T.I.: T.I. vs T.I.P.

We should all be sick of “What You Know” by now, but even a year later, if the DJ throws it in the mix you will put your screw face on and bounce. Every MC prays for that kind of hit, but the few that get one usually crumble under the pressure of following up. T.I. vs. T.I.P. (Grand Hustle/Atlantic) may be T.I.’s fifth album, but after the heights that he reached in ’06, the pressure to maintain his lofty status is higher than on any of his previous efforts. The sad truth is that T.I. vs. T.I.P. is a step backwards and while it won’t destroy his reputation, it won’t advance it either. The album’s concept is flawed at its core with its unoriginal “split personality” device that’s nearly impossible to pull off on an entire album (ask Tyrese or Tracey Lee). While we’re told that T.I. and T.I.P. respectively represent his sophisticated and wild sides, it doesn’t translate into the music at all. In fact, T.I. vs. T.I.P shows the least versatility of any of his work thus far. Nearly every song is the typical celebration of affluence, only this time without the energy or charisma that usually allows T.I. to break away from the pack. No song particularly stands out, probably explaining the weak choice of the first single (“Big Sh*t Poppin”). T.I. seems to barely be trying, even while rhyming with Jay-Z (“Watch What You Say to Me”) and Eminem (“Touchdown”) who usually bring out the best in other MCs but don’t even bring the best of themselves. None of the work from the relative new-jacks, like The Runners (“Don’t You Wanna Be High”), does much to label them as rising stars, and the handful of bigger names turn in throwaway beats (especially the unusually drab Just Blaze). The profound lack of effort from almost everyone involved comes together to form a disappointing bore of an album.Granted, most of the individual songs on T.I. vs. T.I.P. aren’t awful, but not one comes close to anything on the hefty list of homerun hits that T.I. has delivered in the past. As typical hip-pop goes, this isn’t the worst record out, but those looking to satisfy their T.I. fix would be better served to dust off their copy of King or I'm Serious. It just goes to show; even five albums deep, it’s hard to shake that sophomore jinx.