Dirty Southern rapper T.I. debuted with a 2001 full-length that earned moderate attention for its single "I'm Serious," featuring additional vocals from Beenie Man and production from the Neptunes. A Georgia native, he signed to Arista and delivered I'm Serious in October 2001. Born Clifford Harris, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Rapper T.I. was one of countless up-and-coming artists to emerge from the south of the USA during the early twenty-first century. T.I. was first exposed to hip-hop at the age of seven, and by the time he was 11 he had decided to pursue a career in rap seriously. A few problems with the law could not derail his dream, and he signed a recording contract with Arista Records, resulting in the release of his 2001 debut, I'm Serious. On this collection the young rapper collaborated with the Neptunes, Jazze Pha, DJ Troomp, and Beenie Man. The album failed to storm the charts (peaking just within the Billboard Top 100), resulting in T.I. leaving Arista shortly after. In the ensuing period, he issued a few releases independently on the Grand Hustle label, put together several mix tapes, and appeared on Bone Crusher's "Never Scared". T.I. was not without a major label deal for long though, as he signed with Atlantic Records and released his second album, Trap Muzik, in 2003. T.I. also put his new-found fortune to good use, teaming up with his uncle to start a company that refurbishes homes in some of Atlanta's less fortunate neighbourhoods. A different turn of events led to him being sentenced to three years in prison in April 2004. The rapper had violated a probation order in place since a 1998 conviction on a controlled substance charge.
T.I. thinks he has the trump card. Just a few blocks away from Atlanta's Georgia Dome, the down-bottom MC is about an hour away from heading to the Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre for his first public appearance in months, and has assembled his 40-person crew outside the offices of his Grand Hustle record company. He can't wait to play his hand — you can see it in his face, you can hear it in his voice. The card that T.I. is going to pull tonight is not one you would see those card sharks on high-stakes TV poker playing with, however — he's going to try and pull Lil' Flip's playa card.
T.I. — who's called "Tip" by everyone close to him — and members of his Pimp Squad Click are holding up old publicity shots of Lil' Flip dressed in a leprechaun outfit. One picture has Flip holding a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, the other one has Flipper in a fighting stance. Both flicks have been blown up to poster-size and copied several times.
"We got a sucker MC, you understand, that chose to join us at the party," Tip, flanked by, of all people, Kyle Norman of Jagged Edge, says like a wrestler giving a backstage interview before the main event as his boys hold up one of the comical Flip posters. "Don't think you safe, shorty. Understand that the game ain't over till I unplug it."
The Bankhead, Georgia, native is speaking with the confrontational fervor of Tupac as he stands in the parking lot filled with Hummers, Escalades and Denalis.
"Understand that I got the plug, shorty, and next time you say you the king, you need to know where you coming from," he continues. "Next time you try a G shorty, you need to think twice. I'm comin' for you, dawg. I'm after your Lucky Charms, sucker!"
Now how could the mild-mannered Flip — a man who has gotten love from such ATL artists as Bone Crusher, the Oomp Camp, Ludacris and DTP, Lil Jon and Pastor Troy — put the Rubber Band Man in such a ferocious tizzy? It all depends on who you believe.
T.I. says he heard from several sources, and even has a tape, of Flip dissing him at a few A-town concerts. Flip's alleged treason supposedly happened when T.I. was locked away in jail earlier this spring. Rap's leprechaun is said to have asked different audiences who the king of the South was before telling the crowd to inform hometown hero T.I. that "the game was over." T.I. says he heard this was followed by the Houston freestyle king performing "Game Over."
"That ain't even my style," Flip says about the accusations, which he flatly denies. "I got too many hits to perform to get onstage to start dissing a n---a. The n---a is crazy."
Regardless of whether T.I. was misinformed or misconstrued Flip's words on the mic, the lyrical beef is on. T.I. is going to unleash some records about his new archenemy and Flip isn't going to back down either.
Despite his Shakur-esque spewing at his offices, T.I.'s fire seems to be simmering down while traveling to the concert venue ... at first. He teases a lady named Peaches about her allegiance to Flip when she comes on the bus to say hi to the PSC.
"I'm Flip and T.I.'s stylist, I am not in the middle," she says to the squad, who are all laughing. Her caramel cheeks turn red with embarrassment. "I'm neutral and I'm not in the middle of anything."
T.I., on the other hand, plans to get in the middle of everything tonight. Not only is he performing at the concert, but Flip is as well. T.I.'s goal: to humiliate him.
"Next time you say you the king, you need to know where you coming from."
"I'm even gonna walk out on his show when he does 'Game Over,' " T.I., the night's unannounced headliner, tells everyone. "I ain't gonna make no advances ... unless he does something I don't like. We not gonna be brutes, we not gonna bum-rush the stage."
He later thinks of a better plan of attack. "I'll invite him out to my show," he says.
Before the night is over, Tip did make good on his promise. He brought out the posters of Flip in the all-green outfit, dissed him onstage and even called him out. Flip wasn't allowed to confront his detractor, but he did address the situation two days later in his own hometown of H-town.
"This is the year of the South, what f---ing sense does it make to hate on each other while we getting nominated [for major awards]?" Flip questions. "Why start beefing when we coming up this year?"
Flip isn't the first major heavyweight from the South with whom T.I. has gone back and forth. He's been going at it with fellow A-towners Ludacris and the Disturbing Tha Peace crew for years. Although no names have been officially called out, the two factions have fired several rounds of thinly veiled disses.
