Paper Trail

Paper Trail
Paper Trail
Studio album by T.I.
Released September 26, 2008 (2008-09-26)
(see release history)
Recorded 2007–2008
Genre Hip hop
Length 73:15
Label Grand Hustle, Atlantic
Producer T.I. (exec.), Chuck Diesel, Nard & B, Rob Knox, Danja, Toomp, Drumma Boy, Kanye West, Lil C, Jim Jonsin, Just Blaze, Justin Timberlake, Swizz Beatz, Blac Elvis, Two Band Geeks
T.I. chronology
T.I. vs. T.I.P.
Paper Trail
No Mercy
Alternative cover
Case Closed EP cover
Singles from Paper Trail
  1. "Whatever You Like"
    Released: July 29, 2008
  2. "Swagga Like Us"
    Released: September 6, 2008
  3. "Live Your Life"
    Released: September 23, 2008
  4. "Dead and Gone"
    Released: January 1, 2009

Paper Trail is the sixth studio album by American hip hop artist T.I., released September 30, 2008 on Grand Hustle Records and Atlantic Records. He began to write songs for the album as he awaited trial for federal weapons and possession charges. Unlike his past albums, he wrote his lyrics down on paper, which he had not done since his debut album, I'm Serious.

The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 568,000 copies in its first week, becoming T.I.'s highest debut sales to date, and the fourth highest debut of the year. The album was eventually certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on August 27, 2009. It received generally favorable reviews from critics, and is T.I.'s most successful album to date.[1] The album spawned four singles, all of which reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, two peaking at number one. The track "Every Chance I Get" was featured on the promotional trailer for Armored starring Columbus Short.



On November 13, 2007, while awaiting trial for federal weapons charges, T.I. announced he had been writing songs for a new album to be entitled Paper Trail. He wrote his lyrics down on paper, which he had not done since his debut album, I'm Serious.[2] The album highlights his "fear, anger and guilt" as he awaited trial.[3]

The album was scheduled to be released in September 2008, but was subsequently moved up to an August 12 after the release of the promotional and lead single "No Matter What" and high demand of the album. At the time, T.I. said that the first single may have been "Top of the World", originally featuring B.o.B and Kanye West, explaining that the song was "a reflective song about our humble beginnings and how far we've come".[4] The album was pushed back for a release date of September 2, then September 9 and to its final release date of September 30, 2008.[5]


T.I. recorded nearly 100 tracks during the production for the album,[6] including a collaboration with Fall Out Boy on a track entitled "Out in the Cold".[7] However the song was left out of the final cut, but T.I. told MTV that he may add some of the cut tracks to his next album.[8] The first promo single from the album was "No Matter What". It was posted on StreetCred's website on April 29, 2008, as a promotional recording, then released as a single on May 6 along with a music video.[9] The song narrates T.I. rising above his misfortunes, including a prison sentence for weapon charges.[10]

On August 19, 2008, the first official single "Whatever You Like" was made available for digital download.[9] The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 6, 2008 and set a new record for biggest one-week jump to the top position, going from number seventy-one to number one, becoming his first number one song on the chart as a lead artist and best opening-week sales by a rap track since Nielsen SoundScan began compiling download data in 2003.[11] T.I. announced that he was "ecstatic" and "overjoyed" after setting a record for the biggest jump to top of the Billboard Hot 100.[12] After the success of "Whatever You Like", iTunes published the release dates for upcoming promo singles, including the song "Swing Ya Rag" on August 26, "What Up, What's Haapnin'" on September 2 and "Ready for Whatever" on September 23, 2008.[9]

On August 22, 2008, the songs "Like I Do" featuring The-Dream, "Let My Beat Pound", "My Life Your Entertainment" featuring Usher, and "Swagga Like Us" were all leaked to the internet.[13] "Swagga Like Us", a song with T.I., Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye West - which samples "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. - was then released as a single for Paper Trail and debuted in the Hot 100 at number five.[13] The album's third main single, "Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna, broke the record for biggest leap to number one, when it jumped from number eighty to number one on the Hot 100, giving T.I. his second Hot 100 number one as a lead artist, and Rihanna her fifth overall. The song also set a first week digital record, when it sold 334,000 digital downloads in its first week of availability, a record that was previously held by Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body."[14]

