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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2008
Ostensibly, "Paper Trail" is a reference to T.I. taking the time to put his thoughts on paper rather than relying on spontaneity and his mental notebook for his lyrics. Having listened to the album closely I'd like to draw two additional meanings from the title, each alluding to our old friends T.I. and T.I.P. First, there is a set of songs on this album that read unmistakably like pages from a diary, songs that are deeply personal and insightful. The second "Paper Trail" is simply money, and it inspires a set of songs about the fun and the swagger that comes with fortune. On "Paper Trail," T.I. expertly walks the line between relevance and entertainment, and delivers a magnum opus.

Four tracks best illustrate the lyrical diary I gleaned from this album. Lead single "No Matter What" is a window into T.I.'s time under house arrest and is astounding in its sincerity and lyrical complexity, he raps "Even though it's heavy, the load I'll still carry it/ Grin and still bear it, win and still share it/ Apologies to the fans, I hope you can understand it/ Life can change directions, even when you ain't plan it." "Ready for Whatever" is a stunningly honest explanation of his weapons charges, "Yes officially I broke the law, but not maliciously/...Either die or go to jail, that's a heck of a decision/ But I'm wrong and I know it, my excuse is unimportant." "Slide Show" blessed by John Legend is likely the most inspirational rap track of the year, on which T.I. advises his fans, "Don't forget that impossible is nothing, your environment is irrelevant/ Just don't let your emotions, overpower your intelligence/ Refuse to give up, Your mistakes don't define you/ They don't dictate where you're headed, they remind you." "Dead and Gone" with Justin Timberlake calls on listeners to let cooler heads prevail in tense situations, "No more stress, now I'm straight/ Now I get it, now I take/ Time to think before I make mistakes, just for my family's sake." These four tracks, and additionally "Live Your Life" and "You Ain't Missing Nothin", represent T.I.'s nuanced understanding of not only rap and music, but of life itself.

T.I.P. and the financially-focused half of the album come into sharp relief on more carefree tracks including hit single "Whatever You Like." "Swing Ya Rag," which will have even the most jaded gangster on the dance floor also falls into this category as does "Every Chance I Get." One would be remiss to not mention goliath record "Swagger Like Us" featuring Kanye West, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne (obligatory verse ranking: Tip, Hov', Weezy, `ye).

In sum, this album manages to cater to both listeners that are looking for a message and those looking for an escape. It is not without its problems (how "Porn Star" made the album over the leaked "Like I Do," I'll never know) but a T.I. album with a blemish outshines 99% of records today. Personally, it is my album of the year.
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on October 6, 2008
Rakim, Gang Starr, KRS-One and Nas were the soundtrack to the formative years of my life and I got so sick of the garbage in contemporary rap that I totally abandoned the format, renouncing urban radio altogether and blocking BET, MTV and VH-1 from my cable box. It was too hard to tell when one Lil' Wayne song ended and the next T-Pain song began.

Over the weekend while riding in a friend's car, I heard what I thought was a new Rihanna song, "Live my Life". The "guest rapper" (Yes, I knew it was T.I.) dropped this gem, "...the spirit of a hustler and the swagger of a college kid." I thought to myself, "Hey, I could get with lyrics like that."

When I got home I looked it up on Rhapsody and found the album "Paper Trail". Whoa! I am off the bench, put me in the game coach! This album is fantastic. The production values are outstanding, surpassing any album in any genre that I've heard in years and the lyrics and themes for a fist full of tracks are top notch as well. "56 Bars", "Whatever you Like", "No Matter What", "Swagga Like Us", "Slide Show" and "Dead and Gone" are all true bangers that will stand up to the best.

In short, this album turned this hip-hop agnostic into a true believer.
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on October 17, 2008
Long before T.I. became a household name, he dubbed himself the "King of the South". It was evidence of his extraordinary ambition. His albums too show the same ambition. They typically run the gamut of hip-hop, with radio friendly songs, introspective songs, club tracks, street anthems and occasionally thought provoking concepts.

