T.I.’s sixth studio album, 2008’s Paper Trail, came to life as the rapper was facing federal weapons and possession charges. The follow-up, what T.I. has called the final chapter in a trilogy that began with 2007’s T.I. vs. T.I.P., ducks the substance in favour of more predictable fare.
No Mercy continues the usual T.I. trend of skirting the issue in favour of the norm. With all the tumult roaring around in King’s life, you’d think some of the madness would show up in his lyrics. Short a few memories here and there, most of the 30-year-old’s game comes from the image rather than the real.
Think about it. Here’s a dude who talked a guy down from a roof, was arrested hours before the B.E.T. awards for possession of three unregistered machine guns and silencers, and had his own reality show based on his rehabilitation process. Shit, he was even arrested along with his wife on drug charges (they were later dropped)! There are a lot of fucking stories to tell, you’d think.
Yet with the sweet smell of freedom in the air, T.I. is more concerned with the haters and the fame game. This sort of stale lyricism might have worked on a debut record, but this cat’s smarter than all that now and No Mercy should reflect that.
The record gets off to a decent start with “Welcome to the World,” a cut that features Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Anyone worth their salt knows that Cudi and West are money-in-the-bank collaborators, so this is almost set in stone from the outset. T.I. enters the track as he should, gliding over the scattered beat and taunting anyone and everyone. The gun talk he said he’d avoid makes an appearance within seconds, of course.
The scurrilous Chris Brown lends a hand on “Get Back Up,” a song that tries to remind us that both men are “only human.” Predictably, they largely shift blame for their troubles on the convenient “haters” and shirk any responsibility despite floating a number of half-hearted “apologies” into the air. “Try not to hold that against me, though,” T.I. pleads.
Given the amazing work Eminem has been putting out over the last while, I was excited to hear his input on “That’s All She Wrote.” Sadly, the cut drips with mediocrity and the lyrics, save for a couple of Slim Shady couplets, leave a lot to be desired.
“Amazing” has the distinct pleasure of carrying sickening misogynistic bullshit to another level and, unlike some of today’s more creative hip hop, it doesn’t appear to have much of a point.
Christina Aguilera shows up and provides the album’s highlight with “Castle Walls.” Her appearance is like a breath of fresh air, but T.I. sinks it with a hackneyed set of lyrics that contradict all of the nauseating glamour-bragging infesting the rest of No Mercy. The lesson is that we’re supposed to bow before the King’s riches and bitches, but we’d better not think life is easy in his “nines.” Ugh.
If you actually like to think about your hip hop, No Mercy is not for you. If, on the other hand, you like your music to traffic in the usual stereotypes with the usual contradictory nonsense and abusive bullshit, this poor little rich boy tantrum should do the trick.
Check out the video for “Get Back Up”