Though other top MCs have had to create 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 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 in his life, and the first half of his sixth album Paper Trail is as inspired as anything he's released. Chorus-less opening riff "56 Bars" and current single "Whatever You Like" are nice, but "On Top of the World" kills it. The track features Ludacris, and you can expect to hear it throughout the fall. With good reason, as its wonderful throwback qualities include its energetic, '80s-styled synths and an affirmative vibe. The positivity is also exhibited on "No Matter What," an inspirational jam in the vein of R. Kelly's "The World's Greatest," and "Live Your Life," which samples "Dragostea din tei." The album's second half is mostly a slog, but even so it's clear that T.I.'s troubles with the law have been to the benefit of his art.


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