Photo Credit: James Minchin

TIPJames Minchin1

Throughout his decade-plus career in the rap game, T.I. has ascended from the trap in Atlanta to the highest heights in music, gracing the top of the charts on multiple occasions and working with some of the biggest artists on the planet. His first significant breakthrough came with 2003's "Rubberband Man," his first Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and the song that catapulted him firmly into the mainstream. But things would only get bigger from there, of course; Tip's 2008 album Paper Trail contained some of the biggest songs of his career, including his only two No. 1 songs, "Whatever You Like" and the Rihanna-assisted "Live Your Life." And with his ninth studio album Paperwork still less than a month old, Tip is still knocking out hits, with second "No Mediocre" featuring Iggy Azalea grabbing Gold certification from the RIAA.

Recently, T.I. stopped by the XXL offices to break down five of the biggest hits of his career, from "Rubberband Man" to "No Mediocre." The King is back. —Dan Rys

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"Rubberband Man"

Trap Muzik
2003
T.I.: That was back in year 2001, probably. I think we recorded that when we had a studio in my homeboy's mom's beauty salon. She rented us the back half of the beauty salon and when they weren't open for business we could come in and record. I think they shut down at like six o'clock, so at like seven we would start recording and we'd have to be up outta there by about eight in the mornin', people started comin' in there. And we just recorded it, I believe Big Kuntry engineered that session if I'm not mistakin', man. And we were just in there doin' what we do best, turnin' it, and we came up with that.

I was pleasantly surprised with the magnitude of the reception of "Rubberband Man" when it first came out. But I was not able to really bask in the glory of that because the night we were shooting that video my house got raided. [Laughs] And I then, you know what I'm sayin', had a journey of, I guess, legalities in order to get myself back to the point where I could release my next record.

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"Whatever You Like"

Paper Trail
2008
T.I.: I was surprised; that was my first No. 1 [on the Hot 100], I was like, "This is my first No. 1? What do you mean?" 'Cause we were just playing, that was just a spoof record. "Whatever You Like" wasn't me going in and making a serious record. I wasn't attempting to make a single. I was just seeing if I could sing on a record. You know what I'm saying? And that's what we came up with.

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"Swagga Like Us" featuring Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye West

Paper Trail
2008
T.I.: [That was] a humbling experience [having Jay Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne all on one track]. It was a humbling experience. I was extremely flattered by everyone's willingness to come on board and work with me, you know what I mean? I for one didn't believe it was a possibility; Gee Roberson actually quarterbacked that one, my manager and partner, A&R at the time. Gee Roberson actually quarterbacked that situation. [That Grammy performance] was a big one, definitely. To deal with all four of our personalities and, "When can you do it? When can you do it? When can you do it? Okay, we're gonna get him in the studio, then get him—" I couldn't have done that, you know? I mean, I would not have been able to do that. Of course, all four of us knew each other, all four of us had pleasant relationships at the time. Wasn't nobody beefin', wasn't really no bad blood at the time. So we should have been able to do it ourselves, but usually our calendars and our itineraries would not align that would allow us to do it.

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"Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna

Paper Trail
2008
T.I.: That was another Gee Roberson, Just Blaze... I mean, man, to be honest with you, those records I'm just contributing my particular part to it. I mean, it's already a huge, huge record. I'm just really coming in, doing my part, contributing as a team player. I think that the people who go through what has to be gone through in order to get these records done... I remember with "Live Your Life" Rihanna, I think, was in Paris, and I couldn't leave the country. And I think Gee flew to Paris and got Rihanna to do it for me. [Laughs] She said she would do it it was just a matter of when, and we were coming down to the wire. So I think Gee flew to Paris and got "Live Your Life" done.

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"No Mediocre" featuring Iggy Azalea

Paperwork: The Motion Picture
2014
T.I.: Yeah, man, I wanted one of those records that wasn't really really serious and a whole lot of thought-provoking messages behind it. I just wanted it to be something that women could dance to, that could be a club record, just get on the radio for urban as well as rhythmic, and something that didn't require a lot of thought, you know what I'm saying? A fun record. I felt like it had been so long since we did, you know what I'm saying, a record that was for the ladies but fun. Not a chick record, if you will, you know what I'm saying? Not like a "Whatever You Like" or a "Why You Wanna," but a record that chicks could dance to and chicks could own. Also, man, I just think that women are the most beautiful creatures known to man. We strong, but we ain't hell of a lot to look at for real, you know what I'm saying? I think that women are the most beautiful creatures there are, and I think the only thing that can pull a women off of her pedestal is her and the way she presents herself. The way she feel about herself and the way she presents herself. I just wanted to make a record that supported that denouncement of mediocrity.

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