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Paper Trail

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This article is about the album. For a definition of the word "paper trail", see the Wiktionary entry paper trail.
Paper Trail
T.I. Papertrail.jpg
Studio album by T.I.
Released September 29, 2008 (2008-09-29)
Recorded 2007–08
Genre Hip hop
Length 73:15
Label Grand Hustle, Atlantic
Producer T.I. (exec.), Chuck Diesel, Nard & B, Rob Knox, Danja, Toomp, Drumma Boy, Kanye West, Lil C, Jim Jonsin, Just Blaze, Justin Timberlake, Swizz Beatz, Blac Elvis, Two Band Geeks
T.I. chronology
T.I. vs. T.I.P.
Paper Trail
No Mercy
Alternative cover
Case Closed EP cover
Singles from Paper Trail
  1. "No Matter What"
    Released: April 29, 2008
  2. "Whatever You Like"
    Released: July 29, 2008
  3. "Swing Ya Rag"
    Released: August 26, 2008
  4. "What Up, What's Haapnin'"
    Released: September 2, 2008
  5. "Swagga Like Us"
    Released: September 6, 2008
  6. "Ready for Whatever"
    Released: September 23, 2008
  7. "Live Your Life"
    Released: November 4, 2008
  8. "Dead and Gone"
    Released: January 1, 2009

Paper Trail is the sixth studio album by American hip hop recording artist T.I., released September 30, 2008, on Grand Hustle Records and Atlantic Records. He began to write songs for the album as he awaited trial for federal weapons and possession charges. Unlike his past albums, he wrote his lyrics down on paper, which he had not done since his debut album, I'm Serious (2001).

The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 568,000 copies in its first week, becoming T.I.'s highest debut sales to date, and the fourth highest debut of the year. The album was eventually certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on August 27, 2009. It received generally favorable reviews from critics, and is T.I.'s most successful album to date.[1] The album spawned eight singles, four of which reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, with two singles peaking at number one.

Background and recording[edit]

On November 13, 2007, while awaiting trial for federal weapons charges, T.I. announced he had been writing songs for a new album to be entitled Paper Trail. He wrote his lyrics down on paper, which he had not done since his debut album, I'm Serious.[2] The album highlights his "fear, anger and guilt" as he awaited trial.[3]

T.I. recorded nearly 100 tracks during the production for Paper Trail,[4] including a collaboration with Fall Out Boy on a track entitled "Out in the Cold".[5] However the song was left out of the final cut, but T.I. told MTV that he may add some of the cut tracks to his next album.[6] On August 22, 2008, the songs "Like I Do" featuring The-Dream, "Let My Beat Pound", "My Life Your Entertainment" featuring Usher, and "Swagga Like Us" were all leaked online.[7]

The album was scheduled to be released in September 2008, but was subsequently moved up to an August 12 after the release of the promotional and lead single "No Matter What" and high demand of the album. At the time, T.I. said that the first single may have been "Top of the World", originally featuring B.o.B and Kanye West, explaining that the song was "a reflective song about our humble beginnings and how far we've come".[8] The album was pushed back for a release date of September 2, then September 9 and to its final release date of September 30, 2008, in the US.[9] The album was first released on September 29, 2008, in continental Europe.[10]

Singles and promotion[edit]

In the album's first single, the song narrates T.I. rising above his misfortunes, including a prison sentence for weapons charges.

In the second single, T.I. melodically raps along a beat of lead synthesizers and drum pattern.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The first single released from the album was a song titled "No Matter What". It was posted on StreetCred's website on April 29, 2008, as a promotional recording, then released as a single on May 6, along with a music video, which he premiered on MTV's FNMTV.[11] The song narrates T.I. rising above his misfortunes, including a prison sentence for weapon charges.[12]

On August 19, 2008, the album's lead single "Whatever You Like", was made available for digital download.[11] The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 6, 2008 and set a new record for biggest one-week jump to the top position, going from number seventy-one to number one, becoming his first number one song on the chart as a lead artist and best opening-week sales by a rap track since Nielsen SoundScan began compiling download data in 2003.[13] T.I. announced that he was "ecstatic" and "overjoyed" after setting a record for the biggest jump to top of the Billboard Hot 100.[14]

After the success of "Whatever You Like", iTunes published the release dates for the upcoming singles, "Swing Ya Rag" on August 26, "What Up, What's Haapnin'" on September 2, and "Ready for Whatever" on September 23, 2008.[11][15] Additionally, a song titled "Swagga Like Us", featuring T.I., Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye West - which samples "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. - was then released as a single on September 4, for Paper Trail and debuted in the Hot 100 at number five.[7]

The album's seventh single, "Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna, broke T.I's own record for biggest leap to number one, when it jumped from number eighty to number one on the Hot 100, giving T.I. his second Hot 100 number one as a lead artist, and Rihanna her fifth overall. The song also set a first week digital record, when it sold 334,000 digital downloads in its first week of availability, a record that was previously held by Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body."[16]

The eighth single was confirmed to be "Dead and Gone" featuring Justin Timberlake, by the song's co-producer Rob Knox.[17] T.I. himself later confirmed the release of the single.[18] The song was charted by Billboard before the announcement of the single. The song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 27, 2009.[19] Overall, eight songs from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100, including "56 Bars (Intro)", "I'm Illy" and "My Life Your Entertainment", despite not being singles. A music video was released for the song "Slide Show" which highlighted a photo collage that followed T.I.'s career as a recording artist. The track "Every Chance I Get" was featured on the promotional trailer for Armored starring Columbus Short.


