T.I. Says Parents Need to Be Real With Their Kids
T.I. makes being a father look fun, particularly on his VH1 television series T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, which is in the middle of its fifth season. The self-proclaimed King of the South is one of the busiest men in hip-hop, working as the head of his record label, Grand Hustle, as an actor currently filming the sequel to ATL in addition to his role in Marvel’s upcoming film Ant-Man, as an executive producer for the Oxygen docu-series, Sisterhood of Hip-Hop, as the head of his own clothing line and, of course, as a rapper himself (Not to mention he's also saved three lives). However, even though his schedule is packed, T.I. always finds time for his children and family no matter what.
Before this week’s episode of T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle—which airs tonight at 9:30 p.m. EST—and in honor of Father’s Day yesterday, T.I. spoke on the phone with XXL to discuss fatherhood, what he's learned from his kids and why fear is a good thing to have. —Emmanuel C.M.
XXL: Watching your show, The Family Hustle, you make fatherhood look so easy. Do you have any tips you'd like to share?
T.I.: Man, just be there. [Laughs] Take time out and plan to listen to the things that are going on in their lives. As we become adults some things become unimportant to us, but at the time it’s the most important things that our kids have to deal with. You try to chime in on how they should handle it; give them the game. I just try to look at it like, when I was young and going through some of the things that may be trivial to me now, I had somebody to actually give me the game and navigate me through it, even if it was unimportant to them. Look at it like this: Are you thinking about your problems five years from now? Okay, cool. So we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to get through it. We’re going to take something away from it that will help us in the future. Really trying to keep that same mentality in any situation.
What have you learned over the years about yourself from being a father? People usually say that parents learn as your child learns.
Man, I learned a lot. It’s hard to do. It’s something that you never really master. It’s a hell of a charge to even assume responsibility for them. So you just have to be committed to it, man. You have to be committed to it and passionate about it. Put your effort and energy towards it. I can brush up on some things and be better at other things.
Your children are becoming more famous as the show continues. Does their growing fame make you nervous as a parent, or is that a non-issue?
As long if it isn’t about poverty or the strip club. [Laughs] As a parent you worry about a lot of the things that affect your kids in a negative sense. You’re concerned, you want to free them of these problems. But for them to grow and experience life to the fullest, there will be some of that. You just have to adapt.
When you drop knowledge on your children, have you found a way to effectively communicate to them?
Just give them the game. I think that's what is really important; just give them the game, the game necessary to navigate yourself through life. I try not to get caught in, “Okay, this is my child.” I try to speak to them like I’m talking to just a partner of mine. I try to just give them real talk. I think that’s way more effective than trying to censor the conversation all the time. I think kids can appreciate and respond differently when you speak to them as you'd speak to an adult. I’m not saying with vulgarity, just without all of the jargon and ga-ga-goo-goo, you know what I’m saying? I ask them, "What do you expect when you do this? When you set out to do this, you had to put some kind of thought into it, what did you expect to gain or accomplish?" Then I give them reason. You got to appeal to their ability to reason. There has to be some reason applied to decisions. You teach them what reasons should be applied to these decisions. Accurately convey to them what’s acceptable and not acceptable.
I’m 26; right now being a father is terrifying to me. [Laughs] Did you have that fear or are you just used to it now?
That fear shows you care. I think that you’re definitely concerned with the outcome and that concern sharpens your senses and raises the stakes a bit. So it keeps you on your toes.
How long do you see The Family Hustle continuing? It’s one of the better reality television shows on TV.
It’s hard to say. I don’t know. As long as the kids still care to do it and people still care to watch it, I can still do all the stuff I do in addition to it.
T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle will air the fourth episode of its fifth season tonight on VH1.