I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping with my brother and we walked past T.I.’s new album, Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head, in the aisle. At least I walked past. He stopped and declared, “Yeah I’m going to buy this. I’ve always kind of liked T.I.” That, right there, is the best way I can describe T.I. Everyone, unless they are lying to themselves, has “always kind of liked T.I.” I dare someone to tell me otherwise. He’s been relentlessly cranking out singles for almost a decade, and yet, I can’t say I’ve ever met a huge T.I. fan. For whatever reason, he just doesn’t come up in many conversations. When he does, it’s usually in response to one of the following questions: Who sings that song again? What’d he do this time?
I don’t really know why this is. The casual music fan probably likes him because he writes and records catchy songs. The casual rap fan probably likes him because of his swag and his beats and his being from Atlanta. And your annoying friend who is way too into rap probably likes him because he seems to practice what he preaches. After some extensive research (or Wikipedia) I found this quote: “Nowadays, nobody even expects you to live up to the things you rap about. That goes against what I represent, what I stand for.” Well, yeah. If every rapper lives up to the things they rap about, there would be no more rap because everyone, except Will Smith, would be in jail.
That theme of trouble, not surprisingly, permeates Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head. Throughout the album he repeats the phrase, or some variation of, “I’m trouble man, always into something,” several times. What’s that “something,” he’s “always into,” you ask? The typical medley of guns, drugs and girls of course. But there’s also a miscellaneous category that’s worth mentioning: Did you know that he has twice come to the aid of suicidal men, and that one of them was Scott Stapp of Creed? He really is always into something.
One of the best songs on the album is “Cruisin,’” in which the chorus repeats, “She had on purple panties blue bikinis/we were cruisin’ in my Lambo,” which leads me to ask three questions: Is anyone else dying to see the outfit this girl is wearing? Are the panties underneath the bikini or what’s going on there? Is there room for me in the Lambo to investigate this matter? Another great song is “Wild Side,” in which the chorus repeats, “Smokin weed, lightin’ kroll/the only thing I’ve ever known/Springing ki’s, Springing K’s/Every day we’re getting paid.” I have no clue what the hell he’s talking about but he makes it sound so harmless and fun that I’d really like to give it a try. The magic of Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head, and it’s truly evident throughout the album, is that everything he raps about doing sounds like a great time.
But I’m not going to call this “happy rap” and be done with it, because here’s the beauty of the album: he’s working with some seriously sick, heavy beats here. It’s not all fun and games, which is one of the things separating T.I. from other Atlanta rappers like B.O.B. and the impostor who is currently using the name Big Boi. The 10th track, “The Way We Ride,” is as good a song as any I’ve heard in 2012. Listen to it and tell me you wouldn’t want to drive down the Elmwood strip at midnight blasting this song.
Another notable song is “Wonderful Life,” which samples Elton John’s “Your Song.” I can happily report that I listened to that mash-up and the world did not end. If the sound of Akon belting out “Your Song’s” famous chorus doesn’t make you cringe or want to vomit, you will probably like the song.
T.I. seems to occupy a realm somewhere in between a hardened, two-time convicted felon and a cute little brother always messing around. He raps about various illegalities, but he legitimately seems like a good guy. Maybe that’s why I’ve always kind of liked him.