(Back Row L-R): Brian St. John, Dionnee Harper, T.I., Kawn "K.P." Prather, Ashley Kalmanowitz, (Front Row L-R): Clay Evans, Lil Duval, Sydney Margetson (Photo: © Grayson Dantzic)
"One thing about my life that is certain is trouble," T.I. began an intimate listening session of his forthcoming album, Trouble Man, on Tuesday evening (Oct. 23) at NYC's Germano Studios. "I shall embrace it," he continued, in front of a crowd of writers ( HipHop DX's Kathy Iandoli, Simone "Bosslady" Amelia, HipHop Wired's Kazeem Famuyide and more), Atlantic Records former and current label executives, wife Tameka "Tiny" Harris, and comedian Lil Duval.
Kawan "KP" Prather, vice president, A&R Atlantic Records and owner of Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment, orchestrated the playback of the listening. Prather -- who's worked with TLC, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Usher and more -- has been beside T.I. since the beginning of the rapper's career, A&Ring his first studio album I'm Serious" (2001, Arista Records).
Tip gets into the music at the Trouble Man listening party. (Photo: © Grayson Dantzic)
A sample of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man," featured on the introduction to T.I.'s eighth studio album, kicked off the preview of a selection of 12 songs that T.I. said "will for sure be on the album."
Last fall, Tip gave Billboard's The Juice a first listen of five potential Trouble Man tracks, one of which was the intro. Since then, he has recorded 45 songs, with the first being "I'm Flexin'" (which won't make the album). Now, he has 100 songs in the vault and will turn over the final product to Atlantic in "one week" T.I. said, while smiling over to senior director, marketing Atlantic Records, Dionne Harper.
Tip with comedian Lil Duval. (Photo: © Grayson Dantzic)
Trouble Man delivers what T.I. intended to craft from the minute he stepped into Atlanta's Darp Studio after a 10-month prison stay. He said he was "trying to take the vintage [sound] and blend it with more mainstream, commercially accepted music, a'la Paper Trail."
The album's title track, produced by DJ Montay, features R. Kelly crooning on the hook, "Can you learn to love a trouble man?" Tip, Kendrick Lamar and B.o.B spit of troubling outcomes from encounters with past lovers on "Somebody That I Used to Know," which samples Gotye's hit of the same name.
He continued to play two hard-hitting DJ Toomp-produced tracks, reminiscent of his earlier work, titled "Trap Back Jumping," and "the 'What You Know' of this album," "Who Want Some."
T.I. is sure to please ladies, as he did with the ones in the room with the P!nk-assisted "Guns & Roses." The album's "money maker" features P!nk channelling her R&B edge, a' la 2000's "There You Go," when singing, "Guns and roses... we don't know which one to choose when either way we are gonna lose."
T.I. mans the laptop at the listening party. (Photo: © Grayson Dantzic)
"I rather be miserable with her than suffer without her," Tip raps on the T-Minus track.
Atlantic Records' team (publicity, marketing, A&R) seemed to rightfully-so enjoy Trouble Man as much as the writers in attendance. T.I.'s publicist, Sydney Margetson, was caught two-stepping while Harper recited back T.I.'s rhymes.
Rumors of an Andre 3000 feature were confirmed close to the end of the session when T.I. previewed a "collaboration that took long to happen," titled "Sorry."
"And [then] six years [later], I got a call and he ready, [he] basically s--t on me on my own record," Tip jokingly warned of 3000's "lightning in a bottle" verse. "But I'm saying s--t in my verses that he can't say, and I can't change that."
The confessional "Sorry" features both rhyming sincerely on their relationships with close ones. Andre 3000 alludes to his friendship with Outkast's Big Boi ("Sorry for f---ing up the tour... Why we trying so hard to be stars?") and a past lover ("Sorry for having to choose between you and what the rest of the world has to offer").
Trouble Man showcases T.I. as who he once was and is becoming, by speaking on both the good and bad that got him to where he is now. "To expect for me to be one-sided is to expect me to be one-dimensional," he said.
While sharing some insight on Trouble Man, close to the end the session, T.I. received an expected phone call by Pharrell Williams. "Ah man," T.I. said, before chuckling. Pharrell had called to ask Tip who he had been playing the album for after seeing tweets of the Cee-Lo-featured track, "Hello," which he produced.
The majority of Trouble Man was birthed straight from the booth. "Only things I had wrote down are the things I had from prison," T.I. said. He then closed the session with one of the songs he wrote while in prison, titled "How Wonderful Life Is." The Akon-assisted track, which samples Elton John's song of the same name, features T.I. speaking to himself about the blessings of his life.
Check out the twelve Trouble Man songs previewed, not to be mistaken as the final tracklist.
2. "Somebody I Used to Know" feat. B.o.B and Kendrick Lamar (prod by Keno)
3. "Ball" feat. Lil Wayne
4. "Trap Back Jumpin'" (produced by DJ Toomp)
5. "Wild Side" feat. A$AP Rocky (produced by No I.D.)
6. "Trouble Man" feat. R. Kelly (produced by DJ Monte)
7. "Guns N Roses" feat. Pink (produced by T-Minus)
8. "Sorry" feat. André 3000 (produced by Jazze Pha)
9. "Hello" feat. CeeLo Green (produced by Pharrell)
10. "Who Wants Some" (produced by DJ Toomp)
11. "Address" (produced by T-Minus)
12. "How Wonderful Life Is" feat. Akon (produced by Sanchez)