"If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm."
"F*ck that! If an hour in the dark is worth a second in the sun then pass me my mother f*ckin' shades cause I'm ready to cash my darkest hours in...ASAP!!!"
One of those quotes comes from Gandhi. The other is from Clifford "T.I." Harris. Can you believe Gandhi had such a filthy mouth?
Seriously, though, T.I. has lost his mind.
A rambling post on his website confirms it. It's his third published letter, or prison kite, from the Arkansas correctional facility where he's serving his second sentence in as many years and, unlike the previous missives that found Tip pushing his new album with an easygoing "I'm locked up but it's all good" semi-swagger, it's wild, aggressive, unhinged. I reckon prison has a way of making a man forget how to effectively work his PR machine.
That album, initially titled King Uncaged but since changed to the less ironic No Mercy — a jailbird's trodden lament — is a clutter of sounds and ideas that never quite congeal. For a project that T.I. reportedly envisioned as a massive musical riposte on the scale of Tupac's All Eyez On Me, No Mercy is remarkably barren.
It's also often glaringly patent. In the fluffy comeback anthem "Get Back Up," Tip shrieks about Twitter haters and complains that his troubles make TMZ while a faceless, alcoholic wife-beater goes unpunished. Chris Brown sings the hook. (Can I get a wink, wink?) Song by song, No Mercy spirals further down a woe-is-me rabbit hole until the only things left are the bottles, the cars, the pussy. The result: "Strip," a blatantly boring club-baiter that features a Trey Songz performance so generic it's almost inspired.
Yet there are instances of actual inspiration. Eminem collab "That's All She Wrote" not only features some of the best lyrical work Em's done in a while but a killer beat — courtesy shimmer-pop producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Even Christina Aguilera lends a pleasant touch to closer "Castle Walls." And Tip flirts with poignancy on the title track, where, augmented by a solemn chorus from The-Dream, he waxes philosophical about his childhood, his drug-dealing past, life in the spotlight, the usual. It's somehow narcissistic and self-sacrificing, yet it feels honest.
It's those few fleeting instances where T.I. successfully balances egoism and humility that save No Mercy from becoming a complete disaster. Mostly, though, it's a mess. The most frustrating aspect of the album is T.I.'s reluctance to really dig deep enough for it to matter. He consistently disregards cause in favor of an intense, distracting focus on effect. Like his prison letter, No Mercy veers madly from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other. One moment Tip boasts a clear-eyed swagger, the next he's pounding his fists on a brick wall.
At least No Mercy's imperfections — and his own — serve to remind us that the dude's still human (what does the prison system do, after all, if not dehumanize?). There's a stirring moment in his manic, flailing third prison letter where, magically, T.I. once again becomes Clifford Harris Jr. Reflecting on the effect his fatherless upbringing has had on his life, he vows love and responsibility for his children. It's brief but touching:
"My father was a hustler that lived in New York. My uncle was a local big time dope boy turned 10 year federal inmate. My mother and grandparents did the best they could but I found my manhood...And nan one of mine will ever have to feel the cold tight grip of a handcuff...if I can help it."
Still, I'm curious. Will T.I.'s latest stint in lockup enhance or obliterate his messiah complex? Would King Uncaged have been any different than No Mercy? And will the once and future King ever deliver the great post-incarceration album he's promised?
As he assures us on "Salute," we needn't worry: "Put me anywhere in any jail and I shall prevail."
Gandhi would be proud.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…