T.I.

Paper Trail (Atlantic)

While other MCs have created their own bogeymen to battle—Kanye has his ego, Eminem had Kim, Lil Wayne has those cough-syrup Martians—T.I.'s got real problems.

Released from house arrest and currently 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 apparently forced him to appreciate what he's got, as evidenced by the first half of his sixth album, Paper Trail, which is as inspired as anything he's released.

Chorus-less riff "56 Bars" and current single "Whatever You Like" are nice, and "On Top of the World" just kills it. The album's second half is mostly a slog, but even so, T.I.'s troubles with the law have clearly been beneficial to his art.

 
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