The fourth main single was confirmed to be "Dead and Gone" featuring Justin Timberlake by co-producer Rob Knox.[15] T.I. later confirmed the release of the single.[16] The song was charted by Billboard before the announcement of the single. The song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 27, 2009.[17] Overall, eight songs from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100 including the four main singles, "56 Bars (Intro)", "I'm Illy", "Ready for Whatever", and "My Life Your Entertainment" despite not being singles and a music video was released for the song "Slide Show" which highlighted a photo collage that followed T.I.'s career as a recording artist.

Paper Trail: Case Closed

The re-release issue of Paper Trail was scheduled to be released on August 18, 2009,[18] and would contain five new songs.[19] The release was tentatively titled Paper Trail: Case Closed.[20] T.I. stated that "Like I Do" featuring The-Dream and "My Dear" featuring Ciara were two possible tracks.[21] Rob Knox, the co-producer of "Dead and Gone", was first to announce the re-release. Knox also said that the first single off the re-release would be another song produced by himself and Justin Timberlake.[15]

The first single was released on May 14, 2009 as "Don't Forget" which featured a chorus sung by Mary J. Blige. The final version was released on May 26, 2009, titled "Remember Me".[22] A video was filmed before his prison sentence by Erik White.[23] T.I. stated two other possible song choices including the collaboration with Fall Out Boy entitled "Out in the Cold" and the original version of "On Top of the World" with Kanye West instead of Ludacris.[24] A video for "Hell of a Life" was shot and was to be featured on the re-release.[25] Another song titled "The Way You Want It" was confirmed to be added to the re-release.[26] The final version of "Hell of a Life" was released on October 1, 2009, an accompanying music video was released on October 5, 2009.[27] The music video reflects T.I.'s career and narrates the final 24 hours before beginning his sentence for illegal weapons.[28]

On July 14, 2009, a spokesperson for Atlantic Records told MTV that the re-release was shelved indefinitely and the additional songs will be released digitally.[29] In July 2009, an EP was released in the UK titled Paper Trail: Case Closed EP and featured original Paper Trail singles, "Remember Me" and "Hell of a Life".[30]

Track list

  1. Live Your Life (feat. Rihanna)
  2. Dead and Gone (feat. Justin Timberlake)
  3. Whatever You Like
  4. Remember Me (feat. Mary J. Blige)
  5. Hell of a Life


Commercial performance

According to Nielsen SoundScan, Paper Trail sold 357,000 copies in the United States in its first three days[31] and went on to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 with 568,000 copies sold, making it T.I.'s best debut to date and the fourth highest debut of the year.[32] In its second week, the album remained at number one with sales of 177,000 copies.[33] In its third week, the album fell to number two selling 131,000 copies.[34] In its fourth week, the album fell to number three selling 93,427 copies.[35] In its fifth week, the album fell to number seven selling 76,560 copies.[36] In its sixth week, it remained at number seven, selling 68,782 copies. In its seventh week, it dropped down to number 10, selling 62,046 copies. In its eighth week, it dropped down to number 14, selling 50,587 copies. The album has sold over 2 million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the RIAA.[37][38] The album received many award nominations and wins including a nomination for 'Best Rap Album'[39] and winning 'Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group' for "Swagga Like Us"[40] at the 51st Grammy Awards, the album won 'CD of the Year' at the 2009 BET Hip Hop Awards[41] and "Dead and Gone" was nominated for 'Best Rap/Sung Collaboration' and 'Best Rap Song' at the 52nd Grammy Awards.[42]

Critical response

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[43]
Blender 3.5/5 stars[44]
Robert Christgau (A-)[45]
Entertainment Weekly (B+)[46]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[47]
Pitchfork Media (6.2/10)[48]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[49]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[50]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[51]
Vibe (favorable)[52]

