Spending 11 months in prison can give a person time to reflect, assess where their life is going and, as was the case for Atlanta MC T.I., thinking about and writing new material for your next album. Thus we have Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, an album that addresses the inner-troubles of a man incarcerated, finding his way through life.
Even though this is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2010’s No Mercy, T.I. has said that he wrote over 120 songs for the album and he plans to release a sequel titled Trouble Man II: He Who Wears the Crown later this year.
From the very beginning, it’s clear that T.I. returned to the music of his childhood, 70s’ and 80’s R&B. The first track on the album, “The Introduction,” starts with a jazzy piano in the background layered under smooth vocals of an unaccredited male vocalist, perhaps inspired by Marvin Gaye, an artist who, as T.I. states in an interview with Billboard Magazine, partly inspired the album’s title.
The nostalgic sound only appears and reappears through as many of Trouble Man’s tracks have that modern hip-hop sound. “I’m Flexin’” featuring Big K.R.I.T, the album’s first single, lacks overall originality. The beat is typical and the lyrics, which talk about how much money he has, are banal and uninteresting compared to the rest of the record.
With this being T.I.’s eighth studio album he has dabbled in a few different elements and sounds in his music previously.
While nothing on this album sounds radically different than what we’re used to hearing, a pleasant surprise came from the song “Guns and Roses,” which features a unique collaboration with Pink. Instead of imposing Pink’s hard edged, rock approach on a hip-hop audience, Pink does a good job of just laying her voice out there while adding some necessary color to the track.
What T.I. seems to do best, and he does it here on Trouble Man, is that he continues to put himself, his life experiences and his emotions into his music while making it very relatable on a personal level. It’s something that few artists can accomplish. Evidenced on the last track of the album “Hallelujah,” the narrator speaks of his struggles with Christianity, conveying that he believes in God and that he is devoted to Him, but he still, somehow, struggles with doing the right thing.
It’s this struggle that makes the album great. T.I. uses his experiences to teach others not to make the same mistakes he has. While some might miss such a message and get caught up in the talk of all his money and cars there seems to be an overall sense of responsibility that T.I. has to his audience.