T.I., "Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head" (Grand Hustle/Atlantic Records)
After a lackluster response to 2010's "No Mercy," some questioned whether T.I.'s rap presence was still strong. But the Grammy winner shows he hasn't lost a step, delivering an assortment of quality songs on his eighth album, "Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head."
The self-proclaimed "King of the South" lives up to his billing with one of his best pieces of work, featuring stellar production from Pharrell, No I.D., T-Minus and DJ Toomp, and guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Pink, Andre 3000 and CeeLo Green.
The 16-track album, which was inspired by Marvin Gaye's 1972 album "Trouble Man," details T.I.'s struggles to overcome his continuous missteps. On three interludes, he reenacts some of those moments, including his arrest before the 2008 BET Hip-Hop Awards and when his best friend, Philant Johnson, was killed in a 2006 shootout in Cincinnati.
But despite his mishaps, T.I. is unapologetic to his critics. He's certainly that way on the Jazze Pha-produced "Sorry," featuring Andre 3000, who blesses the track with his superb rhymes.
On the top-notch "Can You Learn," with R. Kelly, T.I. asks his woman if she could support her mate who often finds himself in trouble. Pink's vocals soar on the melancholy "Guns and Roses," while "Trap Back Jumpin'" and "Go Get It" are definite street anthems. The easy-riding "Hello" and "Hallelujah" are standouts as well.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On "Wonder Life," with Akon, T.I. has a conversation with two people close to him who have died — his father and best friend — who impart their thoughts on how well life has treated the rapper, who is married with six children.
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mrlandrum31