No Mercy (Grand Hustle/No Mercy)
T.I.’s intended comeback album, originally titled King Uncaged, turned into something altogether sillier when the Atlanta rapper was arrested for drug possession in September, less than six months after being released from federal prison after a year-long stint for gun charges. After getting sent back to prison for the parole violation, King Uncaged—the first single, “I’m Back,” had been released way back in March—was delayed, the track listing reconfigured, and the title changed, with no apparent irony, to No Mercy. After all that, it’s hard to expect much.
T.I. still comes off as a nimble rapper, especially on the single “I Can’t Help It.” But the songs here range mostly from okay (“Big Picture,” “Everything on Me”) to pretty bad (“No Mercy,” “Strip”), and the few occasions when T.I. reaches for the triumphant swagger of 2006’s King seem misplaced and arrogant, considering his current circumstances. On the other hand, the moody, introspective tunes are a drag and don’t suit T.I., so there’s probably nothing he could have done that would have felt right. No Mercy sure doesn’t.