I’m Real, What Are You?

T.I. is in total control of the crowd situation. Outside the Giant Foods supermarket, where $19.99 can get you any five packages of meat, the 26-year-old rapper and actor and entrepreneur remains calm despite the growing mob. He’s in his old neighborhood, Bankhead, and he knows how to deal with such things.

“I’m happy to see all of you,” he says with outstretched arms. “I appreciate all the love.”

He shakes hands, signs autographs and slaps five with one teenager who gleefully yelps, “I’m never washing my hands again.”

T.I. is here at this dilapidated strip mall—three of the four seats in front of the Coin Laundry are broken—on this Saturday afternoon to pose for a photo shoot. It’s not what he’d like to be doing. After all, last night was the 30th birthday party for Grand Hustle co-CEO Jason Geter. It was at the Body Tap, “one of the hottest strip clubs in Atlanta,” and T.I. was out until 5 a.m. But, hey, this is work, and he’s a professional.

A stylist hands him a navy blue military button-up. He pops the tag, throws it on the pavement and changes shirts. Teenage girls squeal. Grown women snap pics with their camera phones. Little kids mimic his poses right down to the cocky scowl. And one burly knucklehead can’t shut up about how he likes Lil Wayne better. Even this guy’s impressed, though. (Homie actually said, “He aight. He aight, though.” It was like a live-action Mad Rapper skit.) Everyone is impressed.

“He looks like he’s a pretty down-to-earth person,” says Tricia Austin, who was driving down Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, noticed the crowd, and pulled over. “He’s hard, but without being disrespectfully hard. And his last CD was really good. He’s a pretty good actor too.”

After the shoot, T.I. speeds off in his black 2006 Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren, the one he last drove right before Super Bowl weekend.
This is exactly what you would expect from T.I.

T.I.P. is in total control of the crowd situation. Outside of a low-key pit BBQ spot, where $5.50 can get you two ribs, two chicken wings, two slices of wheat bread, a grape soda and a bottle of water, the 26-year-old former drug dealer seems a little agitated by the growing mob. However, he’s in his old neighborhood, Bankhead, and he knows how to deal with these things.
“Ay.” T.I.P. motions to his crew, ignoring the scrum of fans waiting for him. “Let’s go.” He contemplates socializing, but there are too many people to accommodate.

T.I.P. is in this dilapidated strip mall—all the seats at the BBQ spot are lawn chairs—on this Saturday evening to do an interview. It’s not what he’d like to be doing. After all, last night, he was out at a strip club until 5 a.m. So he’s nursing a Heineken as he hops into his red 1969 Chevrolet Camaro “Rally Sport” drop, the one he last drove the day Grand Hustle shot Young Dro’s “Shoulder Lean” video.

Mothers plead with him to sign autographs. Little kids look like someone just stomped their pet puppy. And one guy, whose tank top barely conceals his huge gut, is really mad. “I ain’t waiting here no more,” he shouts, rounding up his family. “I ain’t waiting. I said, let’s go.”

A particularly angry mom who’s been consoling a particularly disappointed kid starts giving T.I.P. a particularly hard time. From the driver’s seat of the Camaro, he tries to explain: He just finished an interview. He’s running late to a photo shoot. It’s his fourth of the day. She interrupts him, punctuating her sentences with her index finger. And then T.I.P. has had enough.
“Ay, ay, ay, listen,” he snaps. “You got to give your ears the same chance that you give your mouth!”

With that, T.I.P. speeds off, the open Heineken still in his hand. He’s not wearing a seat belt.

This is exactly what you would expect from T.I.P.

ti2.jpgThe man born Clifford Harris Jr. is conflicted. Doesn’t matter that his alter ego, T.I., was the top-selling rap artist of 2006. There are little battles—wars, actually—raging in his head. All his life he was “little bad-ass Tip,” he says, a drug-dealing hooligan who was nice with his hands and even nicer on the microphone. But now, after that skill set (the rapping, not the scrapping) made him a millionaire, he’s T.I. when he’s on the clock. That’s the mature, level-headed musical artist who has released three million-selling albums—the one responsible, as much as anyone, for Atlantic Records’ prominent position in the rap game. That’s the mogul, the co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records—an Atlantic subsidiary home to Young Dro and DJ Drama—the one who brought resurgent New Orleans star B.G. into the fold. That’s the budding actor who opened a low-budget niche film, Chris Robinson’s ATL, to $11.5 million—the one who got advice from co-star Denzel Washington on the set of this fall’s American Gangster. “Don’t act,” the two-time Academy Award winner told him, “just be.”