Unfortunately, up to now the music has not lived up to his ambition levels. Don't get me wrong Urban Legend & King (even T.I. vs T.I.P.) were great albums musically but you knew that T.I. was aiming even higher. He wanted his albums to be at the same level as 2pac, Eminem, B.I.G. at their respective primes.

He came close with King but I think he might have done it this one. If this was 1999 I wouldn't bet against this album going diamond. But thanks to the internet double platinum will be a stretch.

Comparisons to the greats are relevant because like them, T.I. has some monster hits on this album, "whatever You Like" and "Live Your Life" are already #1 hits. "No Matter What" was an undeniable street anthem and "What up, What's happenin'" has the streets & the mixtape circuit buzzing. And the great thing is that there is more hits to come.

This is not to say that the album is perfect (despite the 5 star rating) but neither were the greats. But like the Carter III, this album is one you'll remember when 10 yrs from now you think of the year 2008.

The key to the success of the album is T.I.'s hunger which is at pre-Urban Legend levels. But at the same time he maintains the swagger that he's become famous for. This is most evident on the monster track "Swagger Like Us" where T.I. flexes his swag and mic skills at the same time.

He balances the fun tracks like the Swizz beats party starter "Swing Ya Rag" well with the more serious stuff like "You Ain't missing Nothing". The production is alot more consistent than his prior efforts making the album quite cohesive despite the varying subject matters.

He cleverly uses his guest features to make the tracks even bigger. Case in point is "Live Your Life" which suits Rihanna to a tee, same Justin Timberlake & John Legend on "Dead & Gone" and "Slide Show" respectively.

All that makes this his biggest and most well contructed album. And while there is room for improvement (see "Every Chance I Get"), in the whole it is excellent entertainment.
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on October 2, 2008
Without a doubt, one of the best Southern Rappers that went from "Urban Legand" to "King" to appearing on songs by Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly and Dj Khaled and combining street smart attitude with commercial appeal. His last album "T.I VS T.I.P" from last year went even further with a concept between the split personality T.I and T.I.P but while it had some of the best productions of last year (especially from Danja) the concept was old news and it didn't work out that well either since the diffrence between the two was ice thin and T.I didn't stick to the concept on all songs either. Just one year after he's dropping a new album called "Paper Trail". It may look strange that it's successor is dropping so fast but alot of things happened in T.I life during the last year. He was arrested for weapon possesion and will eventually be serving 1 year in jail. In the meantime he's been in house arrest writing down his lyrics (the first time since his debut) and partly writing songs about his reflections about his life and his crime, which is rare for T.I. But as usual, the album offers much more, we got the club songs, the radio hits, the #1 single "Whatever You Like" and some battle songs aswell. The production is good as always and feature guys like Danja, Dj Toomp, Jim Jonsin, Drumma Boy and Swizz Beatz to mention a few. What is there to expect from "Paper Trail"? is it as good as it sounds on the same level as "King"? Let's read on to find out.

The album opens up with a freestyle intro called "56 Barz" which is mostly braggadoccio with a repetitive DJ Toomp beat. "I'm Illy" is simular in conent to the intro, but the beat is a little better. For instance, He's saying that he's the best rapper since Tupac. New star producer Drumma Boy is next out with a very nice cut called "Ready For Whatever" that is a mix between computer beats and guitar riffs and stand out as alot of his productions, keep his name on your mind. The lyrics are also very personal since they reflect the weapon charges aswell as the man behind it and the reasons why it happened and his anxiety to go to jail. A definite standout. "On Top Of The World" a modern Hip Hop song with heavy bass and electro beats feature Ludacris and B.o.B on the hook. Both of the rappers deal with fame and success. Good song aswell, especially the verse by Luda. "Live Your Life" with Rihanna on the hook and a production or theft by Just Blaze who borrows the entire song from Moldavian pop group O'Zone's "Dragostea Din Tei". Just Blaze use to be bad when he borrowed every good 70's Soul song but this is the most unoriginal yet. The lyrics on the other hand are good aswell as Rihanna's hook. "Whatever You Like" is currently topping the Billboard chart making it T.I's biggest hit to date. It's a commercial cut with alot of swagger for the ladies, with Jim Jonsin as the producer. Recently he also produced Lil Wayne's "Lollipop". No one can deny this is another winner.

