T.I., Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head | Album Review
After an underwhelming seventh studio album in ‘No Mercy,’ T.I. redeems himself on his eighth album, ‘Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head.’
T.I. has had his share of issues with the law – understatement. His 2010 effort No Mercy was promoted by singles released prior to T.I. serving an 11-month sentence in prison. No Mercy earned gold certification, though showed a notable decrease in first week sales compared to previous releases from the Atlanta rapper. Furthermore, critically, the album wasn’t lauded like the best of his catalogue. T.I. embraces his checkered past on his eighth studio album, Trouble Man: Heavy is The Head. Even with freer rein and more promotional mobility, numerous singles were released in advance. While some singles serve as bonus cuts, there are some solid cuts that sound much more convincing than No Mercy.
“The Introduction” sets the album’s tone. It samples the famed “Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye, foreshadowing the narrative that is to come. Once T.I. begins to rap, the sample is less obvious, but still easily discernible. DJ Toomp is the perfect fit as a producer, providing superb production work with anchoring hip-hop drum programming, prominent bass line, and southern rap organ.
“G Season” finds T.I. at his best. The cut writes off fake folks who aren’t true G’s but just wannabes. The production (Cardiak) begins mysteriously, foreshadowing the dark, hardcore sound. Over exceptional production work characterized by malicious synthetic brass and hard drums, he reasserts his swag and status, rapping with a vengeance:
“Told you motherf*ckers once, prison ain’t change me/ All it did was make a n*gga crazy deranged, see.”
Meek Mill assists, delivering excellent second verse. Not to be outdone, T.I. brings the heat once more on the final verse. Solid start for Trouble Man.
“Trap Back Jumpin”
The real banger comes on the dramatically produced “Trap Back Jumpin.” “Trap Back Jumpin” is arguably the closest banger rivaling his 2006 classic, “What You Know.” T.I. asserts it’s time for him to show all the competition how it’s really done and who’s the king.
“It’s time to get trap back jumpin/ Get shit back poppin’ ho, I show these sucka n*ggas how it go.”
“Trap Back Jumpin” ranks among his best; he’s on autopilot.
“Smoking weed, riding chrome/ Only thing I’ve ever known/ Walk on the wild side/ Welcome to our lives.” “Wildside,” featuring A$AP Rocky doesn’t prove to be as epic as “Trap Back Jumpin,” but still sound.
“Ball” contrasts the slower tempo of “Wildside.” It’s a club track celebrating sex, drugs, and partying. “This club so packed, these hoes so drunk… /I got a bottle, got a model, got a molly, got a blunt/ball, ball, ball,” T.I. spits on the hook. Lil Wayne adds his two-cents on the third verse, including a questionable Ted Bundy reference. It’s no juggernaut, but worth a listen.
On “Sorry,” André 3000 outperforms T.I., playing on his eccentricities as both an MC and vocalist. Among the most brilliant 3000 lines is:
“Round the time the dope wear off, you feel stupid, she feel lost / That’s that dope, I mean, I mean dopamine you think Cupid done worn off.”
T.I. doesn’t fall flat, still dropping his share of sharp rhymes. R. Kelly then gets “Can You Learn” started with a bold intro. He then breaks into an incredibly soulful hook that sums up the premise of the cut.
“Oh baby, could you learn? Could you learn to love a troubled man?”
Slated as a can you love a man with flaws joint, the results are effective. Again, T.I. is slightly overshadowed, but it’s a solid record all in all.
“Go Get It” gives T.I. a necessary solo spot, though it falls short of the glory of the collaborative cuts and “Trap Back Jumpin.” “Guns and Roses,” featuring P!nk, atones, featuring excellent production and strong vocals from the pop star. P!nk soars on the hook. Later, she lets loose on a well-written, soundly performed bridge.
“The Way We Ride”
“The Way We Ride” is characterized by gimmicks and southern rap clichés. Lush and enjoyable, it’s not the best cut from the affair, but makes you feel like you’re from the south. The style of “Cruisin’” suggests it’s song not normally associated with T.I. More sung than not, there’s more of a contemporary R&B vibe. Repetitiveness hurts “Cruisin’,” but its lushness and , sensual hook serve as pros.
The hook on “Addresses” features a respectable flow, but T.I. has been catchier in the past. Still, he has his moments:
“I swear to God another day another f*ck n*gga/ That’s why I just get that paper and be like f*ck n*ggas.”
“Hello” makes the best of eclectic production work, courtesy of Pharrell Williams. The backdrop fuses elements of jazz, soul, and hip-hop. Cee Lo Green offers up a soulful hook. “Hello” trumps “Crusin’” and “Addresses.”
“Who Want Some” reignites some lost power from the MC, thanks to DJ Toomp. The biggest drawback is its exhaustive six-minute duration. “Wonderful Life,” featuring Akon, poses as this album’s “Dead and Gone.” Akon lifts from Elton John on his thoughtful, raspy hook:
“And you can tell everybody this song…I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind / That I put down in words how wonderful life like…”
T.I. delivers some strong messages, talking to his son and memorializing the lost. “Who Want Some” and “Wonderful Life” strengthen the end of the standard edition. “Hallelujah” concludes the standard edition of Trouble Man, lifting from the children’s hymn “Jesus Loves Me,” as well as Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah.”
Two excellent bonus cuts conclude Trouble Man. “Love This Life,” the best, possesses a killer sung hook.
“You know, you love, b*tch you know you love this life, don’t nobody do you like me…”
On “Like That,” he’s in full-on aggressive mode.
“They want that young n*gga dumb, who you with where you from shit / That gang banging rag hanging, what you claiming crunk shit…”
Ultimately, Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head is an enjoyable affair. There are triumphs and flaws alike. Triumphant are the cuts where T.I. sounds like he is truly in command or surrounds himself with collaborators that deliver. The production is solid throughout, which further strengthens his case. Flaws include the overindulgent length, in which some cuts could’ve been scrapped or better conceived. Nonetheless, the winners are more than enough to give T.I. a stronger, more inspired effort than No Mercy was.
Gems: “G Season,” “Trap Back Jumpin,” “Ball,” “Sorry,” “Wonderful Life” & “Love This Life”