T.I.: Serious As Ever
With Paper Trail [click to read] in stores, the focus hasnt really been on T.I. the artist but more so, Clifford Harris the man.
Embroiled in a highly publicly legal issue, the 28-year-old self proclaimed king of the South has a lot to deal with. Heavy the head that wears the crown they say. HipHopDX sits down exclusively with T.I.P. at Atlantic Records as he discusses his newest project, waves off a history of trouble with Ludacris and hints at a possible collaboration with Jay-Z for The Blueprint 3.
HipHopDX: You always have a good fashion sense about yourself. What do you like to wear more the clean cut look with the nice pocket or jeans, sneakers and a fitted cap?
T.I.: It all depends on the occasion, the event, whats going on and my mood. Right now, Im just cool, calm and casual. Im really feeling my Jordan Retros I forgot what number they are they might be the 12's. They came out in 94.
DX: Your song Louis Rag with Swizz Beatz got a lot of play in the clubs amidst all the hype of your case. What is it about Louis Rag that makes you feel that that was the right track to put out there.
T.I.: Its just a party record, man. I want everyone to feel good, relax and have a enjoyable time. Me and Swizz [click to read] linked up to crank the clubs up, period Theres no serious message behind it. Its just a record to motivate and uplift the party. Louis Rag is something that you can play primetime in a club at 2:30, you know what Im saying. Everyone pull they rags out they belt loop and if youre anything like me, you keep your rag in your belt loop and theyd swing they rag in the club and go nuts.
DX: How was it to go back to writing down lyrics after going off the top for a few albums?
T.I.: It wasnt hard at all Its actually one of the easiest decisions to make. It was an easy transition to go back to writing. I could do it, actually, either way It just depends on the track and how I feel. Itd be a way to catch the beat and Ill go either way. I think that on the next album, Ill do both half of it off the top and the other half written and let the people judge for themselves. Its two different sounds to doing that, of course, songs like Top Back [click to read], What You Know (About That) [click to read] that type of sound Ill go off the dome. But for that Im Serious [click to read], No Matter What [click to listen] type of sound, then I start writing it down.
DX: Its good to see you back with DJ Toomp, man. People felt that that one album where you werent together that he was sorely missed
T.I.: Yeah, man it was just the one album [without each other]. I mean we always family and always gone be it, so it was like you know it couldnt be a reunited thing cause we were never separated. We worked together on T.I. vs. T.I.P. [click to read], its just that the work that we did when we worked together, didnt make the album.
DX: A lot of people would be surprised that you and Ludacris linked up to do a track for his new album. Howd that come together?
T.I.: It was really simple we agreed to do a record together. For real, me and Chris [click to read] aint never had no real issues between one another, ya dig? We never had a conversation that couldnt be cleared up. Weve had conversations where we most definitely had to get some things squared away. He had my number for quite some time and I his, so some times well call each other every now and again to chop it up, unbeknownst to you the public of course. But you know everyone has issues. I consider dude, if nothing else, very worthy competition and Ive never hated on dude, I aint never been a hater and never will be. So, since theres no issue, there isnt no problem and we aint got no beef. Theres no reason why we cant be able to or why we shouldnt be able to come together and make music.
DX: As a competitor in the game do you think that youre putting out your best work to date, yet?
T.I.: It aint my job to judge the music, its my job to make the music. I mean I like all my music, but I wouldnt make nothing that I wouldnt like. But Im going to give it to the people to make their own opinion and assessments. Im going to let my work speak for itself. I play to win and you know everyone else is going to try to play their cards, well when I play my hand, I play to win and dont care what anyone else thinks.
DX: This may seem kind of stale, but a lot of people are still looking at fellow Khaled All-Star, Rick Ross, with the leery eye. Do you think that beef with T.I. isnt what it seems and do you believe that Rick can come back from such an incident?
T.I.: None of my issues are ever WWE inspired. At the end of the day, with Ross [click to read], its none of their business. Real talk, I dont care We being stars! And with us being stars that means we put out a record for people to listen to. We put out movies for people to watch it. I mean that to say that you dont need to know everything about our lives. Matter of fact, youre not supposed to know anything about our lives because we stars you supposed to know less about a star, then you do about a normal person. No one ever dug around [1930s villain actor] James Cagneys closet to find any skeletons. You cant rate or judge a person for what he or she has been through until one has sat through it or heard the other one say it.
DX: You had your trial and your sentencing are appreciative of the support youve received in the mainstream and from the regular folks?
T.I.: I really appreciate it and I know that they wish the best for me. I concur with them wholeheartedly. I wish better for myself, but now I aint got the wish. I just got to make the necessary adjustments.
DX: When does the countdown show run?
T.I.: The show? Smart guy Itll be on TV around the first quarter of the year sometime. Were still filming, did a few episodes, most of them being in Los Angeles, quite a few in Atlanta. I cant really tell you what to watch out for, just watch the show, baby
DX: Youve done quite a few songs with Just Blaze now can you talk about the song Live Your Life?
T.I.: Just Blaze did Live Your Life and its features Rihanna and the song is just talking about what we were just speaking on how people think that just because youre a celebrity that they should be so involved in your life. Im like well, you can cut your TVs on and youre in my world. The rest is just entertainment for you; Im actually living it. Im doing the things that you scared to death of doing, surviving the things that you think youll never through. So, its my life, the entertainer, you know I assumed the position and accept the responsibility of, you know, living through the things that you couldnt probably make it through in order for you to be thoroughly entertained.
DX: Joe Budden kind of mentioned it by saying that he understood why you needed to get some ratchet. Can anyone understand this game that youre in?
T.I.: I mean In order to understand my thinking and even though it was poor judgment it was bad decision and to understand my train of thought, youll have to live my life and experience my danger. Live through certain situations and circumstances that I have and ask me how you feel. You got to put yourself in my shoes. You cant think with your mind, being in your situation, about what you would do. You got to think as though you were in my situation and then ask yourself what you would do.
DX: So what advice would you give you the kids on the street who are feeling the crunch during this rough financial crisis were going through?
T.I.: Id tell them straight up and down that I aint the last person out there who got guns. Its other people out there who definitely got guns. Someone can be breaking into your house, right now. You aint gonna find out until you see the light, baby. Its all the same thing, you know clear and present danger. You need to be aware of that before you get yourself involved in something that could cost you your life or your freedom and they dont wanna know that first hand.
DX: On Whatever You Like, fam you switched it up a little. Youre not going full-on Ja Rule, are you?
T.I.: A full-on Ja Rule [click to read] [Laughs] Man, Ima do whatever my heart desires. Wherever my creativity leads me is where my artistic expression leads me to do. Im not finna intentionally do something or not intentionally do something. Ima do whatever is necessary to make some music.
DX: How was house arrest?
T.I.: It was house arrest. Im blessed. I was able to be around my family and my children. I was able to go in my refrigerator, watch my TV, drive my car around the neighborhood and live my life before I go in the box.
DX: You and Jay-Z have a lot of similarities and are the kings of your respective crafts. Would you and him ever do a song for Blueprint 3?
T.I.: I dont know thats a good question, man. It would depend on the song, on what kind of song it is. If he gets that record like a [Dirt Off Your] Shoulder [click to listen] then Id probably come off the top of the dome. Whereas, if he gives me a record like Renegade [click to read] that Eminem joint then Id probably write things down. In the end though, itd be classic whatever myself and Hova [click to read] cook up.