The loudest salvo came via Luda's "Southern Fried Intro" off the Chicken-N- Beer album. A voice, mocking T.I., says "Man! This Disturbin' Tha Peace sh-- gettin' on my nerves ... While he doin' shows, I'm in these skreets. While he on TV, I'm in these skreets."
"That's the truth." T.I. responds. "They was on tour, I was in the streets. They were doing videos, I was in the streets. And I'm still here. I ain't trippin' on that. I listen to [his lyrics], he stepped it up. It was good for me to inspire somebody."
The Luda and T.I. "tongue wrasslin' " started years ago when Cris was a DJ on Atlanta radio, according to Tip. T.I. came on his show and proclaimed to be the king of the South. Shortly after his appearance, DTP member I-20 did a drop for the show saying he was the king of the South.
The clash of egos and rhymes was sparked.
T.I. says he was crowned the champ by the listeners and started "rubbing it in" on his mixtapes. DTP would respond, then he would answer back.
"It was like a snowball effect," T.I., whose latest barb against Luda comes as a guest on a Young Buck mixtape song, "Break 'Em Off." "I mean to be perfectly honest with you, that's a perfect example of rap sh--. It's not no real hard cold beef. We run into each other at different parties. We know a lot of the same people. What I was real upset about was that my people and they people were coming together and saying, 'Look man, it ain't no problem, it's all good, its cool.' We did that like two or three times, but every time we do that I was catching wind that there was songs being made about me and stuff like that."
T.I. admits that there is a possibility he could have been wrong about the songs and says he could have been "hot-headed, just reacting off of my temper."
"It ain't no major beef between me and them," T.I. says. "I feel like the media kind of blew it way out of proportion. Right now I ain't trippin' on them, they ain't trippin' on me. It's dead."
So what makes this 23-year-old feel he is the king of the South? Yes, he is a master of lyrics, but plenty of people, like Lil' Flip, will argue that legendary wordsmith Scarface is the king of the South, due to his consistency and longevity. The same can be said about 8Ball and MJG and UGK. If you want to talk about modern-day rappers, Lil' Flip, Ludacris, Outkast and even Juvenile have sold more records than T.I. Other people will argue you up and down that producer Lil Jon should sit on the throne for the third coast because everyone is seeking his wildly popular crunk sound.
"When I made that statement I wasn't necessarily speaking of right then, I was just telling what my intentions were," he explains. "I was telling that I was going to represent the South in a way that nobody has represented it before."
T.I. was also alluding to his skill level in his self-coronation.
"Ain't nobody from down here that's coming out the same time as me gonna be making a hotter album than me," he says. "They ain't gonna be able to out-rap me. That's the standard that I set for myself. I feel that I've met that standard, if not exceeded it. The streets concur. So I'm going to be the king of the South until some young man dethrones me. I don't think there's anybody out right now that's going to do it ... I'm sure there's nobody out right now that's going to do it."
Home sweet home. T.I. will never take being home for granted, especially since he was almost forced to vacate it for a few years. On March 30 he turned himself in to authorities in Cobb County, Georgia, because the ghost of his past had come back to haunt him.
"I had a warrant for a probation violation," T.I. says, sitting at the boards in his main recording home, Patchwork studio in Atlanta. After starting off his day talking to wayward youths from ages 5 to 17 about setting goals for themselves, T.I. sought the sanctuary of the studio to relax and B.S. with his Pimp Squad Click before a late evening performance rehearsal.
Sitting at the boards had T.I. reflecting on some recently missed opportunities and his chance for redemption.
"I had been on probation for a minute for a charge I caught back when I was a teenager," he explains. "Basically, I had to go in there and answer that warrant. There wasn't no other way to fix it besides to turn myself in, so that's what I had to do."
Going to jail at the height of his popularity, just when his song "Rubber Band Man" had risen from chitterling-circuit rotation to mainstream playlists, would be a back-breaker for most artists. Tip simply sees it as "dirt that had to be swept under the rug," and shows no sign of bitterness when talking about his career speed bump.
"I'm definitely not living the way I would like to be living," he said of his work-release program. "But this is just a step closer to being done with my process."
T.I.'s never been one to listen to authority. Raised in the heart of the 'hood — Bankhead ATL — Tip fell victim to the ghetto (or as he calls it, "the trap") at a time when most kids his age were thinking about watching "Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers" after school.
T.I. started strongly navigating his way through the trap at 13.
"It was like a playground, I wasn't really taking it seriously," he thinks back. "I didn't really understand the ramifications of any of my actions. I wasn't really trippin' on none of that. I was having fun, I was young and getting money. It was basically all about buying a car. 'Beepers, sneakers and car speakers' is what me and my partners used to say. N---as out here hustling for beepers, sneakers and car speakers, ain't nothing else. They ain't really trying to buy no property. They ain't really trying to own no businesses. They living in the now, rather than the future. Some [drug dealers] are content with living in the projects, with the big-screen TV. 'I live in the projects, but I got a big-screen TV and a leather couch.' Some of the people are content with that."
Unlike some of his peers who used the streets as a conduit to cash flow, T.I. never wanted to live the rest of his life hustling drugs. Especially when he started getting a little older and wasn't able to keep the police at arm's length.
