T.I. – No Mercy

T.I. – No Mercy
Atlantic: 2010

T.I. isn’t much of a music guy, is he? Sure, he performs music. He records it. He probably even owns a few CDs, or something like that. But there is no way that this man loves and respects music. If the opposite were true, he would not have brought the earsore that is No Mercy into this world.

Okay, that’s harsh. But this album is full of the same Top 40 tripe that dominates the airwaves. There’s certainly nothing wrong with pop music (personally, I consider myself a poptimist), but there’s good pop music, and there’s bad pop music. This is bad pop music.

Yes, you just read No Mercy described as pop. T.I. is a pop star, an entertainer, and he knows how to manipulate one-dimensional radio listeners into becoming his most ardent fans. For this album alone, he has recruited all of the usual suspects in the songwriting and production world: Kanye/No I.D., Dr. Luke, The-Dream, Danja, The Neptunes, Alex da Kid—the list goes on. No Mercy has taught me the following things: The Neptunes need to hang it up, because their songs became caricatures of themselves a long time ago; Dr. Luke should stay away from pop-rap because he’s not good at it (or at making music in general, really); The-Dream, while normally a competent songwriter and producer, created one of the most hackneyed, embarrassing songs of 2010 with the pandering-for-sympathy title track, a song that postures T.I. as a guilty man who does not feel it necessary to be held accountable for his own wrongdoings.

We’ve heard good hip-hop leaning pop albums this year, and it’s just a shame that they had to come closer to the end of the album and review cycle. Diddy, while normally a veritable laughingstock, showed us some unexpected and genius curatorship with Last Train to Paris, a locomotive body of work that touts modern R&B mixed with Ibiza-influenced electro. Kanye gave us the pained art-rock opus that Adrian Belew probably wished he’d created. The aforementioned leading dudes in hip-hop (remember that Diddy was, at the very least, once responsible for propelling Biggie to superstardom) are clearly bigger music fans than T.I.—they dabble in such niche genres and aspire to bring them to the status quo, hoping to contribute new patches to the giant mainstream hip-hop quilt that has, in recent years, grown astonishingly monochromatic. Guys like T.I. are responsible for this increasing monochromaticity. Guys like T.I. have probably never heard a King Crimson or DJ Hell record, let alone have a passing familiarity with those artists. That’s not to say that all pop artists with limited musical influences make terrible pop albums, but there’s been an ever-increasing trend that argues for the opposite.

Not only is the album full of derivative R&B/rap/pop mishmash, but it’s also tremendously unfocused and, for the most part, T.I.’s presence isn’t even necessary (sometimes it’s virtually nonexistent). The admittedly-decent “Welcome to the World” is more of a Kanye/Kid Cudi showcase and would actually do better on a Kanye or Cudi album. T.I. is completely expendable. The same goes for the repetitive, rehashed Neptunes track “Amazing”, which is dominated by Pharrell rather than T.I., making him expendable yet again. This happens again on the hashtaggy “Poppin’ Bottles” and the Trey Songz-led “Strip”—you get the idea.

So we have an album from a guy who probably doesn’t even enjoy music that much, choc-full of the same ol’ radio-friendly songwriting and production, and to top it all off, the album is soggy with crocodile tears because the world has been so cruel to T.I. It has shown him, as he believes, “no mercy.” The album is one giant pity party, as you might have surmised from the somber front cover, and you have tracks like “Get Back Up” with Chris Brown, another sympathy-seeking guy who wants audiences to gloss over the fact that he beat ex-girlfriend Rihanna to a pulp. “No Mercy” makes the pandering even more blatant, with the hook asking, “Is there no mercy for me?” as ominous bells and chimes ring in the background over some half-hearted, exceedingly contrived funeral beat. Does it get worse? Oh, it does: T.I. closes out the album seeing how hard he can pull on the heartstrings of the similarly beaten and broken in “Castle Walls”, the “duet” with Christina Aguilera that discusses how rich and sad and indicted he is, as if the self-aggrandizing sorrowfest wasn’t bad enough throughout the entire album. Life is so hard, isn’t it, T.I.?