He’s also a businessman, the owner of a construction company (New Finish), a nightclub (Club Crucial), a car shop (Elite Auto) and a clothing line, Akoo (A King of Oneself), which he describes as “upscale urban fashion” designed to “pick up where Ralph Lauren and Sean John left off.”

It’s a lot to deal with. Especially when the “real” Clifford Harris Jr. doesn’t get credit for his part in all the success. “I couldn’t… Umm…” He pauses. “T.I. couldn’t have been out here calling himself no king of the South if it wasn’t for the groundwork we put down before the rest of the world knew who T.I. was.” So this summer, he’s doing what a conflicted artist should: releasing his demons on record. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dilemma will be explored on his fifth album, T.I. vs. T.I.P.

Problem is, he’s been there, done that. The song “T.I. vs. T.I.P.,” from 2003’s Trap Muzik, captured the split-personality back-and-forth in a concise 3 minutes and 54 seconds. “You need to think ’bout your actions,” T.I. rapped. T.I.P. responded like he would: “Nigga, fuck you!” By the end of the song, though, the two had come to an understanding. Is there anything else to add?

“So much has happened since that song,” he says. “T.I. has a certain take or stance on what has happened in our life and our career since Trap Muzik. T.I. really feels like T.I.P. jeopardizes everybody’s livelihood because of his quick temper. T.I.P. feels T.I. cherishes that luxury shit too much and if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. They both got valid points.”

There are other reasons T.I. is releasing T.I. vs. T.I.P. “I definitely wanted a challenge,” he says. “I feel like this is a point in my career where I had to raise the standards and show people why I should be separated from the rest. It’s like, you sell 500,000 the first week. Cool, Jay can sell that. 50 can do that. You say, I’m a hot rapper. Aight. Weezy is a hot rapper. You say women like him. Well, women like Weezy. You say you got street credibility. Okay, well, Jeezy got street credibility. I’m acting. Andre 3000 acts. Ludacris acts.

“I want to set myself aside from everyone. I want to prove that I am beyond competition. In order for me to do that, I have to do something that can’t nobody else do but me—and this is that.”

——- Read the rest of our T.I. feature in XXL’s July 2007 issue (#93)

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • Caine

    Shit gon’ be fire!!

  • casketXdropper

    get off this conflicted alter ego homo shit. Dudes a straight up faggot.

  • HNIC

    I’m feelin’ T.I./TIP or whatever he chooses to call himself from one moment to the next. I can’t wait for the new album to drop. I’ll be the first to cop… real talk. I I’m feelin’ T.I. /TIP or whatever he chooses to call himself from one moment to the next. I can’t wait for the new album to drop. I’ll be the first to cop… real talk. I just wish that he’d release “No Sweat” as an official single. That song is that fire! He just needs to include one more verse, because it kinda seems unfinished at the moment, IMO. Aside from that, we’re witnessing one of the greatest to ever do it… history in the making, if you will.

  • CJ

    aight i jus got one question why isnt the best rapper alive the king of the south? and is he tryn to prove he’s better than wayne cuz i think wayne has got more fans than T.I. just because all the collaborations n shit

  • Leland

    cool article I wanna buy this issue

  • http://myspace.com/dfkboy4 Bonafide

    go listen and add me as a friend

  • Rockcity

    I really dont understand the infatuation wit this dude he’s so average at best its not even funny, he calls himself the king of the south but he aint did shit to earn that title.

  • http://www.myspace.com/moneymakersclick1984 The Kid MMB

    T.I. is just doing his thing right now with no problems but his self and thats the only person he should have to deal with and that will cause him to fight harder for greater success. This is the work I won’t to put in so I can reach the top.

  • http://xxlmag 360

    XXL yall need stop postin peoples emails and shit. Everytime I log 2 this site its someone elses email up here already. J_vargas ur is up here now

  • http://n/a Jose

    Dude, I’m sorry to say that I have lost respect for TI after he showed up over an hour late to a show at my school and played for less than an hour. That shit ain’t professional at all. Far from it.

  • http://n/a Jose

    He didn’t even do an encore song.

  • Magan

    his new album gonna be crazy
    and that is Big Shit Poppin’

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    BG and TI song is the fuckin shit!! It might be TI summer once again!! CURTIS…….

