Wednesday, December 8, 2010

T.I is Back: No Mercy Is Killin It

Yesterday T.I dropped his new album, No Mercy, his first album since being released from federal prison for gun charges. T.I went into prison on a high note, with his previous album, Paper Trail, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 568,000 copies in its first week. Paper Trail also had four songs reach the top 5 of the Billboard 100 (Swagga Like Us, Live Your Life, Whatever You Like, Dead And Gone). Paper Trail was packed with hits from beginning to end even beyond the Billboard hits, including Swing Ya Rag, Every Chance I Get, and Whatever You Like Ft. Rihanna. TI’s went into prison as the king of the rap community, being able to back up his verses with street cred, I mean he was arrested for gun trafficking, and also being able to write one hell of a hook (the chorus of Every Chance I Get is one of the most ballin things ever said in the history of the spoken and written word). TI left rap fans wanting more as he entered prison, and curious about what kind of rhymes would come out of a 1 year sentence.

One of the difficulties that comes with making a great album is that it leaves your fans with raised expectations of what’s coming next. Such is the case with TI’s No Mercy. If a listener plans on trying to enjoy the album by comparing it to Paper Trail, they’re going to be disappointed. No Mercy isn’t better than Paper Trail, and TI most likely won’t come out with an album better Paper Trail in his career, it was just too good. No Mercy, and more importantly TI, deserves a lot of credit for being different than Paper Trail. Based on the consistency of songs on Paper Trail, it’s clear TI has a winning formula to making hits, that he could have repeated on No Mercy and made mainstream rap fans just as happy as they were in 2008 when Paper Trail dropped. TI went the other way on No Mercy, writing more meaningful verses and much more creative choruses than we’re use to hearing on the radio.

The biggest flaw in No Mercy is, strangely, the lack of TI. He only has 3 songs on the album where he’s the only artist. I don’t mind it too much because most of his features do a pretty good job, but aside from Eminem and Kanye, none of them are even close to TI. His solo songs, “Salute”, “Everything On Me”, and “Big Picture” are all great. “Everything On Me” is similar to a Paper Trail tracks like “I’m Illy”, with a catchy chorus and a club beat mixed with TI’s swaggered up verses, where he rhymes about droppin cash and gettin laid, something I’ll never get sick of. “Salute” is my favorite of his solo tracks. It has a lot of old school flare, especially in the beat, which has minimal synthesizing and relies heavily on the bass and high snare drums. The beat’s simplicity lets the listener appreciate the lyrics, which were written to remind everyone in the rap community what TI’s done in his career, even beyond just the albums.

No Mercy has 11 tracks with features on them. In my opinion, there are 9 songs, and 2 certified wake up and jams. “Welcome to the World Ft. Kanye West” and “That’s All She Wrote Ft. Eminem”. And even amongst those two, That’s All She Wrote is on another level. TI caught both of these emcees at their best. Em’s album Recovery solidified his place as one of, if not the, greatest of all time in terms of pure lyrical skill, and Kanye’s new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, hasn’t had a bad thing said about it yet. Outside of those 2 songs, TI still brings in great emcees to feature, with new guys Rocko on “I Can’t Help It”, and a song that should blow up the radio soon in “Lay Me Down” with Rico Love. TI saved his best verses for his Kanye and Em songs, a necessity because both Kanye and Em absolutely kill these tracks. Kanye handles the chorus on “Welcome to the World”, and in my opinion nobody lays down a better chorus than Mr. West.

A note to all rappers, don’t feature Eminem on your album. He will absolutely outshine you and leave your listeners with their jaws dropped, forgetting anything you said on the track. He did it to Wayne on Rebirth in “Drop the World” and did to Drake, Wayne, and Kanye on “Forever” He’s the best there is right now without question, and if you forget Relapse he might be the best of all time. There are too many ace one-liners in his verses to name here, but it goes beyond just the lyrics. Em jumps from 1x, to 2x, to 3x speed throughout the track. No matter how well you memorize his verses, you can’t keep up with him, I’ve tried. “/Buy you a bag of fritos? I wouldn’t let you eat the fuckin chip on my shoulda./ Even if you was bleach and I was hair I wouldn’t die for ya/ “…that verse only gets better but I’ll leave it for you to hear on your own.

Overall: A-

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