The Rundown with Aryez
Since being dubbed as the “Jay-Z of the South” by Pharrell Williams in 2001, Clifford “T.I.” Harris has had his share of tragedy as well as triumphs – in music and his personal life alike. Fulfilling various prison stints, losing a daughter and a best friend, and feuding with some of the hip hop South’s biggest names only to still stand unscathed are reasons why T.I. could very well have earned his right as “The King”. We haven’t even talked about his career as an artist which includes winning two American Music Awards (Favorite Rap/ Hip hop Male Artist, Favorite Rap/ Hip Hop Album, 2007), three BET awards (Best Male Hip Hop Artist, 2006 and 2007, Viewer’s Choice Award, 2009), three Grammy awards (Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap/ Sung Collaboration, 2007 and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, 2009) and a multitude of others help to reiterate why he has that title. He leaves us with his seventh LP “No Mercy”, to solidify his presence musically while serving an eleven-month prison term for probation violation. In this edition of The Rundown with Aryez, is T.I.’s taking no prisoners, showing “No Mercy” or should this effort really be called “The Passion of T.I.P”?
“…Mercy” jumps right off the cliff with the Kanye West (Consequence, Common) and No I.D. (Jay Z, Jermaine Dupri) produced “Welcome to the World” featuring West and Kid Cudi. All three artists give their perspectives on the allure of living fast – consisting of broken hearts, fast cars, and promiscuity. They even reflect on the pitfalls of this fat life as being repercussions of fortune and fame. On “How Life Changed” featuring Mitchelle’l and Scarface he reflects on his troubled days as a youth in a conversational flow reminiscent to Jay-Z’s 1997 “Real N*****”. The listener would swear the production was truly meant to be a UGK track, and Scarface fulfills as the next best thing and doesn’t disrespect it at all.
Of course, T.I.P keeps close ties with his street credibility with “I Can’t Help It” featuring Rocko and produced by 1500 or Nothin’. This song itself takes you back to his “Trap Muzik” and “Urban Legend” sound as he delivers a quick, witty flow over heavy piano and electric guitar rifts. This song is a must for your car’s sound system. He then collabs with Eminem on “That’s All She Wrote” in which Em’s verses actually gives T.I.’s a run for there money. If you recall Nas stating “Eminem murdered you on your own s***!” stemming from the collaboration between him and Jay-Z on the 2001 “Renegade”, you’ll definitely hear someone saying that again in the very near future about this track.
Aside from his subject matter consisting about his life in the streets, he has always been an excellent artist at providing songs about motivation to those of the struggle and those hated upon. He doesn’t stop here as he offers the titled-track “No Mercy” produced by and featuring The Dream (Mariah Carey, J. Holiday) in which he proclaims overcoming his failures and encouraging others to do the same. Another song that follows this format as well is “Get Back Up” where Chris Brown lends his voice on the chorus with the Neptunes (Kelis, Robin Thicke) blessing the production, as well as on “Amazing”. The track most notable for T.I. exposing his vulnerability of loneliness despite being wealthy is the Christina Aguilera featured “Castle Walls”.Alex da Kid (Kardinal Offishall, Dr. Dre) offers a medieval, soft-rock sound to the production. Other strong tracks that are good listens are “Big Picture”, “Salute” and “Poppin Bottles” featuring Drake.
Though this project has a solid and consistent listen, there exist two big aspects that could threatened the album’s credibility. The first are that the features tend to outshine him and, there are simply too many. Again, listen to songs “Welcome to the World”, “That’s All She Wrote” and “Poppin Bottles” and the listener may think that those songs were actually the artists he collaborated with instead of his. Along with that being said, out of the fourteen – track LP, eleven songs have other artists featured on them. The second aspect is that he is still using filler songs that don’t have any real value or purpose; hence they don’t need to make the cut. This actually was a huge problem for him in the past and had shorted him of delivering classic albums. This “Achilles heel” of his lingers on in such tracks as “Strip” featuring Young Dro and Trey Songz, “Everything On Me”, and “Lay Me Down”. This is progress though from the amount that would be on past efforts.
When originally putting this album together, T.I. wanted to incorporate elements from the earlier albums of his career, and record written and free-styled verses for each song. Another interesting fact is that he stressed the point that he consciously strayed from talking about guns and gun violence. He is now making his albums more thematic and stretching ideas throughout a project’s entirety – which is good. He is expanding on his strengths of charisma, delivery, content, and production while minimizing his weaknesses with each album. Ultimately, this album can arguably be considered as good as “Papertrail” and his fans can grant this effort amnesty . Now, if he can only stay out of trouble to promote his album before Lady Justice shows “No Mercy” on that a** again…
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