You can’t fake cinematic. Your album either creates the rolling narrative and emotion of a film or it doesn’t, and it is very difficult to capture that essence. Industry vet, trap star and sometimes reality TV dad, T.I. said that his ninth solo album Paperwork: The Motion Picture would be subtitled as such because “it’s gonna be a theatrical-worthy title.” What he delivered was theatrical, but in one of the worst ways possible. Almost a year out, Tip knew how big this album would be in terms of scale, but it also shares some of the bloat that befalls the emptiest of summer blockbusters. With 18 tracks(on the deluxe version), and coming in at an hour and fifteen minutes, Paperwork: The Motion Picture was much ado about nothing.
Not that everything in Paperwork: The Motion Picture misses the mark, in fact, when it does hit that cinematic feel the album is easily something comparable to Only Built 4 Cuban Links or more recently, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. When Paperwork: The Motion Picture starts out with the aptly titled “King,” it evokes the feelings of vintage T.I.. The unchallenged King of the South makes his intentions clear, or better, lets you know what you should do should you cross his path; “Lay down, I’m the king.” The intro song is very much Blaxploitation in the best way possible. The return of a folk hero, only remembered by name but left to reclaim his status among the people. The distorted soul sample and organs bring you right back to a time where characters like Shaft and Truck Turner were heroes. But, where those heroes had an impact and presence, T.I. acts almost like a vessel for whoever is featured on the track.
Other than the opening song, on the 15 track album proper, there is a featured artist on every song. With so many cooks in the kitchen it becomes obvious why the album floats between indie darling, and lifeless popcorn flick. Executive producer, Pharrell Williams is known for being able to adapt to any artist, yet on Paperwork: The Motion Picture there is a decided lack of focus. “About The Money,” featuring Young Thug, could just have easily been another album cut for the young, almost indecipherable, upstart. But there he is, rubbing elbows and bars with T.I.
Each song plays the studio game much like an actor in a contract deal; one for me, one for them. So, for every “New National Anthem” that shows Tip spreading his wings, and perhaps getting personal, there is a “No Mediocre,” which is clearly made for broader appeal. Yes, the lyrics may be vulgar, but a radio edit featuring current, cultural lightning rod, Iggy Azalea, is definitely one for the new label. Whereas “Light Em Up” and “Paperwork” not only fit the theme, but fit into the body of work T.I. has amassed since his first album in 2001.
Paperwork: The Motion Picture has some truly remarkable moments for the PSC leader. T.I. still knows how to flip between bragadocious machismo and southern gentleman almost effortlessly, where he comes up short is mistaking dictation for storytelling. “New National Anthem” has him simply stating the plight of minorities in America as opposed to laying them out in song. Never one to have to “try” and create pop hits that still feel authentic, this album has the transparency one would hope for a large corporation, not a top ranking MC working with an acclaimed producer. If you do something right, it’ll appear as if you didn’t do anything at all. Too many times on Paperwork: The Motion Picture, the effort is showing, and you wonder what should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Originally published on – Inyourspeakers.com (10/22/2014)