T.I.'s Paper Trail Push: Big Shows + Bigger Sales = His Biggest Album Yet?

'To come out with an album and the shows we've been doing, it's powerful,' DJ Drama tells MTV News.

It almost feels like you have to have an official "T.I. Watch." Every show this guy has done since Paper Trail dropped has been an event.

He's brought out Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Rihanna and Kanye West, and last night, a very pregnant M.I.A. helped him tear down Brooklyn on "Swagger Like Us."

"Man, I don't really know how to explain it," said DJ Drama, Tip's resident turntablist. "Blessings are coming — rightfully so. Even [Sunday] night, Tip said to me, 'If M.I.A. doesn't do the song tonight, we can't do that song. The song is too big. It's an event.' To have that song on your roster, to come out with an album and the shows we've been doing, it's powerful. It's a lot of statements. It shows where he is in his career."

Just like he was last year, and the year before that and the year before that, Tip is at the pinnacle. The King of the South seems to reach new professional milestones each year. There are great debates going on across the country about whether Paper Trail is his best album yet. Artistically, it's certainly up there with his most classic material, and last week, the album posted his biggest first-week sales ever. DJ Drama says Paper Trail is to T.I. what The Blueprint was to Jay-Z.

"Clearly, I think it's good management, and everybody is playing their part for Tip to be able to work on a movie 'Bone Deep', put the album out and do these shows and still finish up his other obligations," Dram said. "On the other aspect, on the off day we had in New York, he spent it with his kids, taking them to the movies and to the pier. We also been doing '[The] Tyra Banks [Show]' and 'The View.' He's steady showing his place. Showing the hats he wears. If he's tired, I can't tell. But he's still a pretty young guy. He can handle it. It'll be fine."

As far as pulling off these big-name guest appearances, the M.I.A. collaboration was an 11th-hour decision. Other onstage love fests, like Kanye West's and Rihanna's surprise appearances a couple of weeks ago in L.A., are planned out a day or two in advance. Kanye didn't confirm until about an hour and half before the show, because he was working on 808s and Heartbreak and flying in from Hawaii. The New York show on September 30 — the day Paper Trail was released — with Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz and Lupe Fiasco was plotted more in advance. It's NYC — you know you have to be big regardless. Jigga did throw a little audible in the mix, switching up the order on "Swagger Like Us."

"I didn't have the instrumental to 'Swagger,' " Drama said. "I got the instrumental from Green Lantern the day of the show. It was so good that I got it, because I went up to Jay to go talk to him about coming out. He was like, 'Let Tip go first, and I'll go second.' So really, Tip rocked on where Kanye's part was. Then Jay came out. Me having the instrumental enabled me to set up for that. With Kanye, I was in the dressing room when they said, 'We need "Love Lockdown." ' [Kanye's camp members] Plain Pat and Don C came and gave me the new song 'Heartless.' Just little things, doing that. It's fun for me being back in this position with a new album, because you got a lot of new songs to perform and putting them in the right place and fitting them in [the show]."

Movie & TV Awards 2018