Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Heads title alludes to T.I.’s long history of legal transgressions, which begins when the Atlanta native was a teen in the late 90s and ends (for now, anyway) with a 2010 drug charge that led to an 11-month sentence. On the album, his eighth, Tip spends more than a little time holding forth on the motives, rewards, and, especially, long-term penalties of his criminal mindset, peaking with an admission that I wanna change, I swear. But instead of opting for his own version of, say, Drake-style meditation, Tip mostly sticks to the sound thats served him well his entire career: richly produced Southern thump made all the more impressive thanks to his crisp, energized delivery and songwriting acumen.
Tip has purportedly recorded over 120 tracks in the year or so since he finished that last bid, and there are times when Trouble Man does seem like the product of a creative period that fertile. He snarls his way clear through the sample of Marvin Gayes own Trouble Man on The Introduction, meanwhile essentially putting on a clinic for how every rapper should open an album. Three tracks later, A$AP Rocky joins things for the spaced-out Wildside, and amazingly, its an even more fortuitous pairing than the great André 3000-assisted Sorry. The album cools off about a third of the way through its 70 minutes, but arriving later are highlights The Way We Ride which sounds even better next to Big K.R.I.T.s immaculate Money on the Floor and is maybe Tips best car song since 2006s Top Back and the kinetic brass-stomp of Addresses.
From 2003s 24s to last years Im Flexin, Tip has been responsible for some of the best rap singles of the past decade. Weirdly, though, Trouble Man only fails during its biggest, most pop-oriented moments: Cee Lo Green’s appearance on “Hello” pretty much distills why hes being shunned by Goodie Mob diehards, while the P!nk-featuring Guns and Roses goes over exactly as well as youd expect a P!nk-featuring T.I. song called Guns and Roses to. Sure, having been without a top-ten single since 2009s Dead and Gone, Tip might be eager for another major hit. But fortunately, most of the album finds him delivering more modest pleasures, which, at least at the moment, work just fine, too.
Essential Tracks: The Introduction, Wildside, and The Way We Ride