"Every time I caught a case it got more and more serious," he says. "I caught my first case at 15, [I was caught with] a couple pounds of marijuana, a pistol, a lot of money. I thought I was going to be locked up for some years at that time. Thanks to the grace of God and my family stickin' by me, that didn't happen. I stayed out of trouble until I think a year or two later, then I caught another case. Man, I don't even want to get into that. I could sit here all day, tellin' you about all the trouble I got into. I don't think I caught the same case twice."
Becoming a recurring guest of the state was less and less sexy every time he felt the silver bracelets around his skinny wrists. T.I. started figuring out it was time to dive a little bit deeper into fracturing beats on the microphone. He had been told he was nice on the mic since he was little, and maybe now was the time to listen.
Former LaFace A&R rep KP Prather, who was trying to start up his own label, took a liking to Tip's arrogant flow and wanted to sign him. Part of the wooing was taking the Rubber Band Man to the 1999 Source Awards. It was there that the hustler turned into a rapper. It was time to leave the drug game "cold turkey."
"I just saw people doing what they wanted to do," he says about the celebrities at the event. "They was living like dope boys, but legally. They got up when they wanted to, like a dope boy do. They worked when they wanted to, like a dope boy do. They laid down when they wanted to, they partied all night, like a dope boy do."
But Tip noticed there was one major difference between being a dope boy and being a b-boy.
"They didn't have to worry about the stress or the ramifications of the law, of being caught up and catching cases. What they was doing was totally legit. I felt like I had every opportunity and I had enough talent to do just as much, if not more, than the people I was with."
That ain't T.I. No way, no how, who cares what you say. What would he be doing here? That cannot be him. That's the argument of one little girl sitting on a rubber mat in a gymnasium as she looks up and tries to squelch her dreamy-eyed friend seated by her on a steel folding chair. Both are looking at the Rubber Band Man as he stands in the doorway leading into the gym.
"That is T.I., see I told you," the second girl, looking down with an I-told-you-so grin, tells her pessimistic friend as the rapper walks in to talk to the disagreeing duo and 28 of their peers. The children, from ages five to 17, are all from Atlanta or nearby counties, and sadly, all have had problems at home, in school or with the law. They're close to falling victim to the trap — the same trap that serves as the inspiration for T.I.'s current album, Trap Muzik.
This afternoon the self-proclaimed king of the South is trying to make some of these hard-luck hardheads use their thinking caps. He's in Fulton County at a youth center, which is part of the Inner Harbor Day Services Programs, where he'll try to inspire the kids to set long-term goals for themselves and work toward them in the interim.
For 40 minutes he talks, asking the kids about their dreams — which vary from being police officers to rappers to athletes — and how they plan to attain them.
One shorty does catch T.I. off guard, but he quickly recovers.
"What's the Taliban?" she asks, referring to the chorus of "Rubber Band Man," where he refers to himself as being "wild as the Taliban." "Those are bad people," he responds with a smile. After he talks to the kids, he spends another 20 minutes getting hugs, signing autographs and taking pictures before heading off to the studio.
"I love them back," T.I. would say later about speaking to his at-risk fans. "That's like one of the pleasures of being a public figure. I can, in some way, influence the youth in a positive way. They might not listen to their teachers or they mamas even, but if I come and say, 'Hey man, it's cool to go to school and it's cool to be smart and it's all right to not be out here selling dope and trying to tote guns, it's cool to just be you,' I feel like it will affect they lives. I hope it will."
T.I. has been giving back to the community in a variety of different ways for a few years now. Some of the same streets he terrorized as a teen he now helps rebuild, with his very own construction company, New Finish, founded in 1999.
"We buy run-down properties and vacant lots," says T.I., who's been known to walk through the 'hood and literally give people the shirt off his back and sneakers off his feet. "We build lower-income and middle-income living facilities. Duplexes, triplexes, single-family homes. You ain't got to feel like you in the 'hood. They don't got to live in run-down communities. It ain't got to be like that. If you treat them like that, then that's how they gonna act. If you make them accustomed to better things, then they act better. That's how I feel."
Just like the kids, T.I. also had aspirations beyond selling dope. He started rapping when he was around 8 years old. He performed in his first set of talent shows when he was 11 and then started recording demos and shopping deals when he hit puberty. But his gritty style had record companies backpedaling like a quarterback in the pocket.
"Nobody really wanted to hear the realities of an urban youth," T.I. says. "Nobody really wanted to hear a 12, 13, 14-year-old cat bring it like I was bringing it at that time. They wanted to hear happy stories and that ain't where I was. Even if you did grow into something better, they didn't wanna know that. But that's how I felt so that's what I spoke on."
Instead of rapping about jumping up and down or missing the school bus like other kids from ATL did before him, Tip was discussing not having a father in his house and why he missed the school bus on purpose. At the time he didn't see the importance of going to school.
"True enough, some of my views may have been a bit jaded," he admits. "I was young, I had a bit more growing to do. But at the same time, art is an expression, and those were my expressions."
Just as he was planting one of his Air Force Ones into manhood, somebody recognized and appreciated his way with words. Label executive KP Prather brought T.I. to L.A. Reid and the Rubber Band Man was signed to LaFace.