  • MiDdle FaNga ZuP

    I remember when cats useta come down here, talkin’ SH*T about tha A. Now yall lovin’ us!! MF’s love the way we walk, talk, dress, dance, and club. Basically, how we get our swag on. And it’s funny, ATL will NEVER die. You know why?? Cause EVERYBODY keeps moving here. Then they get discovered here. Guess what they do next?? THEY CLAIM ATLANTA AS THEIR OWN!!! THEY WANNA REP THA CITY TOO!! Cause they know how it goes down in the new Motown. YA HEARD???? THE NEW MOTOWN!!! We are no longer the “Motown of the South”, we are simply THE NEW MOTOWN, period!! Like DJ UNK say, “hold on hoe, hold on, hold on, hold on hoe aaayyyyy”

  • MiDdle FaNga ZuP

    T-I-P has been the man since “I’m Serious” and the “In Da Streets” mixtapes. TIP been had Zones 1-6 on his team. Since 559 had the West End jumpin’, 1-Tweezy was on Cheshirebridge… I’m talkin’ back before Visions was even thought about and THE BOUNCE was the muthaf**kin’ place 2 be!! WHAT YALL KNOW ABOUT DAT REAL A-T-L???

  • http://www.myspace.com/na22au ajg

    who eva wrote dis shit seems retarded, y da fuck most of da sentences keep repeatin…. da strip mall shit, da money factor, him being at da party……..dats played out shit, i aint even read da whole damn thang b-cuz of dat………………….. n-e ways, TI still da shit though


    What T.I and B.G song are u talkin about

  • ow wee


  • babyboy

    I say he dramin if he thinks he is better than Luda

  • Well..

    It’s official..T.I. is a superstar.

    ..and Wayne does not have more fans than T.I…not with all those awards T.I. has.

  • i’ll shit bag u

    ti a real dude im gonna have 2 kop dat 1

  • MorphineRoberts

    Clifford knows that he’s hard as a fuck, hands down. But this Cassidy Split Personality shit is ridiculous, man. Reading this article takes me back to that VH1 special on Left Eye. Clifford: “T.I. wants a soda, but Tip wants a beer. What’s a nigga to do when you got to people tryna run the throne at once?” Get off that War with God shit, nigga! It’s time to fuck up Chris Bridges’ career.
    Savannah GA– Morphine Roberts

  • Ali

    ima buy that album 4 sure he’s sick….iono if he’s better than all tha dudes he mentioned at tha end but he’s very good

  • ALEX

    T.I is whack overated and is one of the downfalls of hip hop

    only REAL lyrical niggas from ATl are … andre3000, bigboi, ludacris
    and unfortunatelyu shawnna can spit better than TI

    to me he is 50 of the south in the sense he has a charismatic character that fits into todays trends, and ppl buy it.

    BUT T.I IS STILL WHACK. Urban legend is the only album i copped which i thought was a good album. But all this tip ti tip tip shit is fuckin annoying. …

  • moameklin


  • Mpho

    T.I. has a certain take or stance on what has happened in our life and our career since Trap Muzik. T.I. really feels like T.I.P. jeopardizes everybody’s livelihood because of his quick temper. T.I.P. feels T.I. cherishes that luxury shit too much and if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. They both got valid points.”

    WTF???, man this TI slash TIP shit is stupid as fuck…

  • http://www.fedex.com EReal


    His first album was the only one bangable from front to back. The rest have sporadic good tracks.

    Another damn “swag rapper” sellin millions and people havent even heard 4:21 or Red Gone Wild. *smh*

  • Caine

    Check dat Joell Ortiz album out. Dat boy definitely be on dat “Brooklyn Bullshit”…shits crack.

  • Jayj

    CJ Shut yo ass up nigga

  • Banny

    I don’t dig the alter ego shit but I’ll be sure to download his album just to rip him off

  • Stax On Deck

    The King HOMIE!

  • tony starks

    would’nt mind those having conflicts in my head if i had a few mills in da bank

  • jada

    damn homies all dat.T.I. i like not 2 sue bout T.I.P

  • http://www.allhiphop.com Young $$Money$$

    T.I. is really a cool gangsta nigga. No wonder BIG SHIT IZ POPPIN!!!

  • 818

    i don’t think he can make a shitty record. i’ll cop this one.

