T.I.

After his arrest in 2007, rapper T.I. was charged with possessing heavy artillery and was forced to spend months under house arrest. He also was sentenced to serve 1,000 hours of community service and will begin a year and a day in jail on March 27. But while it's been a traumatizing year or so for the Atlanta MC, it's also been an uplifting and creatively fulfilling one. His latest album, Paper Trail, was somehow among the most underrated albums of 2008, despite hitting number one and spawning ubiquitous hits like "Whatever You Like," "Live Your Life," and "Swagger Like Us." Even though he's one of rap's biggest draws, scores of Weezy and Yeezy-obsessed critics just don't seem to understand how creatively relevant he is. Though his earlier albums, like Trap Muzik, King, and T.I. vs. T.I.P, contained gritty, streetwise anthems that were usually compelling but sometimes repetitive, he abruptly and adroitly flipped the script with Paper Trail. The latest work features immediately lovable empowerment tracks that celebrate life and encourage listeners to appreciate their own. T.I.'s perspective has obviously changed dramatically in the face of hard time, and it's most certainly for the better.

 
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