With T.I. in the media for his run-ins with the law and his beefs with rappers as much as he is for his stirring tales of life in the trap, he plans to capitalize on his fame and infamy with a new LP, Urban Legend, later this year. He's in talks for collaborations with everyone from Jay-Z to Timbaland to the Neptunes, and has already completed songs with Scarface, Daz and Juvenile.
"For me every album is pivotal," he says. "I wanna be at the peak of my game every album I release. I want Urban Legend to be better than Trap Muzik. I want the album after that to be better than Urban Legend. I'd much rather be noticed for my talents and for my accomplishments and for the positive things I try to do than for the negative things I've done in the past. But at the same time, I've been told more than once that in this business, [bad] publicity is better than no publicity. So I can't be mad at it. It's a small price to pay."
T.I. Kicks It With The 'Rich White Cats' On 'The O.C.'
Rapper performs during a pool-party scene. On Tuesday, "The O.C." welcomed an O.G. — Atlanta's own T.I. traveled down to Miami to film a guest role on the hit teen drama.
Tip didn't really have to rely on his acting chops, though: He appeared as himself in a concert scene and performed "Bring Em Out." "It's a re-enactment of spring break," he said from the set of the show. "It's a pool-party vibe and I perform at the pool party. It's a lot of extras in bikinis sitting around the pool, a lot of exotic women, the beach, rich white cats kicking it. Everybody's real cool. Everybody was showing love." The episode will air at the end of April or beginning of May, T.I.'s publicist said.
And if you're wondering if T.I. keeps up with the exploits of Ryan Atwood and the other cats up in Orange County, nope. He's so busy these days, he says he doesn't get to watch much of anything on the tube and has never seen the show. The "O.C." gig is just the start of T.I.'s acting career.
"It's a little bit at a time," he said. "We got a few movies in development right now. The guy who wrote 'Shottas,' he wrote a movie called 'Grand Hustle' for [me and my crew, the Pimp Squad Clique]. We're trying to work on 'Shottas 2' as well. We got a movie idea we're working on with the guy who did 'Blue Hill Avenue.' He's hot. And we're working on a movie idea just about our life.' "
With all his feature-film projects, T.I. has decided to put aside the "Dope Boys" straight-to-DVD project where he was going shoot videos for a bunch of his album cuts and string them together to make a story.
"A lot of people still want to see those videos; I still got that idea in mind," he promised.
T.I.'s next single is going to be "ASAP," and he plans to continue working on the Pimp Squad Clique's debut group album while on the road with the Sweat/Suit: Up Close and Personal Tour, which also features Nelly and Fat Joe.
Rapper T.I. says prison time didn't stifle him
Although he bills himself as the "King of the South," T.I. was just beginning to earn his royal coat of arms when prison threatened to knock him down to serfdom last year.
Just as his popularity was surging from "Rubber Band Man," the second hit from his breakout album Trap Muzik, he was locked in a jail in Atlanta for violating probation on a drug conviction and sentenced to three years behind bars.
The confident rapper didn't panic. He used his lockdown as an opportunity to do strategic career planning.
"It was just a little setback, a steppingstone, a life lesson . . . I wasn't discouraged," T.I. says. "I was frustrated, aggravated, inconvenienced, upset perhaps, but I never thought like, 'Oh, man, I blew it.' I knew the records were still going to sell, I was going to have people behind me," he says.
"You think about whatever you're going to do when you get out -- in my case, I was writing music and just thinking of different ways to maximize on my opportunities."
His sentence was converted to a work-release program last year. His latest album, Urban Legend, helped to widen T.I.'s appeal.
T.I. made his major-label debut in 2001 on LaFace Records with I'm Serious. It sold poorly, and soon afterward he negotiated his way off the label and segued into a home at Atlantic Records. Trap Muzik, his 2003 follow-up, made an impact, thanks to street-savvy tracks. But much of that threatened to be eroded when warrants were issued for his arrest in 2004.
T.I. thinks the time he did behind bars garnered him more fans among his core audience -- "[people] in the ghetto."
"They want to see you go through the same [stuff] that they go through so they can say he's one of us," he says. "To be one of us, you've got to go through that, and that's why I'm one of us. I've earned my stripes -- I've worked up a storm, I've been here, when it was good, when it was bad, when it was rough, rain, sleet, snow, I was here."
T.I. finds street cred behind bars Music
Although he bills himself as the “King of the South,” T.I. was just beginning to earn his royal coat of arms when a prison sentence threatened to knock him all the way down to serfdom last year.
Just as his popularity was surging off of “Rubber Band Man,” the second infectious hit from his breakout album “Trap Muzik,” he was locked in a jail in his native Atlanta for violating probation on a drug conviction and sentenced to three years behind bars.
But the rapper – known for his healthy dose of confidence – didn’t panic. Instead, he used his lockdown as an opportunity to do some strategic career planning.
“It was just a little setback, a steppingstone, a life lesson. ... I wasn’t discouraged,” says T.I., recalling his incarceration as he stretched out at the offices of Atlantic Records, his record label.
“I was frustrated, aggravated, inconvenienced, upset perhaps, but I never thought like, ‘Oh, man, I blew it.’ I knew the records were still going to sell, I was going to have people behind me,” he says matter-of-factly.
“You think about whatever you going to do when you get out – in my case, I was writing music and just thinking of different ways to maximize on my opportunities ... strategizing your takeover.”
Now, T.I.’s takeover in the rap world is starting to take hold.
