There were a few years when T.I.’s status as a leader in the army that is hip-hop was debatable. The southern rapper’s catalogue, while strong, was a point of contention. With his ninth release, Paperwork, the self-proclaimed King of the South is looking to solidify his throne. Paperwork feels authentic. It feels like T.I. has shaken off his shackles and is free to use that peculiar vernacular of his to bring back the feel of his highly acclaimed releases Trap Muzik and King.
The album starts off with the soulful “King”. Tip tears into this banger with a double time flow that reminds you of just how skilled a rapper he is. He then deftly slides into the Pharrell-produced “G’Shit” featuring Jeezy and the quirky Watch the Duck. It’s a funky ditty that’s hard to resist. Pharrell has quite a few liner notes. However, not all the results are impressive. The title track “Paperwork” is uninspired and the Doe B tribute “Light Em Up” gets lost in its melancholy.
The pre-release bangers “No Mediocre” and “About the Money” are still head-nodders, especially the former, which flows much smoother without the radio edits. DJ Toomp definitely brings the defining moments on Paperwork. The dark “On Doe, On Phil” featuring Trae The Truth is just mean, and “About My Issue” with its creeping bass was made for Nipsey Hussle’s raspy cadence.
T.I. has an accolade-worthy release on his hands. Paperwork contains some truly great reaffirming moments, but also has “New National Anthem” featuring Skylar Grey, which we will all pretend didn’t happen. When T.I. isn’t attempting to appease a broader audience he can speak with a unique voice that penetrates the listener and inspires greatness. Here’s hoping that voice isn’t lost in the noise.