T.I. Talks New Album, New Reality Show and A New Life
The recently released rapper shows a different side on VH1's "T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle"
Tip "T.I." Harris' tumultuous personal life coupled with his outstanding career personifies the phrase “the agony and the ecstasy. ”
The ecstasy: He’s received over 60 awards including three Grammys, 10 Billboard Music Awards and nine BET Hip-Hop Awards. He’s created four platinum and one double-platinum CD along with two triple-platinum singles, “Whatever You Like” and “Live Your Life” featuring Rihanna. T.I. has also become a successful actor with appearances in four movies including “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington.
The agony: He’s served two prison sentences in county jail for probation violations and last year was incarcerated in federal prison for weapons charges. T.I. also developed paranoia, after multiple death threats on him and his family.
Regardless, Harris hasn't stopped working in or out of jail. After being released from an 11-month sentence, the rapper dropped “I’m Flexin’.” Ten days later, he performed the song and also joined Young Jeezy on “Fame” at the BET Hip-Hop Awards in his hometown—Atlanta. T.I. is also the newest rapper to join the reality show circuit, joining his wife Tiny on VH1's T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle set to premiere on Dec. 5 at 9 p.m. ET.
T.I. recently sat down with Loop 21 to discuss all of his projects including his debut novel Power & Beauty-A Love Story of Life on the Streets, his latest LP and his new show on VH1 that hopes to show the rapper in a different light, as a family man.
Loop 21: After achieving success in music and acting, what inspired you to make your writing debut with Power & Beauty?
T.I.: I wanted to do something to make my fans read more. I wanted to fill a necessary void. Something that would appeal to people in the hood as well as college students. You have people in the hood reading urban books and students reading self help books. I wanted to write something mentally enhancing that would appeal to both groups and not compromise myself
Loop 21: The book features Slim, a gangster, and Power, a young man who is induced into the street life in Atlanta by Slim. Are there elements of you in these characters?
T.I.: There are elements of me, my ability to maintain on the street through my intelligence and sheer street knowledge. The difference in Power and me is that he started off trying to do the right thing. He wanted to do good and was driven to do bad. I started out doing the wrong thing. Slim is a combination of various people I know from experience on the street. The book shows how people can be influenced to go in the wrong direction. People like Slim mold young criminals. I witnessed that.
Loop 21: You were released from prison and then from a halfway house on September 29 after serving an 11-month sentence. After being incarcerated, has your outlook on life changed?
T.I.: I know my margin for error is zero. Now is the time to put on my A game; to move forward; to show that my mistakes of the past don’t define me.
Loop 21: What was the feeling of walking into your house this time after being released?
T.I.: It was indescribable. It was breathtaking. It was an outstanding feeling. A sense of emotion overwhelmed me. Happiness!
Loop 21: One day after being released you dropped “I’m Flexin’” and then 10 days later you performed on the BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta, your hometown. What did it mean to be back on stage?
T.I.: I had mixed feelings. I was happy to be on stage, but it happened just a few days after coming home and I wanted to spend more time at home with my family. I love being home. I love being able to sleep in my own bed, being to use my own refrigerator. I appreciate those small things.
Loop 21: What can we expect from the new CD?
T.I.: You can expect vintage T.I. I am enjoying the challenge of finding new creative ways to express myself. I plan to drop the CD in early 2012. I’ve recorded about 30 songs and still debating the title. I have collaborations so far with Pharrell, Jeezy, and BOB.
Loop 21: You have a new VH1 show called The Family Hustle that will debut in December. Tell us about it and why you don’t like to call it a reality series.
T.I.: It’s a look inside the lives of me and my family. It gives insight into how I balance my personal and professional lives. I don’t like the term reality series because that word has a negative stigma. It discredits all the effort and energy I put into the show. We want to be taken seriously. This is not nonsense.
Loop 21: What is coming up for you as an actor?
T.I.: I have been offered a few things, but I am being very careful about what I accept. I am definitely looking to get back into acting, but I am being very selective. There were a lot of opportunities I missed while I was incarcerated. Now I want to be very careful about my acting choices.
Loop 21: What are your other plans?
T.I.: Preparing to release this next album, and looking to continue to release more good music. Promoting my artists on Grand Hustle Records. If Power & Beauty is successful I want to release a trilogy of books.
Loop 21: What is your message for your fans?
T.I.: Thank you for your support and your prayers and positive energy. For putting me in your mind and in your heart. I am happy to get back to work. You can count on me to release A-1 music.