T.I. Builds His Empire – XXL Issue 149

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On that note, you’re kind of in the middle of a major label bidding war, right?
[Laughs] Listen, a message to the labels: Don’t look at this deal like you’re signing an artist. You need to look at like you’re acquiring a multimedia company, because I have six, seven, eight areas of business that are each generating at least one or two million dollars a year. So, if you were going to buy six McDonalds and each were generating one or two million dollars a year, you would not be trying to down talk Ronald for offering you an opportunity to participate in his franchise. I’m offering them an opportunity to participate in my franchise. You don’t want it? Good. Keep selling 150,000 units.

With your reality show and even your books, there’s been a real shift in your image. Do you think you’ve changed?
I do, but a lot people want to take that change and connect it to entertainment. “Oh he got all this money and changed, or “He got in trouble so he changed.” When I got introduced to the game, I was 19. Right now I’m 32. You could take anybody man, police, fireman, journalist, radio personality, actor, producer, from 19-32, he’s gonna change. But my change is publicized. So instead of connecting it to a natural, organic growth, they want to connect it to prison or something else.

Was Atlantic Records happy about the new family-friendly T.I.?
Nah, they hated it. Labels love hardcore T.I. That keeps the cash register ringing. They don’t want me to go to prison and caught though. They want me to be the Teflon Don, and I can’t blame them. That shit’s sexy. But I’m older, man. I’m wiser, I’m calmer… I’m better, stronger. I’m ready for whatever tomorrow got coming.

Your debut album, I’m Serious, came out 12 years ago. Did you ever think this is where you’d be in 2013?
Hell nah. I thought I’d be in prison or dead or back selling crack. I came so close to getting back in the game after my first album didn’t do what it was supposed to do. I still had people to feed. I wasn’t front lines like I was at one time, but I definitely…I’m not going to talk anymore about that.

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