It’s rare that an artist’s music can reflect their current situation while also setting the stage for their grim future. A majority of No Mercy is a collection of T.I.’s feelings and struggles coming off of his seven-month stint behind bars in 2009. He wants everyone to know he is back for good and not going anywhere any time soon. On songs like “Get Back Up” he begs his fans for acceptance and reminds us he is just human. It was yet another outcry from T.I. that resulted in more confusion than acceptance from fans. On the same day he dropped this single, the first from No Mercy, news of another sentence resulting from drug charges made its way out into the public. T.I. came full circle; he served some time, wrote an album, and then found himself preparing for another sentence behind bars. This first single painted a picture for fans of where T.I. was in his life and how he wanted to be perceived, but this news completely shattered that image. This all led to an even more confusing album with some weak beats in need of a doctor.
The album starts off real strong with a ‘G.O.O.D. Music’ produced track “Welcome to the World” straight from Kanye West with features from Yeezy himself and Kid Cudi on the hook. The beat is addicting and flows well with the lyrics and Cudi’s voice. T.I. raps with passion and gives a great effort, but is out-shined by Kanye’s masterful flow. The track is a standout, but this is T.I.’s album, not West’s or Cudi’s. While not as prominent, the same problem occurs on “That’s All She Wrote” which features some incredible bars from none other than Slim Shady. T.I. gives a great performance as well, but just doesn’t match up to Eminem’s flow. The way their verses flow into one another’s is great and really changes things up; a tactic that should have been used on more than one song. With exceptions from “That’s All She Wrote” and a few other songs, the beats are just not up to snuff and make it hard to even get through a first listen of a song. Try to listen to more than 30 seconds of “Amazing” featuring ‘Skateboard-P’ Pharrell. The beat is disgusting and might even lead to some people not giving the rest of the album a chance. Why is the hook about “Skateboard-P make your face fall off…”? I honestly could not tell you.
It seems that T.I.’s strongest moments come from two of the slower songs on the album, “No Mercy” and “Castle Walls”. The-Dream’s vocals make for a great hook on “No Mercy” while T.I. delivers some pretty good lyrics: “Start calling my self the king for lack of a better title.” On “Castle Walls”, the best and most mesmerizing beat on the album plays while Christina Aguilera’s amazing vocals sound off from every angle. It’s a great showcase for how T.I. felt behind bars during his sentence. Both of these songs are standouts, but bring up the question of whether or not T.I. can truly make a compelling song without any features. Speaking of features, the Drake verse on “Poppin Bottles” is easily the worst Drake verse/feature of the year. Its almost as if T.I. asked Drake for a half-assed verse and then looked at his track list, picked a random song, and laid Drake’s verse over it in hopes of making it a stronger song.
It’s clear that T.I. is trying to instill a message on No Mercy, but what that message is isn’t exactly easy to decipher. There are songs where he completely lays his bag of emotions out on the table. Then there are the painful club bangers like “Lay Me Down” and “Poppin Bottles”. If T.I. was trying to create a theme of despair and forgiveness with this latest effort, he failed. If he was trying to confuse fans along with destroying his image in the process, he succeeded. It’s a shame No Mercy didn’t turn out to be T.I.’s best work yet as it would have done wonders for his image to have hit records on the radio while sitting behind bars once again. For T.I. to previously go on record saying, “No Mercy will surely be my best work yet,” is an insult to his own career as 2008’s Paper Trail was obviously an all time high for his career. While there are some good tracks throughout, the weak beats and over-shadowing features make for a painful and confusing experience.