If there is one man in Hip Hop who has found his self constantly in the wrong kind of spot light, its rapper T.I. He more than anyone else in the industry has become the trouble man of rap. After serving a year sentencing for purchasing assault rifle weapons, he was released only to be sent back to prison for violating his parole. Once released for a second time, the rapper came back with what seemed like a vengeance; jumping on several popular tracks including Jay Z and Kanye West “N**** In Paris” and Ke$has ” Sleazy,” and after being in prison for a year had built a buzz all over again. Prior to his second stint in prison, he released an album that didn’t do that well on Billboard and will probably go down as one of his least interesting projects. So with that on his shoulder he brings us “Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head” of the man who holds the crown, and as T.I. say’s he’s the “King Of the South”, but is he still deserving of that title?
T.I. is the king of consistency. If you have only heard one of his albums, you will already have a good idea of what to expect on future albums. The feel of his production is generally the same. He usually gravitates towards uptempo, high energy beats with heavy base and electric chords. There’s a reason he has been able to have so much pop success. A lot of the beats he picks are the perfect fit for the type of energy a pop station would be looking for. This isn’t an insult to his preference, it’s just an observation. He is one of the few rappers who has mastered the art of riding the line between gritty and mainstream, and the beats are a perfect complement to his rapping style.
If you want to know how good an artist is at the actual art of rapping, find a clip of them spitting their verse to a song without the beat in the background. When there is no beat your ears pay closer attention to the actual context of the lyrics and that artist will either affirm your assumptions of their superiority or leave you utterly disappointed. Rappers have learned to master the art of riding a beat. Riding a beat and adding in some wordplay that works with the production has been making careers for quite some time now. T.I. is one of the kings of this tactic. He knows how to ride the good vibes of a beat, and for a casual listener, it can heighten his overall lyrical ability. Unlike many of today’s rappers, T.I. actually has legitimate skill. Rapping is more than being able to put words together that rhyme. If it were that simple anyone could get signed… OK, well at least it used to be. Lyrics are more than punchlines and bravado. A true artist has a real skill in putting an entire song together, they can convey a message and even drop a few gems and they do this while incorporating a hook, and being restricted to the tempo and length of a beat. T.I. is the master of this, he mixes his home town slang with universal hip hop lingo, and mashes it together to put together well written songs that are entertaining and have context.
Granted for this, I’m partially biased; I will almost always lean towards an artist who finds a way to make their album run consistent with what the title is; It should come as no surprise that almost every T.I album review I’ve ever written has had high grades, he sticks to the script. This album tells the story of T.I.’s life over the last five years. We cover his arrest for the assault rifles, the loss of his best friend, his issues coping with prison time, rumors that flared while he was in jail, and he even takes out some time to address a few unnamed haters. On top of that, he does all of this while staying true to his core listeners, mixing in some tracks that could easily be top 40 material, and displaying the growth that has helped him stay in the game for over ten years.
I think fans should know that the T.I. that forced his way into mainstream music back in 04 is gone. Since then he has spent two different occasions in federal prison, lost his best friend, got married, had children and now has a reality show. Trapping T.I. is gone, he’s not the young boy with potential anymore. He’s long since passed that point and should now be considered one of the veteran staples of the game. This album is a perfect display of what you should usually expect from him. Solid music, diverse writing skills, and the story of a man who is constantly growing. With prison now in his past, we know he’s the KING, now we’ll see if his legacy will be worth remembering.