Review of T.I.'s Paperwork

T.I.'s Paperwork
T.I.'s Paperwork. Columbia Records

T.I. linked up with longtime collaborator ​Pharrell for his ninth album, Paperwork. In an April 2014 interview, Tip said he so named the album because paperwork is “official,” “trouble,” and “authentic,” and that “the music supports this theory very well. But Paperwork itself is a strong batch of songs that lacks the cohesion that made his earlier albums great.

Highlights

There are plenty of gems on this album, particularly near the beginning and end.

“King” is a blistering opener; with cold rhymes like “"She say you're pitiful, they think you're popular / That ain't gon' keep my lil' pa'tna from poppin' ya,” making the intro Tip's best lyrical song since “I'm Illy.”

Other early highlights include “G S--t,” which works mainly because of WatchTheDuck's delightfully goofy vocals, “About the Money,” with Tip at his swag-tastic best, and “New National Anthem,” which is a provocative look at the man's intellectual side.

Inconsistencies

Things get muddy around track 5, “Oh Yeah,” and stay inconsistent until the last two tracks on the album. While Tip said that he and Pharrell were bringing a fresh twist on familiar content, songs like “Oh Yeah,” “Jet Fuel,” and “At Ya Own Risk” rehash the same old themes that have dominated the rapper's music for 13 years. We've known for a long time that Tip is a stand-up guy, doesn't take crap and can steal your girl.

Lyrics like “the king gettin' money when the bank's closed” and “we pourin' up, blowin' gas, weed noisy” are painfully underwhelming for a rapper capable of so much more.

In the past, Tip was able to draw a common thread between a variety of tracks with a cohesive feel and tone throughout each album.

But Paperwork makes it clear that T.I. is continuing his unfortunate trend of trying to please everyone at once, and as a result, songs like “Jet Fuel,” and the impressive “About My Issue” don't sound like they should even be on the same album.

Likewise, the music is solid but disconnected. Pharrell produces multiple highlights, including the low-key title track and the funky “G Sh-t,” but also fails to deliver on the bland “Oh Yeah.” And while Mars supplies a beat fit for a king on the opener, he also curses the album with the painfully spacy “At Ya Own Risk.” In any case, the music is largely disjointed, resulting in a jolt from track to track on several occasions.

Summary

Paperwork is best when T.I. is digging deep. “Stay” is a soulful plea to his wife, while the title track finds Tip smoothly reminiscing about his days as a dope boy in the A. The last two tracks, “Light 'Em Up (RIP Doe B)” and “Let Your Heart Go (Break My Soul),” showcase the rapper's undying allegiance to friends both deceased and incarcerated. These songs are highlights because it feels like T.I. actually means what he's rapping, rather than just trying to put out what he thinks people want to hear.

When he wants to be, T.I.

is still one of the best rappers around. His flow is in top form, he still oozes charisma, and many of the songs on this album are enjoyable. Unfortunately, there are too many obligatory songs on Paperwork for the album to hit as a whole.