T.I., Paper Trail
Official Release Date: September 30
The Verdict: As we’re sure you’ve heard by now, T.I.’s had some legal problems recently and will be spending most of 2009 in prison on weapons charges. Since he won’t be around to promote it, he probably knew that Paper Trail (recorded this year while he was under house arrest) would need to sell itself. And it pretty much does! On last year’s muddled, schizophrenic-on-purpose T.I. vs. T.I.P., he tried to reconcile his dual personas — the shit-talking hustler and the hit-making pop star — with an album that was one-third pop-rap, one-third coke-rap, and one-third T.I. yelling at himself. Trail, though, bears all the focus one would expect from an album recorded by an artist wearing a federally mandated ankle bracelet. Highlights abound, but we like “Slideshow,” “I’m Illy,” and “You Ain’t Missin’ Nothing,” in addition to all the excellent, previously leaked singles (we still love “No Matter What”). As a bonus, T.I.’s collaboration with Fall Out Boy didn’t make the cut.