Where exactly does the path of T.I.’s Paper Trail lead? Well, this week it led to the Internet. The album was leaked online, weeks before its September 30 release date, and while we heard many of the songs when Tip previewed them for us a couple of months back, MTV News has finally gotten to hear the album in its entirety.
At times on Paper Trail, listeners will find a remorseful Clifford Harris who has learned from his mistakes and is intent on growing as a man and an artist. He commiserates with graceful articulation on “Dead and Gone,” which features Justin Timberlake. There are no girls, no dancing and no name-brand liquor on this track. The song reflects on a major revelation: It’s OK for the King of the South to sometimes take a step back and put his brash on freeze. But how do you swallow your pride when that very pride is one of the integral fabrics of your character?
“I’ve been travelling on this road too long,” Timberlake sings over piano and horns. “Just trying to find my way back home/ The old me’s dead and gone.”
Tip dedicates the song to his late best friend Philant Johnson , but also addresses how so many young men get caught up in detrimental, possibly deadly situations by not thinking out their options.
“Maybe my homeboy would still be around/ If I hadn’t hit a n—a in the mouth that time,” Tip raps. “I won that fight, I lost that war/ … Who would have ever thought I’d never seen Philant no more.”
The song “Slide Show,” featuring John Legend, has flown under the radar so far. Again, it centers on not letting your mistakes define who you are — but this time, it talks about what you learn from climbing out of those pitfalls. “If I only knew back then what I know now/ … Maybe I’d be Kanye instead of seeing gunplay,” Tip raps. “But God got a plan of how I’ll understand one day.”
“On Top of the World” is an extravaganza, rich with lyricism, personality and an unforgettable hook by new Grand Hustle artist B.o.B. On the track, Tip and Ludacris serve up the grandiose collaboration that people have fantasized about for years. The laudably loud Luda bulldozes his way through the second verse, proving that he’s still one of the premier MCs on the mic. ’Cris reveals in his lyrics some of the keys to keeping his circle rich, like sending a best friend to culinary school and hiring him as a chef or helping to straighten out his homies’ credit. Ludacris ends with a nice little shout-out to a very famous Jedi Knight: “They say rappers shouldn’t act — nah, suckas/ We see , like, ’What’s up mutha—-a?” For his part, Tip reflects on his multitude of businesses and on how he’s surpassed old goals and has so many more to accomplish.
Other guests on the LP include Usher on “My Life, Your Entertainment” and Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne on “Swagger Like Us.” Despite recent rumors and fake Paper Trail track lists, Atlantic has confirmed that the song will definitely appear on the opus.
Paper Trail is set for release September 30. A video for “What Up, What’s Haapnin’ ” just hit the airwaves, and a clip for “Swing Ya Rag” has been lingering in the can for some time.