Now nine albums and a host of mixtapes into his music career, King of the South and rapper T.I. recently blessed Hiphop with his new, Pharrell-adorned album, Paperwork: The Motion Picture.
Since his sixth album Paper Trail, T.I.’s official, for-sale projects have shifted away from trap records toward a more commercial sound. Despite this artistic transition, he has always found a way to maintain the requisite level of hood themes to satisfy his core constituency. This phenomenon is what makes T.I.’s music so interesting—it is impossible to predict just how each of his projects will blend mainstream leanings with Dirty South expectations. Paperwork has certainly proven his most successful venture in facing this challenge.
The debut track, “King”, sets the tone for the entire album. As T.I. lyrically reminds us that he runs shit and collects checks along the way, the beat perfectly infuses intense bass with soulful adlibs reminiscent of a Kanye track. “G Shit”, “Oh Yeah” and “At Ya Own Risk” follow a similar trajectory, making it evident that trap drums are central to the sound of the album, but that complex melodies are also valued.
Paperwork is also comprised of a collection of slower, “rap-ballad,” tracks. “Stay”, featuring new R&B-pop artist Victoria Monet, is an example of this. The song details the journey of two people who are caught in a tumultuous relationship and are attempting to work out their issues—likely an autobiographical account of T.I.’s own relationship with Tiny Harris, who temporarily left him earlier this year. Hilariously demonstrating that his street-aggressiveness permeates even his romantic relationships, instead of simply apologizing for his transgressions, T.I. declares, “You wanna be right, or wanna be with me?/”That’s not rhetorical/answer it please.”
Though not romantic songs (unless love for money counts), “About My Issue” and “New National Anthem,” similarly have stand out choruses that compliment the accompanying rap verses. In “New National Anthem” T.I. unashamedly addresses police brutality against African Americans and encourages them to “stop waiting on folk to help” because the “government don’t give a fuck about us.” Though T.I. has never hidden his political or social views, this is certainly his most activist-oriented record.
But, of course, a T.I. album could not be complete without a few tracks that remind us all of his Westside Atlanta origins. “Jet Fuel” and “About the Money” are the stand out gutta gangsta records, with the perfect amount of bass and bravado. There is nothing particularly unique or incredible about these songs besides the fact that they make you wanna knuck up.
Overall, this album deserves a solid 4 out of 5. The production is a bit too clean and almost outdoes T.I.’s verses, which is what most listeners come to the album for; but on the other hand, the songs are diverse—both in content and sonically. From love records to G Shit, T.I. serves up a solid collection of songs that all fit together despite their uniqueness. I wasn’t disappointed.
After all, “It’s the king biiiitch.”
Jasmine Burnett is a junior in Lowell House, studying Government with a secondary in African American Studies. For her, reading culture blogs and hunting for new music is a daily form of sustenance. Jasmine appreciates when Nicki Minaj remembers she’s a rapper, and when T-Pain sings without autotune. ATL 4ever.