After a convincing performance in the underrated 2006 film ATL, T.I. seems to have acquired a flair for the dramatic. Literally. The Atlanta native breaks his fifth album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., into three acts depicting an ideological battle between split personae: the irascible thug T.I.P. and the nouveau-riche recording artist T.I. It ain’t Shakespeare, but the dual protagonists make for an intriguing bout.
When it comes to charisma, the rapper’s darker half trumps the dandy. T.I.P., raspy even in double time, holds his own alongside veteran acrobat Busta Rhymes on ”Hurt.” And on the bluesy ”Watch What You Say to Me,” featuring Jay-Z, T.I.P. drawls ferociously, freely swallowing consonants in a contest of callous intimidation: ”I’m known to make a mountain out a molehill/You don’t want to get your folk killed.”
Act 2 essentially exists for the platinum playboy T.I. to buy stuff — clothes, cars, and women — liberally rubbing excess in the face of unspecified haters. Though the guy can land cocky punchlines all day, rapwise it’s nothing new.
By part 3, some much-needed conflict is introduced. There, T.I. confronts T.I.P., scolding him for jeopardizing their success with his recklessness. This climactic clash raises a big, gritty question: How long before his bad-boy routine gets them both killed? Hip-hop’s seen its share of tragic endings. Hopefully, this time it’s all just an act. B
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