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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).

Paper Trail
T.I. Papertrail.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 30, 2008 (2008-09-30)
GenreHip hop
T.I. chronology
T.I. vs. T.I.P.
Paper Trail
No Mercy
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: September 23, 2008
  8. "Dead and Gone"
    Released: January 13, 2009

The album features guest appearances from rappers Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Ludacris, along with singers Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and John Legend, among others. The production on the album was handled by several high-profile record producers, including Nard & B, Rob Knox, Danja, Toomp, Drumma Boy, Kanye West, Lil' C, Jim Jonsin, Just Blaze, Justin Timberlake, Swizz Beatz, Blac Elvis and more.

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 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 recordingEdit

On November 12, 2007, while awaiting a 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 promotionEdit

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.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic     [20]
The A.V. ClubB+[21]
Blender     [22]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[24]
The Guardian     [25]
MSN Music (Consumer Guide)A–[23]
Rolling Stone     [27]
Slant Magazine     [28]
USA Today    [29]

Paper Trail received positive reviews from most music critics.[30] 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".[30] 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..[20] Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly said that the "outstanding production" proved that T.I. "still knows how to have a good time".[24] 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".[28] 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".[28] 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".[27]

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".[31] 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."[32] Shannon Barbour of said that, "Regardless of the outcome of reality, Paper Trail is a solid combination of rhyme, repentance, swagger and substance."[33] People magazine gave the album four out of four stars, saying that the album was "a near-perfect hip-hop album for 2008."[34] 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,[23] 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".[35]

Commercial performanceEdit

According to Nielsen SoundScan, Paper Trail sold 357,000 copies in the United States in the first three days of its release.[36] 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.[37] In its second week, the album remained at number 1 with sales of 177,000 copies in the United States.[38] In its third week, the album fell to number 2, selling 131,000 copies in the United States.[39] In its fourth week, the album fell to number 3, selling 93,427 copies in the United States.[40] In its fifth week, the album fell to number 7, selling 76,560 copies in the United States.[41] It ultimately spent 55 weeks on the US Billboard 200.[42]

The album has sold over two million copies in the United States and it has been certified two-time platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America To date, it has sold 2,840,491 copies, and 3.5 million worldwide. (RIAA).[43][44]

Track listingEdit

1."56 Bars (Intro)"DJ Toomp3:04
2."I'm Illy"
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Charles "Chuck Diesel" Spencer
Chuck Diesel4:07
3."Ready for Whatever"
Drumma Boy5:14
4."On Top of the World" (featuring B.o.B & Ludacris)
Nard & B5:00
5."Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna)5:39
6."Whatever You Like"Jim Jonsin4:12
7."No Matter What"
8."My Life Your Entertainment" (featuring Usher)Drumma Boy5:13
9."Porn Star" (featuring Ricco Barrino)
Lil' C3:32
10."Swing Ya Rag" (featuring Swizz Beatz)
11."What Up, What's Haapnin'"
Drumma Boy5:21
12."Every Chance I Get"
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Davis
DJ Toomp4:50
13."Swagga Like Us" (with Jay-Z featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne & M.I.A.)5:28
14."Slide Show" (featuring John Legend)
  • Harris, Jr
  • Simmons, Jr.
  • Elvis "Blac Elvis" Williams
Blac Elvis3:43
15."You Ain't Missin' Nothing"
  • Harris, Jr.
  • Gholson
Drumma Boy5:10
16."Dead and Gone" (featuring Justin Timberlake)5:00
  • (add.) Additional production
  • "Whatever You Like" and "Porn Star" features additional vocals performed by Ricco Barrino
  • "Collect Call" features additional vocals performed by Mitchelle'l
Sample credits


  • Darren Ankenman – photography
  • Carol Briselli – viola (track 16)
  • Greg Gigendad Burke – art direction, design
  • Mike Caren – additional music producer (track 13)
  • Elliott Carter – recording engineer (tracks 1-11, 14-15), assistant
  • Jeff Chestek – string section recording engineer (track 16)
  • Eliza Cho – violin (track 16)
  • James J. Cooper III – cello (track 16)
  • Andrew Dawson – audio mixing (track 13)
  • Chuck Diesel – producer (track 2)
  • DJ Toomp – producer (tracks 1, 12)
  • Canei Finch – additional keyboards (track 5)
  • Ghislaine Fleishman – violin (track 16)
  • Gary Fly – audio mixing assistant (tracks 1, 12)
  • Paul Foley – recording engineer (tracks 5, 16)
  • John Frazier Jr. – producer (track 3, 11)
  • John Frye – audio mixing (tracks 1, 12)
  • Lanre Gaba – A&R
  • Chris Gehringer – mastering
  • Jason Geter – executive producer, A&R
  • Christopher "Drumma Boy" Gholson – producer (tracks 3, 8, 11, 15)
  • Larry Gold – conductor, string arrangements (track 16)
  • Rob Gold – producer
  • Josh Gudwin – assistant recording engineer (track 16), recording engineer (12)
  • Brad "Dirt" Horne – recording engineer (track 6, 8), assistant
  • Jean-Marie Horvat – audio mixing (track 16)
  • Bryan Huynh – technician
  • The Individuals – producer (track 10)
  • Jim Jonsin – producer (track 6)
  • Just Blaze – instrumental producer (track 5)
  • Hannah Kang – A&R
  • Billy Kim – producer
  • Rob Knox – producer (track 16)
  • Khoa Truong – engineer
  • Keke Smith - production coordinator (track 1,12)
  • Emma Kummrow – violin (track 16)
  • Lil' C – producer (track 9)
  • Sydney Margetson – photography
  • Robert Marks – recording engineer, audio mixing (track 6)
  • Darryl Morris – assistant recording engineer (track 8)
  • Peter Nocella – viola (track 16)
  • Bill Orcutt – cover illustration
  • Anthony Palazzole – assistant recording engineer (track 6)
  • Douglas Peterson – A&R
  • Rosie Phillidor – stylist
  • Brandon "B" Rackley – producer (track 4)
  • Makeba Riddick – vocal producer (track 5)
  • James "Nard" Rosser – producer, recording engineer (track 4)
  • Marsha St. Hubert – A&R
  • Stevie Salas – guitar (track 16)
  • Terrell Sass – Drums, Composer (track 15)
  • Ray Seay – audio mixing (tracks 2-4, 8-9, 11, 14)
  • Derrick Selby – recording engineer (track 1)
  • David Siegel – additional keyboards (track 6)
  • Elliott Storud – producer
  • Supa Engineer "Duro" (Ken Ifill) – audio mixing (track 10)
  • Swizz Beatz – producer, vocals (track 10)
  • Tom Syrowski – audio mixing assistant (track 16)
  • Igor Szwec – violin (track 16)
  • Gregory Teperman – violin (track 16)
  • Justin Timberlake – producer, vocals (track 16)
  • T.I.P. – executive producer
  • Kanye West – producer, vocals (track 13)
  • Ryan West – audio mixing (track 5)
  • Elvis Williams – producer (track 14)
  • Andrew Wright – tracking
  • Ian Wright – cover illustration



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (CRIA)[60] Platinum 80,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] Gold 100,000*
United States (RIAA)[44] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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External linksEdit