No Mercy's appearance is rather deceptive. After slipping off a stark wraparound sleeve bearing nothing but the ominous title, there’s the album’s proper cover, a black-and-white portrait of T.I. looking downward, alone and pensive. No Mercy does offer some revealing and poignant moments, as on the lyrically deep title track, otherwise a perplexing collaboration with the-Dream and Tricky Stewart that deploys churning guitars and a quasi-Evanescence chorus. However, they are significantly outnumbered by alternately defiant and deflated-sounding party tracks, as well as a taxing string of high-profile guest appearances. For every “How Life Changed” -- a soul-bearing anthem in which vivid wistfulness is tinted with a little regret -- there’s an “Amazing” -- hideous rhymes over a clunky Neptunes beat, a career low point for all involved. Neither redemptive nor triumphant, No Mercy is the MC's least compelling release thus far, but there's a sense that he'll regain focus once his legal matters settle.
No Mercy Review
by Andy Kellman