Deep Album Cuts Vol. 26: T.I.

This week T.I. released his 9th album, Paperwork, and it feels like a good time to remind myself how great he was at his peak. It's already easy for people to forget just how big or how good he was at his peak. He's the only rapper in the past decade who released 3 platinum albums three years in a row (from 2006 to 2008), but the drop from Paper Trail to No Mercy and all the attendant legal bullshit remains one of the biggest commercial or creative fall-offs in rap history. He's still a major star who can drop hot singles like "About The Money" or jump on smash hits like "Blurred Lines." But all the drama that drove his early career and kept the stakes high eventually got tiresome to everybody, and now he's kind of an inconsequential figure who stars on VH1 reality shows and breaks up Instagram beef between Snoop Dogg and Iggy Azalea.

But man, I'll stand by T.I.'s catalog. He's still more consistent than nearly all of his mainstream southern rap contemporaries over the past decade, and really I'll take his worst music over Rick Ross's best. And while he's released some great mixtapes and has guested on a billion hits, he's one of the few rappers of his generation whose career you can really trace pretty comprehensively just through major label solo albums.

T.I. Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. No More Talk
2. You Know Who
3. Prayin' For Help
4. T.I. vs. T.I.P.
5. Tell 'Em I Said That
6. Salute
7. I'm Talkin' To You
8. Dope Boyz
9. Who Want Some
10. On Doe, On Phil featuring Trae Tha Truth
11. Every Chance I Get
12. What They Do featuring B.G.
13. Stand Up Guy
14. Be Better Than Me
15. You Ain't Missin' Nothing
16. Goodlife featuring Pharrell and Common
17. Still Ain't Forgave Myself
18. Doin' My Job

Tracks 8 and 17 from I'm Serious (2001)
Tracks 1, 4, 14 and 18 from Trap Muzik (2003)
Tracks 3 and 12 from Urban Legend (2004)
Tracks 2, 7, 13 and 16 from King (2006)
Track 5 from T.I. vs. T.I.P. (2007)
Track 11 and 15 from Paper Trail (2008)
Track 6 from No Mercy (2010)
Track 9 from Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head (2012)
Track 10 from Paperwork (2014)

I could've easily filled this with great street hits that never got proper videos or label pushes like "Poppin' Bottles," but I stuck with true deep cuts (except "Dope Boyz," the I'm Serious track that T.I. self-funded a video for to build his buzz in Atlanta after the label struck out with Neptunes productions). I always could've filled this with the superstar collaborations that take up the majority of a lot of his albums. Instead, I just kinda stuck with T.I. being T.I., whether it was aggressive bangers like "I'm Talkin' To You" or reflective, introspective tracks like "Prayin' For Help," or just all those great creeping DJ Toomp tracks (which take up tracks 8-11 here) That stuff is the reason I'm a T.I. fan, and that's the music he still does pretty well pretty often, even now when he spend a lot of his time chasing that Paper Trail crossover money. Don't get me wrong, though, I do have a soft spot for some of those pop records, especially "Goodlife."

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
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