With his sentence converted to a work-release program last year, he eluded prison. His latest album, “Urban Legend,” has become a hit with production work from hip-hop’s top producers; it’s helped to widen T.I.’s appeal, but not dilute his raw rhymes and street-wise swagger.
And that appeal has been boosted thanks to super-hot cameos, (including on Destiny’s Child’s smash “Soldier”) and his endorsement of Jay-Z’s Reebok sneaker, the S. Carter.
“The thing in hip-hop is that we’re looking for the next generation,” says Elliott Wilson, the editor of the rap magazine XXL, which is making him their May cover boy.
“His brashness, his confidence, I think, at first turned off people, but now, I think he’s shown he’s worthy of praise,” Wilson says. “Today’s fans view him like a Jay-Z, a 50 Cent.”
He certainly has a similar background that has become part of the gangsta folklore – or in T.I.’s case, urban legend.
The 24-year-old father of four, born Clifford Harris, grew up on the impoverished streets of Atlanta among a family he describes as hustlers. Although some were involved in criminal activity, T.I. says they just struggled to survive.
“When I say hustle I don’t mean necessarily broke the law and sold drugs, but, I mean that they didn’t know where their next check was coming from. They had to get theirs day by day, and they got it, some more than others,” he remembers.
By the time T.I. was a teenager, he hustled by selling crack. But he was also serious about starting a rap career, recording demos, traveling back and forth to New York in hopes of landing a record deal.
“Trap Muzik,” his 2003 second album, made the impact that he so desperately sought, thanks to street-savvy tracks such as “24’s” and “Rubber Band Man.” But much of that threatened to be eroded when warrants were issued for his arrest in 2004 on probation violations, and he landed in Fulton County Jail.
T.I. believes the time he did behind bars probably garnered him even more fans among his core audience – “(people) in the ghetto.”
“They want to see you go through the same (stuff) that they go through so they can say he’s one of us,” T.I. says. “To be one of us, you’ve got to go through that, and that’s why I’m one of us. I’ve earned my stripes – I’ve worked up a storm, I’ve been here, when it was good, when it was bad, when it was rough, rain, sleet, snow, I was here.”
T.I. Inc.: Rapper's Got Clothing And Sneaker Lines, Film and Videos In The Works
And our MTV News correspondent may have talked him into a hat line as well ... A "TRL" Breakout Star of 2005, CEO of Grand Hustle Records and king of the South — T.I.'s been called all of those things.
But Tuesday in Atlanta, he was happiest to hear his favorite title: "Daddy." Tip was enjoying a rare day off from the road, where he's been pumping up his latest LP, Urban Legend.
"They starting to know, they starting to recognize what I do," he said about his daughter's elementary school classmates. He also said that balancing family life and his profession is "difficult, but it must be done" (see "T.I.'s Rubber-Band-Man Guide To Keeping The Bounce In Your Hip-Hop Career").
That balancing act is about to get tougher, because Tip is adding "entrepreneur" to his list of titles: He's in the process of coming out with official clothing and sneaker lines. Currently a spokesperson for the S. Carter sneaker line, the ATL native is in negotiations to come out with his own sneaker through Jay-Z's shoe label.
"We just have to finalize the deal, get all the particulars taken care of, but it's definitely in the works," the Rubber Band Man explained. "The sh--'s gotta be fly."
T.I. said the shoe is still in the design phase, but he has a strong idea of what he wants.
"I like a mixture of things," he said. "I like a classy, basic tennis shoe like the S. Carter, Air Force One or classic Reebok. I also like the new-age or new-school sneakers like the Michael Vicks or Air Max or [Air] Huaraches. We gotta find a cross between them two [genres]."
Any dude with hot footwear knows he has to have the gear to match, and the MC hopes to have his clothing line, the Crown Collection, come to fruition by the fall.
More on this and other "TRL" Breakout Stars
"It's still in the works right now," Tip said. "We got a lot of opportunities. People seen me in different award shows and magazine spreads. I guess they trying to capitalize off the opportunities to make money off of other people that might want to dress similar to me or emulate me. We gonna move everything: T-shirts, thermals, polo shirts, rugbys, leathers, jeans, sunglasses, watches, long-john shirts, hoodies, jogging suits — everything, man.
"I try to cover a lot of ground," he continued, regarding his approach to dressing. "I ain't never been the kind of guy to stay confined to one style or limited to one look. I can kick it in the trap with a long-john shirt, hoodies and some sneakers and Timberlands. Or I can get fly and put on some Salvatore Ferragamo or a Louis Vuitton or a Dolce & Gabbana suit. Whatever the occasion calls for, I can dress accordingly."
Clothes and shoes are cool, but what T.I. really needs to do is get himself a hat deal. Nobody in hip-hop rocks a fitted cap the way T.I. wears his brims.
"It's something we been doing, me and the whole clique," he said about the way his hats tilt to the side of his head with a mean lean. "The first cat I remember seeing rock with it [like that] is one of my OG partners — an OG who damn near raised me, one of my mama's ex-boyfriends. His name was Slim. He was a hustler, he was about 40 or 50 at the time. He had a jheri curl too. He used to just throw a Starter cap on top of the 'fro and let it lean to the side. I started rocking mine like that. That was a long time ago, I must have been like 8 or 9 years old."
However, T.I. will be reveling in being a grown-up in his next video, "Get Loose," with his potna, Nelly. The two have been talking about going on tour together later this year as well.
