T.I., ‘T.I. vs. T.I.P.’ (Grand Hustle/ Atlantic)
All is not well in the trap. Clifford “T.I.” Harris, the Southern MC who ruled the rap airwaves last year with his fourth album, King, is at war with his alter ego, T.I.P. The personae represent two stages of his career: the lyrical smoothie dancing alongside Justin Timberlake on “My Love” and the hardened young thug from Atlanta’s rough Bankhead neighborhood.
In Act I, T.I.P. is at his boastful best, nodding to N.W.A and breaking down the formula for street entrepreneurship on “Da Dopeman,” as producer Mannie Fresh supports a gothic, ethereal beat with rhythmic handclaps. By Act II, T.I. is reasserting his position as an international playboy and musical savior: “Got the game on lock / And it ain’t gon’ stop / Say hello to the man who saved hip-hop,” he claims on “Help Is Coming,” a Just Blaze anthem layered with gospel keyboards. On “Touchdown,” he challenges Oprah Winfrey while Eminem supplies booming Dr. Dre-style beats.
But though T.I. is one of the best game-spitters in the business, he struggles with self-analysis, and too often he ends up just violently arguing with himself. By Act III, T.I. faces down T.I.P. in the mirror during a bizarre skit, yelling, “Why can’t you just talk about what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just let everything out?” The same could be said for the ambitious but uneven T.I. vs. T.I.P.
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