Don’t get it twisted. Though he may not be physically sitting on the throne for a year and a day, T.I. remains King. Though his highly publicized legal battles may be the thing of yesterday’s headlines, Clifford Harris’ struggles still follow him today as he prepares himself for his tomorrow. Even after bringing home a statue at this year’s Grammys and with his latest opus The Paper Trail continuing to move well past the platinum point, T.I. must face the music: a 366 day prison sentence starting in March. XXLmag.com checked in with the ATLien to talk about his new reality show, 50 Cent’s recent jabs and his future managing the careers of professional athletes. The reign is far from over.
XXLMag: On your show Road To Redemption you’ve impacted the lives of a lot of teens going the wrong route, but what impact has the show and its experiences had on you?
T.I.: Well, it’s taught me a lot about where people are in their life and how eager the same people that society condemns for making poor decisions, how eager they are to make a change in their life. How much they’d love to be doing better for themselves but just haven’t been presented with any options or alternatives.
XXL: You’re a private person, but you’ve kinda stepped into the reality TV realm with the show. Would you consider doing more reality stuff after your release?
Tip: Man, I won’t speak to any effect on that because you know, like you said, I’m a very private person. Road to Redemption is primarily geared towards helping those who have yet to find a way to help themselves. My life, and what goes on in my life, is a slight fraction of what the show consisted of. I can’t really answer that question to be honest with you…
XXL: With you about to serve your time, how have you been preparing to go and do your bid?
Tip: Really, financially, to be honest. Just making sure that there’s enough resources and funds set to the side to ensure that my family will be able to maintain their standard of living.
XXL: Being gone for a year in hip-hop it’s like dog years, it seems way longer. You’re arguably at the height of your success and fans’ attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. What kind of negative impact do you predict from you being gone a year and a day?
Tip: Well shit, I’m gonna miss a gang of money for one. I’m sure there are going to be opportunities I won’t be able to take advantage of…I don’t see people not liking my music [anymore]. I don’t care who you are bruh, you come out with a hot record, then it’s gonna be a hot record. A year from now or ten years from now, I ain’t never had a problem making a hot record, or a hot album for that matter. So I ain’t really worried too much about that.
XXL: Grand Hustle has a stable of artists from Young Dro to Young LA to Killer Mike. What have you set in place to make sure that the label continues to thrive and flourish while you’re away?
Tip: You just said it, everybody’s in there working diligently. I’m in there doing everything I can while I’m there to help from a production standpoint, a lyrical, creative standpoint. Whether they need help with hooks or need verses, beats, ideas or just insight, you know. Just everything I can…
XXL: Speaking of beats and verses, I know you wrote a lot of Paper Trail while on house arrest, sort of secluded. While a different type of seclusion, do you think doing your bid will be a plus for you creatively?
Tip: Yea, I think that’s a definite possibility [laughs].
XXL: Last time you were locked up you felt people took shots at you. 50 Cent recently released a cartoon aimed at Rick Ross but included you and kinda made fun of your legal situation. Do you have any words or thoughts…
Tip: I haven’t seen it but, we all know dude. We all know his intentions, we all know his motives. We’ve seen this too many times before. You know, I play chess, not checkers, you dig? I ain’t even trippin off of that. At the end of the day, I’m more worried or concerned about what a man says to me or what a man does to me, not what he says or does in the eyes of the public. That’s perception. I’m a real dude, a stand up guy with integrity, respect, morals, standards, principles and anything outside of that I ain’t got nothing to do with.
XXL: I know in the past, you’ve let things slide off your back that other artists have said about you, up until it reaches a certain point. Do you feel that it may get to that or are you not concerned…
Tip: To be perfectly honest, we’re talking about something that I have no knowledge of, know what I’m saying? I mean, last time it was said that he had something to say, the statement of his remarks was retracted. It wasn’t ‘well this is what I said and this is why I said it” so if he ain’t saying it’s a problem then why should I feel it’s a problem? And if the issue is whether or not I’m a snitch or… there’s no such thing as a secret snitch. If I’m a snitch you should be able to pull my paperwork and point out exactly who I snitched on, how much time they got, when I went to court and I pointed them out, you know what I’m saying? If there was a such thing as a secret snitch, there’d be no reason for the witness protection program. And furthermore, I was always taught by the O.G.’s I ran around with that men don’t gossip. Men don’t spread around gossip about other men and if you call somebody gay or you call somebody a snitch you supposed to have irrefutable evidence. Undeniable, factual, something that can’t be disputed or else you don’t speak on it. If you don’t have those facts in place, then that’s a reflection of your character, not theirs.
XXL: After your friend Philant died, a song of yours was leaked that was very angry to which you explained you needed to vent but you’ve been showing more of the positive side of T.I. lately. Do you foresee the content of your music changing after your release or will it be the same ole Tip?
Tip: I’m always going to talk about my experiences and what I’m living like and what I’m going through. For me to sit and tell you that I’m going to rap about the same things…I’m going to have to see if I’m still going through the same things. When I was rapping walking around and saying I had them thangs on me and that I had them here and I had them there, you know, that’s what was going on. Right now, I’m not talking about it because I don’t have them anymore [laughs]. I don’t have no need for them. I done turned my life around to the point where it’s not necessary so I have to rap about the things that exist in my life.
XXL: As far as the future for you, is there anything outside of the music that either before or after your release you’re really putting energy into and trying to make happen?
Tip: Yea, there’s a few things, man. My clothing line, AKOO. I’m looking forward to pushing that past the point of $100 million. [Also] my film career as an actor and producer. I just produced my first film with Screen Gems, a film called Takers with Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon and Paul Walker. I’m looking to do more films as a producer and as an actor. Doing more television shows and producing more television. Also, my sports management company, the sports management division of Grand Hustle. We’re looking forward to creating opportunities and marketing athletes and turning them into brands, not just athletes. Help them diversify their portfolios. You know, we just gonna keep hustling, keep the hustle moving. – Anthony Roberts