"It'll probably be a part two to the 'Tip Drill' video," T.I. laughed about the concept. "Ain't no telling what we might do or how it's gonna get done. I just know that it's gonna be a real big deal."
"Get Loose" isn't the only clip coming up for the Atlanta fire-starter. He's also going to shoot a full-length video for "U Don't Know Me," because the streets have told him that the short tease of the song at the end of "Bring Em Out" wasn't enough.
"We gonna do that just for the 'hood," Tip said. "I think 'U Don't Know Me' is gonna be real grimy and to the point. We not gonna force it to be something it's not. We gonna make it representative to the people we making it for."
T.I.'s crew, the Pimp Squad Clique, are also working on a new group album that their captain says will be for the pavement, as will a still-untitled movie they're putting together.
"It's going to be similar to 'Streets Is Watching,' " Tip said, comparing his movie to Jay-Z's 1998 straight-to-video effort. "Basically, it's about how the people in the movie got where they are now. You incorporate songs and videos along the way."
"Still Ain't Forgave Myself," "What's Yo Name," "Heavy Chevys," "I Still Luv You," "Look What I Got" and "What Happened?" are songs he's thinking about shooting videos for to be included in the movie. Between five and eight videos will be used.
So what does it mean for an artist that has built his career by being entrenched in the streets to be embraced as a pop darling on "TRL"?
"Once again, it's an extreme pleasure for me to be presented with such an opportunity," he said. "It feels like hard work is paying off. It's real rewarding."
'Urban Legend' Certified Platinum For TI: 'Bring Em Out' Crosses Over
"URBAN LEGEND," the chart-topping album from Grand Hustle/Atlantic recording artist T.I., has been certified platinum by the RIAA for U.S. sales in excess of one million units. T.I.'s second label release, "URBAN LEGEND" made an explosive debut upon its release last November - premiering in the #1 spot on Billboard's "Top R&B/Hip-Hip Albums" chart and in the #7 spot on the Billboard 200. Now in its fourth month on the national charts, "URBAN LEGEND" remains in the top five this week on the R&B/Hip-Hop list.
"URBAN LEGEND" has thus far spawned a pair of smash singles. The first, "Bring Em Out," hit the top five at Urban radio and the top ten at CHR/Rhythmic outlets. The single is now making major inroads at CHR/Pop radio, ranking as the #1 "New & Active" track on this week's R&R chart.
Meanwhile, the album's second single, "U Don't Know Me," has already bulleted into the top ten at Urban and into the top 15 at CHR/Rhythmic. The companion video is in Heavy rotation at BET, where it is the #1 most-played video of the week. T.I. is being featured in a string of BET programs, including "106 & Park" (where he performed live on March 2nd), "Access Granted," "Rap City," "BET Style," and "Rip The Runway." The "U Don't Know Me" video is also in Big Ten rotation on MTV, and is enjoying major play on MTV2, MTV Jams - where it is in "Blazin'" rotation, and Fuse - where it is "Oven Fresh."
Coinciding with the success of "URBAN LEGEND," T.I. is getting ready to hit the road with Nelly. The two-month itinerary, which will play major venues from coast to coast, is set to get underway on March 18th and wrap up on May 21st. Also on the bill will be T.I.'s Atlantic labelmate Fat Joe.
In the online world, T.I. has performed for Sessions@AOL, the exclusive program of AOL-produced in-studio performances and interviews. His live performance has been among the Top 10 most played on AOL Music. T.I. has also performed for Rolling Stone Originals, where the audio is available for download and streaming via REAL and Rhapsody. On the wireless front, T.I. continues to have top-selling ringtones across a number of Atlantic's wireless partners.
"URBAN LEGEND" has been winning press raves and major media coverage since its release. Most recently, T.I. garnered the spring cover of Trace magazine and will be featured on the May cover of XXL.
"URBAN LEGEND" finds the Atlanta-based rap sensation joined by a crew of special guests, including Pharrell, Nelly, Lil' Kim, Trick Daddy, Lil Jon, Lil Wayne, Jazze Pha, and others. The album is the follow-up to T.I.'s breakthrough 2003 Grand Hustle/Atlantic premiere, "TRAP MUZIK," which included the hits "24's," "Rubber Band Man," and "Let's Get Away."
In addition to the original "URBAN LEGEND," an entirely remixed version of the album - "URBAN LEGEND: CHOPPED AND SCREWED BY PAUL WALL" - was released last month. For this special release, the set was completely retooled by acclaimed underground mixmaster Paul Wall, incorporating the psychedelic sound of "screw" to create an all-new musical experience.
T.I. Behind Bars After Turning Himself In
Atlanta-based rapper T.I. is presently in jail in Atlanta, Georgia. Allhiphop.com reports that the rapper turned himself in last month to answer various charges that he has accumulated over the years.
Before going to jail, T.I. called into a Tampa, Florida, radio station to explain why he couldn't make an upcoming concert. The rapper said, "I was doing a little living on the wrong side of the law, so I got a lot of loose ends to tie up legitimately before I can further my career."
T.I. added, "Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you, you just gotta deal with those skeletons in your closet. I been hearing a lot of nonsense as far as a cat having bodies and it ain't really like that. It's just cases that I caught a minute ago that I never dealt with. I didn't even know the cases were open. Years go by, but the paperwork is still there. We got the best lawyers in the city on it and we are just trying to work it out ... I don't anticipate doing any time. It ain't like I stand a chance of doing 10 years or any of that."