When You thought things couldn't get better comes the best song, the Danja produced "No Matter What" is unusual for him but is driven by an emotional bluesy guitar riff and computer beats. T.I reply to doubters of his credability and tells us his story of who he is and where he came from. One of his alltime best aswell as one of his deepest. Drumma Boy is back with a R&B influented song with omnipotent Usher Raymond on the hook. This songs deals with the down and lows of being a celebrity. Another potential single. The Lil' C produced "Pornstar", is creative in production and not as naughty as the title would refer to, just another song for the ladies. Infact it's quite enjoyable, especially the hook from Ricco Barrino (Yeah he's Fantasia's brother). "Swing Ya Rag" is a standard Swizzy production (him also chanting the hook), with brassy horns and marching beats. It's a deja vu but way better then the average Swizzy song lately. It's purpose? Get up and dance. More from Drumma Boy on "What's Up, What's Happening" a diss on Shawty Lo which is quite good aswell. Dj Toomp is back on "Every Chance I Get" that shows T.I's rougher sides, some people are gonna like this for sure I found it rather annoying. "Swagga Like Us" produced by Kanye West samples a part from M.I.A and also shows that West is trading Soul for Pop. It also feauture Jay-Z and Lil Wayne and a West using the Audio Tune. They declare they got swagga and that's why they stick around why others dissapear. Although it looks good on paper, the hook here is almost unbearable. "Slide Show" a duet with John Legend is a very personal song once again and T.I talks about chosing the rigtht path in life. While Legend is a good vocalist, It could've been more of a hit with someone with a more pop-oriented voice. Even more from Drumma Boy on "You Ain't Missin Nothin" A reflective song for the people locked up or formerly locked up. This one is slow and a little jazzy and sound nothing like Drumma Boy, let alone Hip Hop. The closer "Dead Gone" was produced and feature Justin Timberlake. It's a somber mid tempo with a fast rapping T.I saying that he's rougher sides are gone and that he's a new man. Good way to end the album.

Overall, Perhaps this is the best T.I album to date. It's both commercial and reflective with a good mix between modern futuristic productions and some more unusual suprises. It's the the most personal T.I album to date and after listening to his last album it would almost look impossing to archive. I'm surprised and overwhelmed and enjoying most of the songs of this album. Although I hardly give commercial Hip Hop albums high votes I'm willing to make and exception here because of the factors involved and the incredible progress that T.I made from his last album. For the first time in a while there is a rapper combining commercial appeal with personal integrity. This album is gonna entertain all kinds of people and it's easy to get into aswell. 4'5, a must check out.
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on October 15, 2008
I will say right now that I am NOT a hip-hop or rap fan. Or at least, I wasn't until I picked up this CD, no lie there. It started with not being able to get "Whatever you like" out of my head, which lead to sampling bits and pieces of upcoming tracks like "Dead and Gone," and "Live your Life," both of which I thought were amazing. I decided that I should get the album from the one song and two snippets I heard.

It was well worth it. In fact, for 10 bucks I thought I should have paid more. There are definitely some weaker titles but a lot of stand out ones as well. I'm not huge on collabs, but I feel that the partnerships/ collaborations T.I. made in this album really did what they were supposed to- expose listeners to different sides of T.I. and range, and accentuate the respective performances. In songs like "Live your Life," "My life your entertainment," and "Slide Show," the collaborations are with some interesting artists not really predictable to former T.I. listeners. The styles mix together incredibly, and accentuate the style of both performers/ several performers (Swagga like Us)

My favorite thing about this CD is the passion T.I. brings to the table in songs like "Dead and Gone" and "Ready For Whatever," (my favorite song on the CD). He actually raps about stuff, imagine that. In "Ready for Whatever" he elaborates on his jail sentence and his motivations behind his actions in a compelling depiction of his state of mind. The songs all encompass his state of mind at different times in his life, some dealing with the death of his friend, some dealing with his jail sentence, some dealing with the pressure he faces from his peers.

Trust me, not many of the tracks on this CD are REALLY about impressing girls with cash, riding in nice cars, and showing off jewelry like some older T.I. songs.

