Why you should care

Because at last, hip-hop has a pick-me-up.

Forget the age-old East Coast vs. West Coast rap battle. It’s been won — by the American South. Rapper T.I. is back today with his ninth studio album, Paperwork, since he began his career in 1996. And wow, did hip-hop need this.

Clifford “T.I.” Harris was born and raised in the tough neighborhood of Bankhead in Atlanta, Georgia. He saw everything you can and can’t imagine in his youth — drugs, prostitution and more. And it all came through in his music years later.

T.I.’s first studio album, after years of small-time rapping, came out in 2001. The title: I’m Serious. But hardly anyone took him serious-like, until he appeared on another rapper’s single track — Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared” — in 2003. Soon after followed T.I.’s second album, Trap Muzik. Not only did the second album sell more than a million copies worldwide, but it was also released on T.I.’s newly found label, Grand Hustle, as a joint venture with Atlantic Records. Which made him a mogul in addition to an entertainer.

Like all good albums these days, it features stunners Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Skylar Grey, Jeezy and more.

But you may have first heard T.I. on his 2004 single “Bring Em Out,” which became his first top 10 hit and he made sure to keep up the momentum. And between 2004 and 2014, T.I. kept himself extremely busy with six more albums, four movies and a few bumps along the way.

And today’s sound? Paperwork is executive produced by Pharrell and sports 15 tracks (18 tracks on the deluxe). Like all good albums these days, it features stunners Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Skylar Grey, Jeezy and more. The lead single, “About the Money,” featuring Young Thug, is already a fan favorite and has been in radio rotation since June. The track was followed up by the DJ Mustard-produced club banger “No Mediocre.” And the hit features Grand Hustle’s very own Iggy Azalea.

The problem is the star-studded cast of featured artists, which occasionally makes us wonder: Is T.I. not confident enough in his own sound to pull it off alone?

In the end, though, this latest doesn’t fail at holding our attention. In the midst of all the one-hit wonders coming and going, Paperwork is the standout album that we’ve all been waiting for.

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