Calls to T.I.'s label, Atlantic Records, were not returned at press time.
In related news, T.I.'s gold sophomore set, Trap Muzik, is currently Number 79 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
When LAUNCH spoke to T.I. just after the release of Trap Muzik, he explained that major labels really don't understand people with a street background like him. He said: "Like for real man, major label don't really get what we're trying to say, like we from the streets for real, for real and major labels, they don't really see that."
T.I. added that while street-credible artists like Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Eazy-E have made money, labels still hesitate: "They act like they see it because they know it's marketable. They know that it makes money. They know Dre done made money. They know that Eazy-E done made money. They know that Jay-Z ... they know these cats make money so they gonna halfway take a chance but whether they put theyself all the way out there and support wholeheartedly, you got very few major labels that willing to do that."
Rapper T. I. : Jail Officials OK'd Video Shoot
A rapper who filmed a video in a jail while he was on work release from another jail disputes Fulton County officials' claim that the shoot had not been authorized.
T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Thursday's video shoot was intended as an introduction to a concert in Atlanta Saturday.
The video showed him in a jail cell, apologizing to fans for not appearing at the event. Then, it showed two uniformed officers escorting him out of the cell shortly before he took the stage.
Harris, 23, said he planned the video because "basically, it was a lot of speculation — he say, she say — about my incarceration. I chose to take advantage of that."
Harris was serving jail time in neighboring Cobb County on a probation violation when he received permission to leave the jail to make the video at the Fulton jail, Cobb County Chief Deputy Sheriff Lynda Coker said.
Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett said she never approved the video shoot, and sheriff's officials can't agree on who gave the rapper clearance to be in the maximum security area of their jail.
Under orders from his attorney, T.I. won't say who gave him clearance. The rapper will meet with Fulton investigators Monday.
T.I.'s second album, "Trap Muzik," was a best seller last year, spawning the hit single "Rubber Band Man."
T.I. Starts 'Filet Mignon' Beef With Lil' Flip At Birthday Bash
Rapper leaves jail to perform at radio festival in Atlanta.
The lore of T.I. continued to grow in the last few days. On Saturday night, he had all of Atlanta talking about his dramatic stage performance during Hot 107.9's annual monster-mash concert, the Birthday Bash 9. He shocked cheering fans at the HiFi Buys Amphitheatre who thought he was in jail, and later added another surprise — he ignited a lyrical beef with fellow third-coast superstar, Houston's Lil' Flip.
The day before the concert, T.I. made national headlines and he didn't have to step one foot outside of jail — a female inmate at the Fulton County, Georgia, correctional facility escaped on Thursday while he was filming a small production in the same jail. Although officials say that the jailbreak is not connected to T.I., spokespeople for the prison have publicly denied that T.I.'s shoot was sanctioned and are investigating. The rapper, although not saying much, says he did no wrong.
"I ain't at liberty to speak on that," T.I. said on Saturday about the incident at Fulton County Jail. "Let's just say I ain't broke no laws, ain't no legal repercussions coming my way. I ain't done nothing wrong."
These days T.I. is working on "the buddy system" in full accordance with the law. He refuses to elaborate on the exact terms of his work-release program, but he does say he'll be free of his obligations by the end of the summer.
On March 30, T.I. turned himself in to authorities because of charges of parole violation. Despite going into lockdown at the height of his career while his biggest record ever, "Rubber Band Man," was wreaking havoc, the Bankhead, Georgia, native says he was willing to accept his judgment and was ready for his life to progress.
"I knew it wasn't going to be a lengthy period of time," he said on Friday at Atlanta's Patchwork studios about going to jail earlier this spring. "I knew it was just a small situation that had to be taken care of. Some dirt that needed to be swept under the rug and something that I just needed to handle so I could move forward and get on with my life."
When news first broke about T.I. being in prison, reports said that he would be doing a possible three years (see " 'Rubber Band Man' Rapper T.I. Gets Three Years In Prison"). This had some of his detractors celebrating his downfall. One MC in particular T.I. has chosen to single out is Lil' Flip, who, along with T.I., has been heralded as one of the forerunners of the new generation of Southern MCs.
"Basically the origins of this ain't beef, it's filet mignon to me," T.I. said on his tour bus on the way to the Birthday Bash concert. "He poses no threat to my health. Anytime he wants to see me, I have an open invitation. When I was gone, he made some comments. He saw fit to take shots at me while I was down. At his shows in Atlanta, he would ask people who was the king of the South. When my name was brought up — rightfully so — he said, 'OK, well tell T.I. I said game over.' "
Lil' Flip said T.I.'s allegations are coming from nowhere. He denied ever dissing T.I. publicly or in the studio and said the most he's said about T.I. was in a freestyle line: "I ride 24s like T.I."
"You know me, dawg. My career has been built off of straight rhyming," Flip said Monday (June 21). He even chuckled that T.I. would bring out pictures of him dressed in a leprechaun outfit, bragging, "I got $10 a disc for [my Leprechaun album.]"
The freestyle king said the only king of the South is Scarface and that T.I.'s dis was just for attention.
