More than a year removed from his latest prison release, T.I. cooks up Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head, a superlative album that finds Tip back in his comfort zone, no longer defensive or overly remorseful of his past troubles.
On his stellar LP Paper Trail and the underwhelming follow-up No Mercy, traces of deep regret were rightfully present yet so were several hints of T.I.’s sense of need to defend his character. With T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle now fulfilling Tip’s desire to showcase who he really is, the King retraces his steps that helped him devise Trap Muzik, ironically moving one step forward in his career. “Shit, I am who I am/Fresh up out of apologies/Sometimes I ain’t get in trouble/Trouble got in me/Guess it follow me/But I stays on my hustle, man/Still the motherfucking man/You can call me Trouble Man,” he declares on the opening track, “The Introduction.” The record, which samples Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man,” exhibits T.I. tweaking the chorus from his 2003 banger “Rubber Band Man,” coming full circle as in the past hit he refers to himself as “the Marvin Gaye of my time.”
“Trap Back Jumpin” is indicative of its title. “Go Get It,” “Who Want Some” and “G Season” all feature that trap music mold Tip helped sculpt and popularize (unapologetic rhymes with cranking bass that’ll have the trunks of listeners’ cars bumping). Similarly, “Addresses” also fits that style, but is less about the trap and more about himself. “Been in the game for 11 years/If I was such a ho, nigga, I’d been exposed 10 years ago/Never been robbed/Never got my chain took/Never even been hit in my face/If you don’t believe, look,” Tip reminds with ample passion.
Meanwhile, “Wildside” and “Can You Learn” both open with a skit about Tip and his partners running into trouble with the law. Laced with a soulful beat and features from A$AP Rocky and R. Kelly respectively, the former illustrates Tip’s troubling environment, while “Can You Learn” chronicles his inquisition to women learning to “love a troubled man.” Likewise, “Cruisin’” and “Guns and Roses” featuring Pink underlines intimacy, the latter uniquely focusing on a troubled relationship rather than on him being a man with a distressing past.
In contrast to Meek Mill’s run-of-the-mill verse on “G Season,” Andre 3000 goes off on “Sorry,” one of the LP’s crowning moments. “Hello” (completely different from “Hello” off of his 2006 album King) features Cee Lo Green, and speaks to Tip’s haters in unflustered way.
With Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head, the longtime, self-proclaimed king of the South adds soul to his impressive body of work as his mind, musically at least, seems to be at ease once again. The project is one of his best thus far by virtue of him composing an album in which listeners can empathize with how he views religion (“Hallelujah”), the club (“Ball”), women (“Guns and Roses,” “Can You Learn,” and “Crusin’”) and so forth. And much of him, personally, is present on heartfelt tracks like “Wonderful Life,” where he lectures himself in third person, to appreciate his woes as much as his triumphs, before reminiscing on his father and his fallen friend Philant Johnson. In short, his new is as good as his old, supplying one of the finest major releases of 2012. The King is back. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)