By Mikael Wood
8:15 AM EST, December 18, 2012
In "Can You Learn," a slow-rolling cut from his new studio disc, T.I. beseeches a lover to look past his recent legal troubles to focus on "the good qualities within." "Trouble Man" asks something similar of listeners: The Atlanta rapper's first album since being released last year from federal prison following a probation violation, it surrounds a handful of his sharpest, most insightful songs with far less effective material — tracks that either vague out into club-rap utility or sag hopelessly under the weight of cornball sentiment.
Like the early-'70s Marvin Gaye soundtrack its title nods to, "Trouble Man" at its best examines the unseen cost of crime, as in "Can You Learn" (with R. Kelly) and "Wildside," which opens with one of several skits dramatizing T.I.'s various arrests. But he isn't strictly playing the reformer: "Sorry," a stirring collaboration with Andre 3000, insists, "You can't please everybody," while in "Who Want Some" T.I. boasts of indiscretions to come over a swaggering beat by DJ Toomp.
As for the clunkers, "G Season" and "Ball" fail to deepen themes and the chorus of "Cruisin" makes a regrettable rhyme of "Lamborghini" and "blue bikini." But those feel pretty harmless compared with "Guns and Roses," which interpolates a dreary rendition of Pachelbel's Canon, and "Wonderful Life," in which Akon sinks T.I.'s mournful verses by crooning lines from "Your Song" by Elton John.
"Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head"