"I ain't have to dis nobody to get where I'm at," Flip continued. "But if it come to me, I'mma deal with it accordingly. He just got out of jail, so I guess he's been watching too much 'Oz.' He's pumped up."
T.I. said he heard about Flip's alleged comments from several sources and even has a recording of the remarks.
"I got you on tape," T.I. continued on the bus, holding up an old picture of Flip dressed in a leprechaun outfit. The photo was blown up and placed on several poster boards that read "Game Over???" which T.I.'s crew was holding. "You's a sucka, man! You sweet on the inside and even sweeter on the outside. I am not letting up on your boy! You shouldn't have tried me, man. I gotta shut you down, pimp! You have been faking for entirely too long. The game over? Yes, the game is over ... For you, that is!" Upon his bus' arrival at the amphitheater, T.I.'s mood was on the upswing as Lil Scrappy, 8Ball and MJG, Kanye West, Killer Mike and Lil Jon all came up to show him love. After barely five minutes backstage, T.I., dressed in an orange jail suit, was told it was showtime.
"They say I've been gone for a long time," he told the cheering crowd. "Y'all welcoming me back? I'mma welcome y'all back to the trap," he said and started freestyling over Mase's beat for "Welcome Back."
"Everybody thought I was locked up and would miss the Birthday Bash," he told the crowd after he rapped. "Are y'all crazy? Ain't no jail can hold me, n---a!"
T.I. kept the crowd into his energized set with a performance of his classic "Dope Boyz," and he even brought it up to date with his guest verse from Memphis Bleek's "Round Here."
Then the bomb dropped.
He was given word that Lil' Flip, who was also on the bill but missed his plane and arrived late, was finally in the building. He challenged Flip to come out on the stage and tell him to his face who the king of the South was, then proceeded with another freestyle. (Flip's manager said that the security and radio-station personnel did not allow the freestyle king to take T.I. up on his offer.)
"Pu--- n---a I'm the leader of the troops, you just following suit," T.I. rapped while the crowd yelled "ooh" like kids in the school yard overhearing a snap session. "What kind of n---a take a picture in a leprechaun suit with a lollypop chain and some leprechaun boots?/ ... Being lame is a curse you can never undo."
When T.I. tried to segue into his next record, "Look What I Got," his mic and music were abruptly turned off. Amidst the chaos, the fans started booing and some people even started chanting, "F--- Flip!"
A voice came over the PA system alerting everyone that the Birthday Bash was over. T.I. was prepared to perform several more selections, including "Rubber Band Man" and a couple of records from his upcoming LP, Urban Legend. Oddly enough, the fiery lyricist didn't have any hard feelings and chalked up his silencing to the show running overtime.
"That's what happens when you're the last one to go on," he said as he left the stage.
Livin' the ghetto life in Hot-lanta
Growing up on the streets leads to limited options for success.
Day to day survival becomes a chore in and of itself, leading the desperate into the "Trap" of drug sales.
While the financial rewards remain plentiful, the risks outweigh the monetary incentives.
"Trappin" is something that Atlanta based rapper T.I. has experienced first hand.
The pitfalls of the lifestyle are expressed in his new album Trap Muzik.
"It's not just the distribution of drugs, there's a whole lifestyle that goes along with 'Trappin'.'"
An album revolving around a single concept, Trap Muzik contains an assortment of perspectives that encompass the breadth of T.I.'s street intellect.
"It ain't catered towards anything," T.I. said. "I just wrote music that deals with that lifestyle and all aspects of that lifestyle; what goes through [a dealer's] head before he makes a move, things he do, things he should do, things he should have done.
"These people who are in these traps, they still have lives, moms, dads, just like everybody else.
They got mouths to feed, responsibilities just like me and you. You shouldn't look at them as monsters, ain't nobody perfect."
Not only did he survive the streets of Atlanta, T.I. also survived the harsh business realities of the rap industry.
After Arista records released his debut, I'm Serious, to glowing reviews, the album sadly vanished from the scene.
Arista dropped T.I. before his full potential could be realized.
These setbacks didn't stop the rapper from independently distributing two albums on his own label, Grand Hustle.
To T.I., his struggles proved beneficial. "It was a learning process."
Seeing the ups and downs of the industry gave T.I. a keen business sense.
"With ownership we have a lot more say so in delivering our music the way we think it should be delivered,"T.I. said. We spendin' our own money so of course we know how much we got to spend and what we're spending it on. The independent albums were promoted better than the first one!"
This amount of creative control found its way into T.I.'s new deal with Atlantic records and is a welcome change of pace from the traditional ways of making music in the industry.
"We're not letting [the album] be dictated by the suits at the label who ain't even in the streets, period," T.I. said.
On Trap Muzik, T.I. is aided by an impressive roster of producers including Jazze Pha, David Banner and Kanye West. "Versatile," is how T.I. describes the production. "I'm not going to say, 'Lets make a club record,' or, 'Lets make a single.'"
You just make music and wherever it can be placed, place it there." Guest MCs on the record include 8Ball, MJG and Bun-B; some of T.I.'s idols growing up.
"We have a similar background. They came from the streets, I came from the streets," T.I. said.
T.I. unabashedly refers to himself as the "King of the South," but he finds his music accessible to anyone.
"The whole world is a ghetto. I make urban rap music. If you from the hood, it don't matter where you from. There's dope dealin', killin', robbin', stealin' goin' on everywhere."