Commercial performance[edit]

According to Nielsen SoundScan, Paper Trail sold 357,000 copies in the United States in its first three days[20] and it went to debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart, with 568,000 copies sold. It is T.I.'s best debut to date and the fourth highest debut of 2008.[21] In its second week, the album remained at number 1 with sales of 177,000 copies in the United States.[22] In its third week, the album fell to number 2, selling 131,000 copies in the United States.[23] In its fourth week, the album fell to number 3, selling 93,427 copies in the United States.[24] In its fifth week, the album fell to number 7, selling 76,560 copies in the United States.[25] It ultimately spent 55 weeks on the US Billboard 200.[26]

The album has sold over three million copies in the United States and it has been certified three-time platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[27][28]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 74/100
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[29]
The A.V. Club B+[30]
Blender 3.5/5 stars[31]
Robert Christgau A–[32]
Entertainment Weekly B+[33]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[34]
Pitchfork Media 6.2/10[35]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[36]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[37]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[38]

Paper Trail received positive reviews from most music critics.[39] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 74, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[39] Several critics praised the production on the album; Andy Kellman of AllMusic noted that DJ Toomp's and Danja's production appearance provided "some much needed punch", which placed the album above T.I.'s previous album, T.I. vs. T.I.P..[29] Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly said that the "outstanding production" proved that T.I. "still knows how to have a good time".[33] Wilson McBee of Slant Magazine called the songs produced by Toomp the "vintage T.I.", describing the sound as "ecstasies of sweltering synth lines, ground-shaking 808 patterns and breathless verbalizing".[37] However, McBee felt that the songs that were directly about T.I.'s prison sentence for weapons charges ("No Matter What", "Ready for Whatever") were among the weakest on the album, saying that "admitting guilt, making excuses and expressing no regrets falls flat".[37] Sharing a similar sentiment, Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called the songs "mostly dispenses with the Tupac-wannabe gangsta-confessor pretensions to deliver catchy, tight, bombastic pop-rap alongside a who's-who of megastar guests", saying that T.I. was a "well-oiled hit machine who's more fun than deep".[36]

Newsday‍ '​s Glen Gamboa gave Paper Trail a B rating and commented that "[T.I.] is still bouncing between pop-leaning hip-hop anthems [...] and spare, often violent, tales of crime and brutality".[40] Michael Saba of Paste said that, "Even with the burden of sloppy crossover tracks, Paper Trail has enough standout moments for T.I.’s throne to remain secure for now."[41] Shannon Barbour of said that, "Regardless of the outcome of reality, Paper Trail is a solid combination of rhyme, repentance, swagger and substance."[42] People magazine gave the album four out of four stars, saying that the album was "a near-perfect hip-hop album for 2008."[43] In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau called Paper Trail an "expediently excessive piece of rich-get-richer" and gave it an A- rating,[32] indicating "the kind of garden-variety good record that is the great luxury of musical micromarketing and overproduction. Anyone open to its aesthetic will enjoy more than half its tracks".[44]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "56 Bars (Intro)"   DJ Toomp 3:04
2. "I'm Illy"  
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Charles "Chuck Diesel" Spencer
Chuck Diesel 4:07
3. "Ready for Whatever"  
Drumma Boy 5:12
4. "On Top of the World" (featuring B.o.B & Ludacris)
Nard & B 5:00
5. "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna) Just Blaze 5:39
6. "Whatever You Like"   Jim Jonsin 4:12
7. "No Matter What"  
Danja 4:42
8. "My Life Your Entertainment" (featuring Usher)
Drumma Boy 4:56
9. "Porn Star"  
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Cordale "Lil' C" Quinn
  • Washington
Lil' C 3:32
10. "Swing Ya Rag" (featuring Swizz Beatz)
Swizz Beatz 3:20
11. "What Up, What's Haapnin'"  
Drumma Boy 5:01
12. "Every Chance I Get"  
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Davis
DJ Toomp 4:50
13. "Swagga Like Us" (with Jay-Z featuring Kanye West & Lil Wayne) West 5:28
14. "Slide Show" (featuring John Legend)
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Elvis "Blac Elvis" Williams
  • Simmons
Blac Elvis 3:43
15. "You Ain't Missin' Nothing"  
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Gholson
Drumma Boy 5:10
16. "Dead and Gone" (featuring Justin Timberlake)
  • Timberlake
  • Rob Knox
Sample credits
  • "Live Your Life" – Contains a sample from "Dragostea din tei" performed by O-Zone.[45]
  • "Whatever You Like" – Contains a sample from "Redemption" performed by Bill Conti.
  • "What Up, What's Haapnin'" – Contains samples of "Never Give You Up" performed by Harvey Mason.
  • "Swagga Like Us" – Contains a sample from "Paper Planes" performed by M.I.A..[7]


Charts and certifications[edit]

Chart procession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
Death Magnetic by Metallica
U.S. Billboard 200 number-one album
October 18, 2008 – November 1, 2008
Succeeded by
Lucky Old Sun by Kenny Chesney


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External links[edit]