T.I. vs. T.I.P. (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

T.I. was one of 2006's few success stories. His fourth album, King, went platinum, and it was considered the hip-hop hit of last year. So the rapper decided to strike while the iron was hot, and recently released T.I. vs. T.I.P. — a disc that, unfortunately, is an utter disappointment.

The panache T.I. exhibited on King is gone. Instead, hip hop's heir apparent engages in a forced battle of wills with his alter ego, T.I.P. The latter raps about slanging dope and shooting people, while T.I. boasts about how dope he is. Most artists don't need multiple personalities to cover these subjects, and they certainly don't illustrate inner turmoil with an argument between a performer and his reflection.

Despite T.I.'s grandiose claims, what's striking about T.I. vs. T.I.P. is how bland his conceit becomes. The trite rhymes about flipping keys over stale four-note keyboard beats on "Da Dopeman" and "Raw" sound like outtakes from a Young Dro album. On "Tell Them That I Said," T.I. (or is it T.I.P.?) attempts to take phony rappers to task, subject matter that was tired back in, oh, 1998. Even guest MCs like Eminem ("Touchdown") and Jay-Z ("Watch What You Say to Me") sound bored.


Admission is $39.50-59.50; visit www.hppsj.com for more info.
T.I. performs as part of the KMEL Screamfest on Friday, Aug. 31 and at HP Pavilion in San Jose at 7:30.

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The album's high point is "Help Is Coming," where T.I. proclaims that we should "say hello to the man who can save hip hop." It shows the artist at his most comfortable, rapping about his role as the new go-to guy and moving from drug dealer to the man who can keep rap a mainstream music force. If T.I. based his album around this idea, rather than struggling with his inner Tyler Durden, T.I. vs. T.I.P. might have been an interesting musical endeavor, instead of a 73-minute paint-by-numbers exhibition.

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