In accordance with his tenth studio album, The Dime Trap and the five track appetizer Da Nic, T.I. stated that he wanted both projects to be attributed to his “T.I.P.” moniker. The extra “P” of course meant to signify his return to the “traphouse” attributes that transposed him from an anxious Bankhead unknown selling tapes out of his trunk to a multi-platinum superstar. Typically when an artist decides to revisit the intrinsic elements that marked their previous successes, the outcome is usually prosperous. Raekwon has achieved a late career renaissance after abandoning the mediocrity underlining Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story and adhering to the roots of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ ilk. But throughout his lengthy career, T.I. has been a model of artistic consistency. Depending on who one asks, out of his nine studio albums, six could be convincingly debated as his true magnum opus. Even his worst album, 2007’s T.I. vs. T.I.P., contained perennial classics like “My Type,” “Touchdown,” and “Big S**t Poppin’.” Unlike an artist adrift in stagnated creative waters, clutching on to a metaphorical lifeboat housing the treasures of their former glory, T.I. has always been T.I.P. However, like his somewhat disappointing fifth album, The King’s rare artistic weaknesses reveal themselves when he is unnecessarily at war with himself.
“Trap music” is a genre that T.I. undisputedly invented. So, his purported devotion to the sound should be a comfortable exercise by all indications. But on Da’ Nic comfort conversely yields leisure, manifesting a humdrum feel. T.I. has long transcended the term “rapper” by exhibiting an innate ability to repeatedly craft memorable songs rather than punchlines. His undisputed talent in this regard makes all five of Da Nic’s tracks satisfying, but satisfying is cause for scrutiny in T.I.’s case. Da’ Nic is sorely lacking the timeless moments of pizzazz most are used to hearing from The King. Yet, more damning is that there is only fragmented shrapnel of the accelerated 808s, hi-hats, and impassioned flows of his most stunning “trap music” of past releases like “Top Back” or “U Don’t Know Me.”
Ever since 2003’s Trap Musik, T.I. has consistently commenced all of his records with a vehement mission statement dripping with dynamism, such as choice greats like “King Back,” “56 Bars (Intro),” and “The Introduction,” but, “Broadcast Live” isn’t exactly the scintillating initiation track a longtime follower would anticipate. Jazzfeezy offers an equal parts nostalgic and contemporary instrumental– one that simultaneously encompasses the spacey southern-baked synthesizers of the Eightball & MJG On Top Of The World days but, also the cinematic aura of a modern Boi-1da type beat. While his bars and subject matter still bleed authenticity, T.I.’s plodding flow is somewhat anti-climatic.
On the minimalist instrumental buttressing “Ain’t Gonna See It Coming,” T.I. eventually warms to an impressive lyrical display replete with statements of earned braggadocio after a flat beginning, but the track ultimately fails to reap much replay value. “Check, Run It” however is the most riveting track of Da’ Nic and makes the most compelling case to be slotted alongside the many musical touchstones of his career. With the three-piece League of Starz working behind the boards, an invigorated T.I. gloriously manipulates each crevice of the instrumental with commanding bars that demand attention.
The much buzzed about “Peanut Butter Jelly,” featuring Young Dro and Young Thug undoubtedly flaunts both the longstanding chemistry between T.I. and this protege, as well as his fresh magnetism with Thugger. But even in light of the undeniable banger-esque essence of the track, Young Thug dominates the airspace to such a staggering degree that it’s easy to forget T.I.’s presence at all. There are more than plenty examples of certified legends taking a backseat for their lesser accomplished company to shine, but in the past T.I. has been able to accomplish this task by bringing guests into his orbit rather than vice versa. “Peanut Butter Jelly” reeks of the old rehashed formula of an aging artist using new blood to keep his name afloat. Considering the artist in question, T.I., the entire notion seems utterly ridiculous, but so does one of the most consistently authentic and talented artists in hip hop history deciding he needs to re-incorporate a component of his career that never vanished in the first place.
After all, it was only three years ago at age 31 when T.I. released his F*CK Da City Up mixtape to the tune of double-platinum status on Datpiff, featuring an avalanche of trap-centric jams like “Loud Mouth,” On Purpose,” and “Harry Potter.” Historically speaking, nothing but shameful regret and deleted tweets have ensued when someone has dared to ponder aloud whether T.I.’s creative juices have vanished, such as when he followed 2010’s rushed, widely-panned No Mercy with 2012’s critically acclaimed Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, or masterfully boomeranged to 2008’s Paper Trail only a year removed from the lackluster T.I. vs. T.I.P. experiment. With Da’ Nic being only a five track EP, one can confidently speculate that The Dime Trap will be far superior.