T.I., No Mercy
Official release date: December 7, 2010
The verdict: T.I.’s 2006 breakthrough album, King, is the natural demarcation point in the man’s career, a perfect balance of the street rap that preceded it and the radio rap that was to come. On the freshly leaked No Mercy, T.I. piles on the pop beats and the sing-song-y choruses to such a degree that a younger version of himself may well have audibly scoffed at the whole thing. Sonically, it is very easy to listen to. But what about the lyrics? As Vulture has previously pointed out, this was supposed to be T.I.’s triumphant post-prison comeback album and was originally titled King Uncaged. Then T.I. got arrested again — but the album stayed on schedule. So, which tracks now sound awkward considering T.I.’s current geographical location? Let’s break it down!
“Welcome to the World”: Kanye produced it and adds on a funny verse conspiratorially blaming “the system” for T.I.’s predicament.
“Salute”: T.I. lets himself sound vulnerable, talking about how he’s “happy I made it before my daddy died.”
“Castle Walls”: The big, Christina Aguilera–featuring finishing number gets a bit carried away with the “king” metaphor (“Nobody knows I’m alone / living in this castle made of stone,” etc.) but once again features T.I. sounding non-calculatingly angry and confused.
“How Life Changed”: Scarface!
The party/sex songs “Strip,” “I Can’t Help It,” “Everything on Me,” “Lay Me Down,” and “Popping Bottles”: One has to suspend disbelief mightily for these to sound convincing at this particular moment.
“All She Wrote”: Well, just for the near–Angela Lansbury reference.
“Amazing”: “Had guns like an arms dealer / dream team lawyers, never been a dumb nigga.”
“Big Picture”: “I know I’m the shit ‘cause I bounced back / totally recovered from a pitfall.”
“No Mercy” and “Get Back Up”: Really, variations on “I’m only human” are not great excuses for anything.