Ranking the Best T.I. Albums

Last month we kicked off our Head to Head with Edd series, where I go one-on-one with dedicated music fans to debate the work of their faves.

Our first entry focused on T.I. and since I didn’t want to step all over that release, I delayed my album ranking to give the original post some breathing room.

But it’s delayed no longer!

T.I. emerged at the turn of the millennium as one hip-hop’s newest headliners. Though his Kang of the Souf rants irritated me to no end back them, give him props for essentially speaking it into existence – true to his word, T.I. would eventually become one of that names that would spearhead the South’s dominance of hip-hop – a stranglehold that the South maintains today.

So let’s finally go back and revisit the 10 albums that have shaped T.I.’s landmark career. Y’all know the rules by now – album quality, consistency, and impact on the genre helped shape this list. Also, we’re sticking with T.I.’s LP’s ONLY – no compilations, EPs or mixtapes.

Let’s see which albums are truly fit for king.

10. No Mercy (2010)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yeah, there was a LOT going on behind the scenes leading up to the release of this one. The album, originally called King Uncaged, was revamped after was T.I. sent back to prison. The LP eventually evolved into No Mercy and, to be fair, it’s not horrible, just utterly dull. The overload of guests, lack of standouts and unnecessarily long run time (a big problem for most T.I. albums, as you’ll see) does it no favors.

Forgotten favorites: “I Can’t Help It”, “Welcome to the World,” “Salute”

9. T.I. vs TIP (2007)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: T.I. is far from the first artist to do the split-personality concept thing (shout out to Tracey Lee for nailing it best) but you can’t fault him for giving it a shot. But good intentions don’t always work out. The album comes off as a schizophrenic listen thanks to the grimy vs glitzy concept – I’m sure that was intentional but it doesn’t make for a good listening experience. When it comes down to it, most tracks here just aren’t every interesting, no matter if it’s TIP or T.I. spitting them.

Forgotten favorites: “Hurt,” “Help Is Coming,” “Tell Em I Said That”

8. Paperwork (2014)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: This is a somewhat divisive entry in T.I.’s catalog. Some of the songs that longtime T.I. fans disliked – “No Mediocre and G S***” among them – I found to be pretty catchy here. Not incredible by any means, but fun for what they are. Meanwhile, his efforts to embrace a more soulful sound are often derailed by his attempts to embrace a more mainstream sound. Like T.I. vs TIP, it’s a pretty uneven package overall.

Forgotten favorites: “G S***,” “Oh Yeah,” “About my Issue”

7. Dime Trap (2018)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: T.I.’s most recent LP once again veers more toward the trends of the moment than his trademark sound. And, once again, the results are mixed. However, he gets props for the moments of vulnerability, which helps keep this project grounded and authentic.

Forgotten favorites: “Laugh At Em,” “The Amazing Mr F*** Up,” “More & More”

6. Paper Trail (2008)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: And this is where I ruin your childhood! Look, I know how popular Paper Trail is – this triple-platinum seller is quietly T.I.’s biggest seller, thanks to several huge pop singles, and is a big contributor to his mainstream success. Problem is, those chart toppers just aren’t very good. Thankfully, the grittier records hit much harder and a solid array of album cuts keeps this one afloat. It’s an OK album, just not as good as you remember from high school. Kinda like those square pizzas you ate for lunch.

Forgotten favorites: “56 Bars,” “I’m Illy,” “You Ain’t Missin Nothing”

5. I’m Serious (2001)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: T.I.’s debut may not have made a big splash on the national stage, but, trust me, it quickly became a cult favorite in the South. There are several flashes of brilliance here, mainly thanks to T.I.’s charisma and some strong production from early-era Neptunes. It lacked the diversity later releases would show but it’s a solid first outing.

Forgotten favorites: “Still Ain’t Forgave Myself,” “Heavy Chevys,” “Hands Up”

4. Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head (2012)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Though it’s not brimming with high-profile singles, Trouble Man is one of T.I.’s most complete albums. It doesn’t meander like many of his other releases and strong song sequencing and storytelling tie this one together. It’s might not be remembered as a top-tier release but take my word for it – Trouble Man is as solid as it gets.

Forgotten favorites: “Sorry,” “The Introduction,” “The Way We Ride”

3. Urban Legend (2004)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: After a strong showing with his sophomore release, T.I. kept the momentum going with Urban Legend, one of the bigger albums of the mid ’00s. High-profile guests and signature singles paved the way for success here. Once again, I have to point out that the album is slightly bloated – things really slow to a crawl about halfway through – but it rebounds nicely by the end. T.I.’s roll continued here.

Forgotten favorites: “Motivation,” “Prayin for Help,” “What they Do”

2. Trap Muzik (2003)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: When I went Head to Head with the homie Alex Goodwin in our TI discussion, he proclaimed Trap Muzik as T.I.’s greatest work. Many fans agreed with him. However, y’all know I’m not most fans. But don’t expect me to trash this one – though it’s not his debut, it was Trap Muzik, T.I.’s second release, that really put him on the map. And rightfully so. Jammed packed with hard-hitting Southern anthems, Trap Muzik has been called by some critics as the launching point for today’s trap movement. That’s a very debatable point (oh trust me, I’ll touch on that another day) but regardless, this was a landmark release.

Forgotten favorites: “Doin My Job,” “I Can’t Quit,” “Let Me Tell You Something”

1. King (2006)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Back in the early 00s when T.I. claimed the throne of Southern rap, I wasn’t buying it. At. all. In a world where Outkast and Scarface still breathe air? Playa please. It wasn’t until T.I.’s fourth album King where Tip finally capitalized on all his monarch talk. The grandiose production and hard-hitting rhymes gave him an unmatched swagger. The hits still stand the test of time and the album cuts have not aged a day. This is where his royal destiny was truly fulfilled. He hasn’t topped this album yet.

Forgotten favorites: “King Back,” “Front Back,” “Ride Wit Me”

What’s your favorite T.I. album? Was Trap Muzik and Paper Trail robbed? Let us know below. And to see more album rankings of your favorite artists, click here.

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2 Comments

  1. Mines far as his top 5:
    Urban Legend
    Paper Trail
    King
    Trap Muzix
    T. I. Vs Tip

  2. I’m not really a fan, but I feel albums like Trap Muzik & Urban Legend changed the game as far the ATL/Trap movement goes.

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