It's unfortunate that he went through what he went through legally, but I believe it has made him a stronger artist with experience and personal strife underneath his belt.

An extremely personal album, completely worth BUYING (not downloading).
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on October 13, 2008
I was a bit skeptical about getting this album because let's be honest, T.I. Vs T.I.P was a suspect album to say the least. T.I. soullessly mumbling through a whole album(which is what he did on that album) is something I just dont dig. But this album is a lot better than I expected it to be. I'm Illy, 56 Bars showcase T.I. lyrically skills which bring you back to the Trap Musik/Urban Legend days. Whatever You Like is a catchy single even though it's kind of corny, I'll admit I like it. My Life, Your Entertainment with Usher is T.I. explaining evertyhing he goes through as a superstar. Live Your Life(feat Rihanna) and No Matter What show a more positive side to T.I. which was a rarity on most his albums. Im glad he buried the hatchet with Ludacris(which was a confusing beef to say the least) because On Top Of The World feat Ludacris and B.O.B. is not bad. Like most of his albums there are a few songs that stop this one from reaching classic status. Swing Ya Rag feat Swizz Beatz is a weak club banger. Every Chance I Get is pretty generic. Porn Star is a terrible song for the ladies and any of you females out there that like this song you need to stay the hell away from me. I would hate to have to tie you to a chair and force you to watch Batman and Robin till you writhe in pain but I can and I will! Last but not least, Swagger Like Us(feat Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Jay-z) is complete and utter garbage. Everybody's rhymes were wack, the beat is corny and the sample of M.I.A's Paper Planes is laughable. Dont let the radio beat that song into your subconscious, it stinks! Bottom Line: Paper Trail is T.I.'s best album since Urban Legend. The production(for the most part) was good, T.I.'s rhymes are sharp as before(prior to T.I. Vs T.I.P.) and the guest appearances(except for the bad songs mentioned) fared well on this album too. Strongly recommended.
Standouts: MY LIFE YOUR ENTERTAINMENT, I'M ILLY, DEAD AND GONE, 56 BARS, LIVE YOUR LIFE, ON TOP OF THE WORLD and NO MATTER WHAT.
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on November 26, 2008
I bought Paper Trail because I loved the first two singles released (Whatever You Like and Live Your Life). I had no idea until I got the CD how many INCREDIBLE collaborations were on this album (Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake AND John Legend -- among others -- just incredible). It's obvious from listening to the lyrics that TI spent his time wisely reflecting on his life, and the consequences of his actions that resulted in his house arrest. While he offered no excuses, and he admitted his wrongs, as you listen to his passionate recap of the circumstances of his life and the events that led up to his arrest ... it's not hard to understand where he's coming from and why he may have made some of the choices he did - wrong as they may have been. All that self reflection and social consciousness laid out over some of the hottest BEATS I'VE HEARD IN YEARS!! I LOVE THIS ALBUM! I say it's a MUST BUY!
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on November 10, 2011
Good cd! TI worked hard on this album.
There's some ok tracks that have a lot of bragging tough/rich/cool guy lyrics like "On Top of the World", "My Life Your Entertainment w/ Usher", "What Up, What's Haapnin"
But then he pulls out some awesome tracks like with great beats & lyrics on "Live Your Life w/ Rihanna", "Whatever You Like", "No Matter What", & "Dead & Gone w/ Justin Timberlake"

However I have to skip "Swagga Like Us" feat. Jay Z., Kanye West, & Lil Wayne every time it comes. I like all these guys & they could've made a much better track, but the Sample they took of the girl sayin "Swagga Like Us" & played it over & over until the annoying repetition drives you nuts!!

Other than that song, excellent cd!!
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on October 4, 2008
Listen Paper Trail takes what Tha Carter III did with its album and made it 10x better. Not only is it a fun album, but it is lyrically out of here, its production is great. The guests besides Wayne do great. This is a class album. Not a classic, it has to survive the test of time. But for now, it is the best album of the year. It is not hype. My first and only 10/10 since The Cool. I love this album, and if you love music you should too...
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on November 20, 2009
This is the best CD of the last two years and I am not even a huge hip-hop fan.
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