Paper Trail

"Facing all kinda time/But smile like I'm fine," T.I. crows on "No Matter What." The Atlanta rapper recorded his sixth album while under house arrest for weapons possessions charges, and he faces a year-long prison sentence beginning in 2009. But as the plodding "existential" concept album T.I. vs T.I.P. (2007) showed, he is a far better braggart than brooder — smiling like he's fine is good for business. On Paper Trail, T.I. mostly dispenses with the Tupac-wannabe gangsta-confessor pretensions to deliver catchy, tight, bombastic pop-rap alongside a who's-who of megastar guests (Rihanna, Usher, Lil Wayne). T.I. is still a bit too keen to remake his signature hit "What You Know," but songs like the clever "I'm Illy" and the Just Blaze-produced stomper "Live Your Life" find T.I. reconciling himself to his lot in life: he's a well-oiled hit machine who's more fun than deep.