When hip-hop faced an "event album" drought early on in 2006, T.I. came through and reaffirmed, with King, that it's possible to conquer the streets and the charts simultaneously. With nothing at stake on T.I. vs. T.I.P., though, Tip leaves us with phoned-in verses, second-rate beats, and toothless song concepts.
T.I. vs. T.I.P
Ever since he first flirted with the concept on 2003's Trap Muzik, T.I.'s dichotomy has always lurked in the back of his mind. You've heard the story--how he started with the T.I.P. moniker but later dropped the 'P' out of respect for then labelmate Q-Tip. He's been describing the split personality concept in interviews for years. T.I. is the calm businessman, T.I.P. is the ignorant trapper who once slugged Ludacris' manager at a party. Is your head spinning yet?
T.I.'s internal struggle forms the crux of the album. Like a man battling a thousand demons, he seeks to reconcile several warring fractions. It's a different type of struggle, however, that forces T.I. to lose his edge...the struggle to exceed expectations.
T.I. vs. Friends
On "Help Is Coming," T.I. claims he's not perturbed by industry wide plunge in record sales, but T.I. vs. T.I.P. shows otherwise. If T.I. wasn't too concerned about matching past success, why, then, did he craft an album chock full of radio-ready singles and ringtones? Never mind that the boastful "Help Is Coming" is a waste of a brilliant Just Blaze beat, it's Tip's "good SoundScan figures equate good hip-hop" argument that makes this such a horrible idea.
More evidence of T.I.'s desperation lies in the album's guest list. Heavyweights like Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Nelly, and Eminem are called on to give the album a face lift. As you might expect, Tip manages to get eclipsed on many of the collaborations. Surprisingly, the most fascinating one comes in form of the Wyclef-assisted "My Swag," on which T.I. pummels a deft tune into submission. Also notable is "Watch What You Say," where Jay-Z delivers a torrent of angry words at anonymous studio gangstas. This time, T.I. cheers from the sideline.
Battling his alter-ego presents T.I. with an enormous challenge. Adding a crowd of big name rappers to the mix only confuses thing further. In fact, I find this approach surprising, since his best album to date, Trap Muzik, featured a mere four guest appearances.
The Bottom Line on T.I. vs. T.I.P.
I applaud T.I. for committing himself to a concept album, but the LP truly suffers from a lackluster execution. Either T.I. got rich and stopped trying, or T.I.P. simply doesn't care about the critical standards at stake. (I'm leaning towards the latter.) One thing is for sure, though: In the battle for supremacy between T.I. and T.I.P., the listener loses by default.
- "My Swag"
- "Big Things Poppin'(Do It)"
- "Respect This Hustle"