Paper Trail received positive reviews from most music critics.[53] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 74, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[53] Several critics praised the production on the album; Andy Kellman of Allmusic noted that DJ Toomp's and Danja's production appearance provided "some much needed punch", which placed the album above T.I.'s previous album, T.I. vs. T.I.P..[43] Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly said that the "outstanding production" proved that T.I. "still knows how to have a good time".[46] Wilson McBee of Slant Magazine called the songs produced by Toomp the "vintage T.I.", describing the sound as "ecstasies of sweltering synth lines, ground-shaking 808 patterns and breathless verbalizing".[50] However, McBee felt that the songs that were directly about T.I.'s prison sentence for weapons charges ("No Matter What", "Ready for Whatever") were among the weakest on the album, saying that "admitting guilt, making excuses and expressing no regrets falls flat".[50] Sharing a similar sentiment, Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called the songs "mostly dispenses with the Tupac-wannabe gangsta-confessor pretensions to deliver catchy, tight, bombastic pop-rap alongside a who's-who of megastar guests", saying that T.I. was a "well-oiled hit machine who's more fun than deep".[49]

Newsday's Glen Gamboa gave Paper Trail a B rating and commented that "[T.I.] is still bouncing between pop-leaning hip-hop anthems [...] and spare, often violent, tales of crime and brutality".[54] Michael Saba of Paste said that, "Even with the burden of sloppy crossover tracks, Paper Trail has enough standout moments for T.I.’s throne to remain secure for now."[55] Shannon Barbour of said that, "Regardless of the outcome of reality, Paper Trail is a solid combination of rhyme, repentance, swagger and substance."[56] People magazine gave the album four out of four stars, saying that the album was "a near-perfect hip-hop album for 2008."[57] In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau called Paper Trail an "expediently excessive piece of rich-get-richer" and gave it an A- rating,[45] indicating "the kind of garden-variety good record that is the great luxury of musical micromarketing and overproduction. Anyone open to its aesthetic will enjoy more than half its tracks".[58]

Track listing

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "56 Bars" (Intro) Clifford Harris, Aldrin Davis DJ Toomp 3:02
2. "I'm Illy"   Harris, Charles Spencer Chuck Diesel 4:06
3. "Ready for Whatever"   Harris, Christopher Gholson Drumma Boy 5:12
4. "On Top of the World" (featuring B.o.B & Ludacris) Harris, James Rosser, Brandon Rackley, Christopher Bridges, Bobby Simmons Jr. Nard & B 5:00
5. "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna) Harris, Justin Smith, Makeba Riddick, Dan Bălan Just Blaze 5:38
6. "Whatever You Like"   Harris, James Scheffer, David Siegel Jim Jonsin 4:09
7. "No Matter What"   Harris, Nathaniel Hills Danja 5:30
8. "My Life Your Entertainment" (featuring Usher) Harris, Gholson, Kassim-Vonricco Washington Drumma Boy 4:56
9. "Porn Star" (additional vocals by Ricco Barrino) Harris, Cordale Quinn, Kassim-Vonricco Washington Lil' C 3:31
10. "Swing Ya Rag" (featuring Swizz Beatz) Harris, Kasseem Dean, Avery Chambliss, Joseph Alexander Swizz Beatz 3:18
11. "What Up, What's Haapnin'"   Harris, Gholson, Harvey Mason Drumma Boy 5:01
12. "Every Chance I Get"   Harris, Davis DJ Toomp 4:49
13. "Swagga Like Us" (with Jay-Z featuring Kanye West & Lil Wayne) Harris, Kanye West, Shawn Carter, Dwayne Carter, Maya Arulpragasam, Nicolas Headon, Michael Jones, John Mellor, Wesley Pentz, Paul Simonon Kanye West 5:27
14. "Slide Show" (featuring John Legend) Harris, Elvis Williams, Simmons Blac Elvis 3:42
15. "You Ain't Missin' Nothing"   Harris, Gholson Drumma Boy 5:10
16. "Dead and Gone" (featuring Justin Timberlake) Harris, Justin Timberlake, Robin Tadross Justin Timberlake, Rob Knox 4:59
Sample credits
  • "Live Your Life" – Contains a sample from "Dragostea din tei" by O-Zone.[59]
  • "Whatever You Like" – Contains a sample from "Redemption" by Bill Conti.
  • "What Up, What's Haapnin'" – Contains samples of "Never Give You Up" by Harvey Mason.
  • "Swagga Like Us" – Contains a sample from "Paper Planes" by M.I.A..[13]


