T.I. has a longstanding beef with fellow Southern rap superstar Ludacris, which is a little ironic, considering how much they have in common. Both are terrific guest rappers who have difficulty putting together satisfying, cohesive full-length discs. T.I.'s honey-dripping Southern drawl and outlaw swagger is irresistible in bite-sized doses, but it isn't enough to sustain an entire album. This holds true for his ambitious yet muddled new project, T.I. Vs. T.I.P, a three-act concept album that clocks in at just over 73 minutes. Sonically, the album has a frantic, indistinct busyness that all too often passes for excitement and momentum.
The album's first third concentrates on T.I.P., the second on T.I., and the third on an epic battle between the rapper and his flamboyant alter ego. T.I.P. is ostensibly T.I.'s belligerent, untamed id, but in a blind taste test, nine out of 10 hip-hop heads would have difficulty telling them apart. In the grand hustling tradition of half-assed concept albums, Vs. boasts an overarching premise that's fuzzy to the point of meaninglessness until the climactic final confrontation. On Vs., one of the South's hottest rappers declares war with his dark side. Maybe next time he'll finally wage combat with a more worthwhile adversary, like bloated album lengths or the homogenizing effects of major-label politics.