  • neu.sense

    yo,T.I. can u please do me a favor and get with my man 9th wonder and cut a track P.L.E.A.S.E

  • Faaiha

    first of all T.I. is a king of his own game thats fo’sure. Who’s king of tha south i dunno and actually who cares as long as tight ass music comes around.
    (But Lil-squeaky-voice-Wayne is def. out of the race for the throne)

    The article was physcho tho!! I wanna read of what T.I. does and not get lost in his paranoia world!

  • T.I. Fan

    I am a huge T.I/T.I.P fan. I’ve been following his career since the “I’m Serious” album. Lately here it seems though that T.I/T.I.P is getting a little too cocky. I have no doubt that there new calaborative album will be fire but dude get off your own dick. Let somebody else ride! All this patting yourself on the back leads to one thing…..destruction. And please be careful what you say out your mouth about weezy f. baby cause that dude will murk yo ass in a freestyle battle. Fuck wit him!

  • Tricia Austin

    I was actually mentioned in this article which truly trips me out because I really didn’t think that Thomas Golianopoulos was going to add my statement.

    I personally LOVE T.I. and you haters need to step off. Give the man is props!! The industry is hard enough on Hip Hop Artist with out the added negative comments of others. I wish him all the success and blessings in the world!!!

    Much Love,

    Tricia Austin, Birmingham, Alabama

  • doeboi

    I just wanted to let ya’ll know that the T.I. cover story was one of the best articles I’ve ever read. Thomas Golianopulos did a excellent job at capturing Tip’s authenticity in words. Thanks a lot for puttin the King on the cover again. Realness always prevails and Tip deserved it. Keep doin ya’ll thang!

  • eric

    yo t.i. is cool but dis t.i. vs t.i.p. gimmick is kinda corny me but the album is goin be hot

    Curtis sept 4 2007 (SSK) muthafuckas

  • Tiona

    I can belive it!
    i neva thought i would see the day
    that Ti retires
    its crazy i dont wanna see him go like
    this i love dat nigga
    i cryed as i about it …

    [How eva haterz im not her to start beef im just tryin to voice my oppion]

  • julie

    I frickin LOVE T.I

  • blu

    you nigga be killing me talking about he stole that from cassidy that nigga was doing that way before cassidy and he do it the best all hail the king of the game right now(no lil wayne does not have more fans took a long time for the carter2 to go platinumif it did).


    i luv t.i i have much respect….


    Good Lookin On The T.I./T.I.P. Interview.
    You Gotta Give Him Props For Real.
    The King Had ’06 On Lock.
    Me Personally, I Can’t Wait For The New Album.
    He Doing His Thing On The Business Side Too.
    You Can Love’em Or Hate’em, B.G. Coming At The Game This Year.
    Hooking Up With T.I. Was The Best Move For Him.
    Grand Hustle Coming This Year.
    Big Kuntry King,DJ Drama,B.G.,Young Dro.
    Shout Out To The King Of The South.

  • http://Sixshot Kami Tha Light

    Tha Album Is Fire..!! Pure Heat Rocks..!! I D/L That Shit. Favorite Tracks:

    Act I
    Act II
    Tell Em I Said That
    My Type

    Shit..Tha Whole Shit Is Hot..Real Talk..Its Worth Tha Money..& I Wasnt Even a Fan Of This Nigga But I gotta Recognize T.I. Vs T.I.P Is Tha Best Album of 07 So Far & a Strong Contender 2 Best Album Of Tha Year.

    Even Tho I d/l Tha album Am Still Gonna Cop It July 3rd Jus 2 Pay Respects Because He Definatly Done a Good Job & Tha Nigga Deserves His $$.

    If Youse Want Me 2 Send Youse Tha album Get At Me..!!

  • Leo King

    Deep minds think alike- those of you that can’t understand the alter ego thing ( even though T.I. explains it whereby a five year old child can understand) you probably need some more spiritual time to yourself and reflect on deep thoughts and feelings instead of petty things. Big things poppin and little things stoppin!!!

    T.I.P for Life!!!!!!! N*gg*!!!

  • Pingback: T.I. I’m Real, What Are You? — Celebrity Stories

  • Pingback: Car Auto and : motorcycle brands » Blog Archive » T.I. I’m Real, What Are You?

  • http://tesmartthoughts.info/ Karmen Bradfute

    Awesome document, well crafted I have to admit.