Artists almost always release albums after they suffer in the public eye, and those albums are almost always appalling. But hey, Kanye took the whole tortured, evil genius/villain stigma and made great art with it. Why couldn’t T.I. have done the same? Probably because he doesn’t even have the capacity for it. He’s a basic entertainer, one whose only source of music is probably Ryan Seacrest’s Top 40 countdown, a generic R&B radio station out of Atlanta, and an OJ da Juiceman album he happened to bum off OJ himself. No Mercy is what happens when too many different people attempt to prop up a guy who doesn’t know a ton about music, mercy, or himself. Consequently, it’s a collection of songs that are as dismal, embarrassing, and boring as you might expect.

★★☆☆☆
2 out of 5

13 thoughts on “T.I. – No Mercy

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  1. Great review Arika and couldn’t agree more. Tired of all the generic, formulaic “hip hop” that’s coming out these days.

  2. TELL ‘EM WHY U MADD SON

    T.I. hasn’t had a re-playable album since Urban Legend.

  3. Although I didn’t think it was god awful, it’s got zero replay value and is easily TIP’s worst album. I’d like to think this was just rushed and pressed up quickly (i.e. all the guests & generic songs) to get an album out before he’s locked up. It’s a let down in that Paper Trail was his most mature record, in terms of content & quality, to date. All of TIP’s previous albums are good to great imo except for T.I. vs T.I.P. (concept caused too much filler).

  4. There’s a difference between Kanye’s making an album that is a collaborative effort with a bunch of guests and TI’s getting steamrolled by every feature. Kanye’s album is still very much his own, while No Mercy seems like a mixtape of middling TI guest spots.

    The problem with TI getting outshined on No Mercy is that at his best, he is a more talented artist than most of the people stealing the show on his album. It isn’t so much that he’s sharing spotlight. It feels more like he’s asleep at the wheel, and they had to take the reigns. The Dream feature sounds like a Dream song. The Kanye/Cudi feature sounds like a glorified GOOD Friday track. Even freaking Young Dro shows him up on “Strip”.

    TI’s lyricism and songwriting are off, and this album doesn’t flow at all. It’s like a sampler of what someone thought would do well on the radio. And worst of all, he spends a lot of it complaining about how no one cares about his problems because he’s rich. Wrong. No one cares about his problems because he’s too stupid to keep his dumb ass out of jail for more than a year at a time. This is his worst album by some distance, and it pisses me off cause I KNOW he can do better.

  5. Kara-Lis Coverdale|

    @Craig Yes– Eminem’s bars are the best moments of T.I.’s effort. I know someone else who has an album like that, and that’s none other than the illustrious Kanye West.

    But I’m not hating. At all. There’s something unique and admirable about an emcee that can sit back to let their guests shine and do their thing, even if it happens to be better. It’s a skill (not a vice) that requires a contra-battle mentality.

    Things only get shitty when the ability to share limelight gets caught up with an excuse to suck.

  6. John Smith|

    I think this deserves 3.5/5 I thought this album was a good effort compared his previous albums.

  7. David Reyneke|

    I always thought TI sucked.. Glad everyone else can agree now! 2 out of 5 is generous.

  8. LMFAO he did a track with Chris Brown? That is too perfect. Get Michael Vick and OJ on the fuckin’ remix and you’re golden.

  9. Good point about the features overpowering TI on his own album. I’ve felt that way for a long time.

  10. Ha, I thought you were referring to the fact that this should be the end of TI’s career.

  11. Kara-Lis Coverdale|

    Yes, AD did Kill it.

    I meant the “Thats All She Wrote” as in the song from this album, of course, which is pretty much mind blowing!

  12. Arika, you killed it. In a good way, of course.

  13. Kara-Lis Coverdale|

    That’s all she wrote?

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