunger, that made TIP’s early work like King so overwhelming powerful. Why does T.I. sound so hungry on this album? Why does he seem so consciously determined to go harder than Blake Griffin in the paint? Who knows, but we’ve now got an entire album full of evidence.

If you’re looking for that haven’t slept in 72 hours, straight out of the trap music T.I. essentially invented, there’s no better place to start than Trap Back Jumpin. Whatever thoughts he had of leaving the streets alone after prison have seemingly dissolved, Trap Back is nothing but big bass and T.I.’s signature charismatic delivery (what more can you really ask for?). Notably, Track Back is more the rule than the exception; it comes directly after the Meek Mill-assisted G Season, which primarily makes me realize how much T.I. paved the way for MMG, and G Season truthfully isn’t anything compared to the addictively hard Go Get It or the “well I guess T.I.’s openly inviting beef again” aggression of Addresses. It’s a word that’s become absurdly played out, but that doesn’t make it any less true; T.I. is more lyrical than he often gets credit for, but it’s his “swag” that truly separates him from the crowd, and Trouble Man is dripping with so much swag T.I. should bottle it and sell it. (I’ll take 10% of the sales for coming up with the idea Mr. Harris, thanks.)

Speaking of “more lyrical than he often gets credit for,” Trouble Man also finds T.I. delving as deep into his personal ills, and the ills of the world, as he ever had. Andre 3000’s guest verse on Sorry has stolen a bit of the spotlight, but make sure you also take a moment to acknowledge the depth of that second verse from the headliner: “Innocent ladies raped and defenseless babies abducted / Such a horrible truth, but you see it over and over / It's nothing, you numb to it and your heart grow colder / Pacify your pain with a chain and a Rover.” By the same token, when I first heard the opening section of Hello I expected the track to become a made for radio smash – why else get a hook from Cee-Lo? - but instead TIP lyrically steers the song in a darker and more honest direction, a tactic he uses again on Westside featuring A$AP Rocky. And I haven’t even gotten to Hallelujah yet, a cut that both acknowledges God on a level we haven’t really heard from an elite rapper since Jesus Walks, and is almost shockingly personal and autobiographical. If T.I.’s not at least being mentioned in your bar room “best rapper alive” debates, maybe it’s time you started including him.

Unfortunately, Trouble Man isn’t a flawless album, it’s hard to ignore the existence of more mixtape-worthy Who Want Some and the almost painfully soft Cruisin. And no, I don’t skip over Cruisin because I can’t stand the idea of T.I. with a radio hit, I won’t front like I didn’t play Whatever You Like too, but Cruisin’s just not a particularly good song (Guns and Roses has a much better chance of hitting). Still, those are such minor complaints among the dopeness that is Trouble Man it almost feels like a reach to bring them up. Despite the multiple prison bids T.I. never gave up his King of the South title, but after Trouble Man his spot on the throne is looking more secure than ever.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted 2 years ago

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