Album Review: T.I. – No Mercy

 |  December 21, 2010
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2010 was a rocky year for Cifford “T.I.” Harris.  On March 26th, Tip was emancipated after a year behind bars for a whopping federal weapons charge.  A mere eight months later, T.I. found himself back in a federal penitentiary for violating the terms of his probation.  While such adversity would make most men restless, T.I. has managed to adjust through his music.  Changing the title of his seventh studio album to No Mercy from The King Uncaged due to his captivity, T.I. proves once again that he will not fold under pressure, even though some of his material runs trite.

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Although Clifford Harris rebounds from hardship on “Get Back Up” and redeems himself on “No Mercy,” there’s plenty of the gully T.I. we know and love on No Mercy.  The debauchery reigns supreme on “Welcome to World,” in which listeners are invited into a “world of fast money, fast cars, [and] big diamond rings.”  As cliché as it may appear, this is a remarkable cut.  With the handcrafted piano riding a thumping bassline courtesy of Kanye West and No I.D., KiD CuDi delivers a signature hook before Tip sets it off with a tight verse full of stylish stutters.  Kanye comes through with his a sixteen of his own that isn’t quite on par with T.I.’s but doesn’t exactly downgrade the song.  “How Life Changed” is a brollic follow-up on which T.I. calibrates on the same scale as Texas legend Scarface by chronicling his tenure on streets.  “We figure prison end should come with the light/along with losin’ your life/and there were no way we thought/we’d go to jail for any case we caught/for all the yay we bought” reflects T.I. on his opening verse. Guest vocalist Mitchelle’l also shines over Lil C’s production on “How Life Change.”  Needless to say, Scarface holds his own with a coke-laced tale.  Hip Hop heavyweight, Jake One, provides an ambient vibe to “Salute,” which peaks Tip’s attention as he commands respect from the streets (“with more stripe than a jail suite“).

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Tip’s songwriting ability elevates in the midst of honesty on the Chris Brown assisted “Get Back Up.”  Showing remorse for his personal blunders, T.I. states, “apologies to my fans and my closest friends/for letting you down, I won’t take you down this road again/most of you now saying, ‘whatever, here we go again’/blogs radio, and television all going in.” There’s something moving about the notion that everyone will get theirs, too which T.I. succeeds to get across.  It’s also evident that T.I. fears fans will turn their backs on him for somehow letting them down, which is not the case.  T.I. gives us a sincerely dark glimpse of his background on “No Mercy.”  Although T.I. is out of his element asthe second coming of ‘Pac,he is relentless with confrontational lyrics likeit’s unfortunate that the orphanages couldn’t keep up the mortgages/kid, go to school, stupid, they teachers is ignoring it/sorta just doomed, forced into being a goon/sell the kush in a jar, mix up the tar in a balloon.”

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I Can’t Help” is your typical T.I. single that’s sure to please loyalists.  Yet, this Dirty South trap joint could afford another verse from T.I. rather than Rocko in order to elevate itself above mediocrity.  “That’s All She Wrote” benefits from respectable production and is easier to take serious than Tip’s past collaboration with Eminem (“Touch Down“).  Although T.I. drops clever one-liners like “on the fast track ain’t no need for no pit stops” as does Eminem (“why would I buy you a gay a$$ teddy bear, you’re already bi-polar“), there is a certain level of unevenness to the track’s composition.  “The Big Picture” is one of T.I.’s least appealing offerings to date.  The track suffers from unsettling production that fails to connect with the hook.  The same can be said for “Amazing” produced by The Neptunes. Not only is the production underwhelming, but the delivery of the hook is horrendous and lacking in emotion. T.I. revisits the core themes of the album’s opener on the risqué “Strip.”  Due to the nature of the song, there’s little to nitpick, especially due to the fact that Young Dro brings his all to the table.  Tip keeps it in the same vein on “Poppin’ Bottles” featuring Drake. While “Bottles” tip-toes into forgettable territory due to a hackneyed chorus, Drizzy’s verse is humorous and admirable for his comments on the Hip Hop police watching Lil Wayne in the club.  “Lay Me Down” featuring Rico Love is a formulaic song with minimal sex appeal that is most memorable for Jim Jonsin’s production.  With that said, “Everything on Me,” which features a jazzy instrumental, is T.I.’s best stab at a club joint on No Mercy.

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The man you see before you on the canvas/he might seem alright, but all the disadvantages/his family encounters overshadows his extravagance” remarks T.I. on “Castle Walls.”  No Mercy suffers from T.I.’s battle between remaining introspective and attempting to appear larger than life.  The self-titled track, “Salute,” and the surprising closer (“Castle Walls” featuring Christina Aguilera) make No Mercy one of T.I.’s most lyrical efforts to date.  Yet, mainstream rap releases are a slippery slope, and for some reason T.I. seems eager to appease everyone rather than express himself.  Thus, No Mercy won’t tarnish T.I.’s track record, although it could have prospered had the ATL star taken the road less traveled.

3mics

3.0/5

Purchase No Mercy On iTunes