  • Darren Ankenman – photography
  • Carol Briselli – viola
  • Greg Gigendad Burke – art direction, design
  • Mike Caren – producer
  • Elliott Carter – engineer, assistant
  • Jeff Chestek – string engineer
  • Eliza Cho – violin
  • James J. Cooper III – cello
  • Andrew Dawson – mixing
  • Chuck Diesel – producer
  • DJ Toomp – producer
  • Ghislaine Fleishman – violin
  • Gary Fly – assistant
  • Paul Foley – engineer
  • John Frazier Jr. - producer
  • John Frye – mixing
  • Lanre Gaba – A&R
  • Chris Gehringer – mastering
  • Jason Geter – executive producer, A&R
  • Christopher "Drumma Boy" Gholson – producer
  • Larry Gold – conductor, string arrangements
  • Rob Gold – producer
  • Josh Gudwin – assistant, engineer
  • Brad "Dirt" Horne – engineer, assistant
  • Jean-Marie Horvat – mixing
  • Bryan Huynh – technician
  • Individuals – producer
  • Jim Jonsin – producer
  • Just Blaze – producer
  • Hannah Kang – A&R
  • Billy Kim - producer
  • Rob Knox – producer
  • Emma Kummrow – violin
  • Lil C – producer
  • Sydney Margetson – photography
  • Robert Marks – engineer, mixing
  • Darryl Morris – assistant
  • Peter Nocella – viola
  • Bill Orcutt – cover illustration
  • Anthony Palazzole – assistant
  • Douglas Peterson – A&R
  • Rosie Phillidor – stylist
  • Brandon "B" Rackley – producer
  • James "Nard" Rosser – producer, engineer
  • Marsha St. Hubert – A&R
  • Stevie Salas – guitar
  • Ray Seay – mixing
  • Derrick Selby – engineer
  • David Siegel – keyboards
  • Elliott Storud - producer
  • Supa Engineer "Dupa" – mixing
  • Swizz Beatz – producer
  • Tom Syrowski – assistant
  • Igor Szwec – violin
  • Gregory Teperman – violin
  • Justin Timberlake – producer
  • T.I.P. – executive producer
  • Kanye West – producer
  • Ryan West – mixing
  • Elvis Williams – producer
  • Andrew Wright – tracking
  • Ian Wright – cover illustration
  • Terrell Sass - drums

Charts and certifications

Chart positions

Chart (2008/2009) Peak
Australian Albums Chart 16[60]
Canadian Albums Chart 2[61]
Belgian Ultratop 50 Albums (Flanders) 86[62]
Dutch Albums Chart 60[63]
French Albums Chart 51[64]
Irish Albums Chart 34[65]
Japanese Albums Chart 14[66]
New Zealand Albums Chart 9[67]
Norwegian Albums Chart 34[65]
Swiss Albums Chart 46[68]
UK Albums Chart 42[69]
U.S. Billboard 200 1[61]
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 1[61]
U.S. Billboard Top Rap Albums 1[61]
U.S. Billboard Top Digital Albums 1[61]


Territory Certifier Certification
Canada CRIA Platinum[70]
United Kingdom BPI Gold[71]
United States RIAA 2× Platinum[38]

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
Death Magnetic by Metallica
U.S. Billboard 200 number-one album
October 18, 2008 – November 1, 2008
Succeeded by
Lucky Old Sun by Kenny Chesney

Release history

Region Date
Ireland September 26, 2008
Canada September 30, 2008
United States
United Kingdom November 24, 2008
South Africa December 29, 2008
Jamaica December 30, 2008


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