Rating: 2/5 stars
Pro: T.I.'s technical skills as a rapper continue to improve.
Con: After four albums in five years, he's running out of
things to say.
Bottom Line: A rare miss for a normally consistent rapper.
Big Shit Poppin
Respect This Hustle
T.I. declared himself “King of the South” when he was a little-known local act out of Atlanta. He earned the title in 2006 with a Hollywood movie and the year’s best-selling rap album. The aptly named KING served as the culmination of a career of striving, spawning two Billboard hits and a Grammy nomination.
But the shadow of his previous success looms over his follow-up T.I. vs. T.I.P. After dedicating his career to reaching the throne, he seems unsure what to do now that he has it. The album’s narrative concept, the struggle between two sides of his personality — T.I. the mature businessman and T.I.P. the hotheaded gangster — is recycled verbatim from a 2003 song.
So he falls back on the subject he is most comfortable with — himself. While he previously balanced his arrogance with introspection, T.I. vs. T.I.P. has songs chronicling his style (My Swag; We Do This) and his toughness (Hurt). Even he seems bored on his lackluster second single You Know What It Is: "Chart topping ain't a car I ain't got / Number one customer at my own car lot."
Without longtime producer DJ Toomp, the album lacks an anthemic single like What You Know or Rubberband Man. Instead there is a string of synthesizer-heavy beats jam-packed with some of the biggest names in rap (Jay-Z, Eminem, Nelly). The rapid-fire flow he has gradually adopted over the years is near flawless. The shame is, as his skills on the mike continue to improve, he has increasingly less to actually say.