Understandably, T.I. had a lot on his mind when he was working on "No Mercy" (Grand Hustle/Atlantic).
He is currently in an Arkansas federal prison, after being arrested in September on drug charges, which violated his parole on previous federal weapons charges. T.I. has publicly talked about trying to change his life, documented in his reality show "Road to Redemption," and the Grammy-winning rapper and actor continues that discussion throughout "No Mercy."
Over a chugging metal guitar riff, he rhymes unapologetically about his problems, summing it up with "You can be for certain ain't nobody perfect, but when you're rich . . . no mercy." It's a twisted logic worthy of Kanye West, who delivers a highlight by producing and guesting on "Welcome to the World," though it's Kid Cudi who delivers the hardest-hitting lines, "Soon as [Lil'] Wayne get out, TIP go in, wonder why a -- wanna make a clip go in."
It's a weird juxtaposition against the catchy and inspirational "Get Back Up," with Chris Brown, where T.I. offers apologies and vows not to disappoint again. On "That's All She Wrote," he trades well-crafted rhymes with Eminem, who delivers a wild, raging cameo as strong as anything on "Recovery."
As good as those tracks are, there are some half-hearted (half-finished?) songs here as well, including "Amazing," which falls well short of what it could have been, and the cliche-filled "Strip."
"No Mercy" may reflect more of T.I.'s troubles than he intended.
T.I.: "No Mercy"
BOTTOM LINE: The usual wide range of issues, with an unusual range of quality