There's a telling moment early on Dime Trap, smack dab at the end of the first track: "Was...was that good? For real." In context, it's largely meant as a job to others, but its hesitant tone sounds more like the artist asking his audience: am I still doing this right? Opening his album with more sermon than verse, T.I. is magnetic as ever, but his trademark confidence is, surprisingly, sagely tempered.

To call T.I. confident is like dubbing a hurricane bad weather: Clifford Harris' ego is a monument, which he's fashioned into something of an institution in hip hop. Granted, it's certainly there in that marbled artwork, but on record, T.I. has never been more astute and open.

True, he tried to force it on No Mercy, but Dime Trip feels like the album T.I. should have made every record since. There are good reasons aplenty, his prison sentences to his recent focus on social justice have demanded a lot of attention. Still, Paperwork, while a perfectly solid effort, felt like a bit of a missed opportunity, with co-helmer Pharrell himself openly voicing disappointment with the finished product. Clearly, he'd signed on to help craft a proper classic, while T.I. was more keen to split the difference with chart efforts, the regrettable likes of 'No Mediocre' resulting.

T.I. surely corrected from his Iggy Azalea association as well as possible, his woke era resulting in solid songs and fiery verses, some vital. Still, as selfishly as it may be, it's good to hear him focusing back on himself more for Dime Trap.

The release of Dime Trap, by all rights, should be something of an event. A still young legend is returning, in better form than in years. The features are tastefully divided between old allies (Jeezy), fan favorites (Yo Gotti, who proves a perfect partner for Tip on highlight ‘Wraith’) and younger voices (Young Thug, YFN Lucci). What’s more, for a rapper often guilty of unnecessarily padded tracklists, the record is painstakingly sequenced without feeling it, gingerly balanced between proper bangers and more insightful tracks, allowing the LP’s 61 minute runtime to dash by in a well-constructed ride. There's something for everyone, even a (shockingly great) jam for the 'Whatever You Like' crowd in the gleeful 'The Weekend', which also boasts Young Thug's best guest turn in recent memory.

Many will be keen to pin 4:44 inspiration on Harris, and it's sure to have entered his mind, but strapping Dime Trap down as the trap answer to Jay-Z's return to form is not only reductive, it does the listener a disservice. Beyond folk acting like Shawn Carter is the only rapper to have had marital problems, T.I. doesn’t really have an interest in going entirely self-serious: he’ll always love a good bit of stunting.

He does show regret for his actions and concerns for his family throughout Dime Trap, but the album plays out more like a hip hop Ulysses, a day in the life. The strongest focus on his marriage comes two tracks in a row, with the apologetic, self-lacerating 'The Amazing Mr. Fuck Up' (which sounded decent as a single, but much stronger in context), and the more bitter, guarded 'At Least I Know'.

From there, T.I. is often more concerned with other aspects of his life: Trump and the state of the America are still on his mind, there's more than a little bit of concern for the state of his career, and he is, as ever, still both trying to extricate himself from the trap world he came from and be present for those there that need him. 'Light Day' serves as both a restrained boast and a vivid exploration through this latter aspect of his world.

Restraint has never quite been something T.I. is known for, and the growth on display here is one of Dime Trap's greatest strengths. The rapper known to drop mixtapes just to get off some grand boasts is, naturally, still boasting, but, now, there's usually some meaning behind it. T.I. may have once prematurely declared himself King (and, hell, it worked), but he's sure as hell comfortably lived up to the title. His victory lap is the rare hip hop record that also manages to make a statement, to exist in context without being a relic. Dime Trap is very much alive, and having entered his elder statesmen phase with, frankly, astounding grace, T.I. looks to remain present for quite a while.