T.I.: Paper Trail

While other top MCs have had to create their own bogeymen to battle — Kanye has his ego, Eminem had ex-wife Kim, Lil Wayne has those cough-syrup Martians — T.I.'s got real problems. Released from house arrest and in the midst of 1,500 hours of community service, he still has to serve a year in the clink on firearms charges. But embattlement has forced him to appreciate what he's got in his life, and the first half of sixth album Paper Trail is as inspired as anything he's released. Chorus­less opening riff "56 Bars" and current single "Whatever You Like" are nice, but "On Top of the World" kills it — expect to hear this Ludacris-guested track throughout the fall. Other memorable cuts include "No Matter What," an inspirational jam in the vein of R. Kelly's "World's Greatest," and the soon-to-be-popular "Live Your Life." Paper Trail's second half is mostly a slog, but even so, it's clear that T.I.'s troubles with the law have been to the benefit of his art.

 
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