actor-slash-rapper contingency on the rise, a few talented MCs are true standouts
in the Hollywood scene. Atlanta-born and raised rap prodigy T.I. is an example
of how determination and intensity can transfer from true life to the big
screen in a positive way.
landed the lead role in the Warner Bros. film ATL, fans were intrigued, but a bit skeptical of what would come
of it. Needless to say, when ATL hit
theaters in 2006, all doubts subsided as the film came in with a whopping $12.5
million in its first weekend with limited theater showings. Of course the
production team basked in the box office sales, and T.I.s fans had a new
appreciation for the young artist.
forget that T.I.s 2006 album King
was the best selling album in 15 years for Atlantic Records. He didnt need to
act, produce or expand his business to gain credibility but hes done it all.
A consummate businessman and co-CEO of Grand Hustle, T.I. launched Grand Hustle
Films as a division of the ever-growing company.
He followed up
his acting debut with his second major motion picture role as Stevie Lucas in
2007s American Gangster. The film
received accolades and awards, and further strengthened T.I.s place in
Hollywood. To kick off 2008, the Grand Hustle team launched a new comedy division,
and T.I. is hard at work on his next album Paper
Trail. Hes also been developing his
own production skills, and it seems as though there is no end to his talent and
ambition, despite his current legal woes.
With the dual
disc DVD release of American Gangster
(Feb. 19), his star is brighter than ever. Also coming up is the release of the BET Hip
Hop Awards 2007 DVD (Mar. 18) which features previously unaired rehearsal footage from
T.I. on the fateful day of his arrest in Atlanta. We got some quality time with T.I. to
discuss his budding acting career, his new album and the philosophy behind the
Grand Hustle mindset.
worked with a cast of [mostly] up-and-coming actors in ATL, and then you turned around and did American Gangster with these veteran actors like Denzel Washington
and Ruby Dee. What did you learn from those experiences?
T.I.: Well, from ATL I gotta say that
[director] Chris Robinson taught me how to carry a film, how to take
responsibility and carry a scene to let a film revolve around you. In American Gangster I’d have to say that [director]
Ridley [Scott], Denzel, Russell [Crowe] and the rest of the cast taught me how
to be a team player, how to hop in when needed, take a backseat, take notes and
learn when needed and just apply what was necessary to have the best outcome
for the entire project.
AllHipHop.com: This is really an amazing start to an acting career for anyone,
much less someone that people would write off and say, “Oh, he’s just a
rapper. What does he know?” How does that make you feel to assuage those
doubts that anyone had about you?
T.I.: I think that any great performer in whatever genre you’re in – be it
music, film or whatever performing art you’re involved in – you’re always going
to have doubters. The great ones are always able to rise above the doubt and
perform at the top of their game. That’s a huge part of being who we are.
That has always
served as inspiration for me, it was just a phenomenal opportunity to work with
such prestigious members of the film community and still have their
respect. To have Denzel say, “Hey man, you’re a real actor” and get
his approval, that kind of overrides all of those doubters and all of the
negativity. I’m proud of that.
AllHipHop.com: If you could go back in time and take a role in any movie in
film history, what would the role be? Also, if you could go back in time and
reproduce any movie what would it be?
T.I.: I’d probably want Cuba [Goodings] part in Boyz N The Hood, and if I could reproduce a film it would be a
cross between Scarface and Goodfellas.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve launched a comedy division [of Grand Hustle]. How does
this factor into your acting career as a whole?
T.I.: Well, you know comedy has always been a big part of who we were. Even in
the most serious of situations we always found ways to smile, laugh and look on
the bright side. One of my theories and sayings has always been “Take
lemons and make lemonade.” I feel like comedy is something that Atlanta
and the southern movement is really missing right now.
AllHipHop.com: I think the industry, period, is missing that.
T.I.: In the past few months I’ve seen a lot more Black comedies hit the
screens like First Sunday, Roscoe Jenkins and these types of films.
Back in the late ’90s they were always coming with it. In the new millennium
they’re very far and few in between. I haven’t seen [Roscoe Jenkins] yet to be
able to say [if its a classic], but to have a film with so many funny people
in it like Mike Epps, Martin Lawrence, Mo’Nique, Cedric The Entertainer – you
can assume by looking at the preview and seeing who’s in it that it will be
If it aint as
funny as Friday, it has the potential
to be, and there haven’t been that many comedies to come out that have had that
potential in a long time.
AllHipHop.com: The album T.I. vs T.I.P. was
an extension of you acting as well, because you were able to show your
alter-ego. How was that for you, to bring out the fact that there’s almost two
sides to your life?
T.I.: I think that had to be done in order for me to move on and move forward.
To evolve what was necessary for me to evolve to, I had to do get that out of
the way. It was kind of something to check off of my to-do list. I think that
it displayed a lot of talent, and promoting it a lot of different ways through
creative aspects was definitely a highlight of my career. I’m real proud of the
AllHipHop.com: We know you’re working on a new album and we’re anticipating
that coming out soon…
T.I.: It’s entitled Paper Trail,
because this is the first time since my very first album that I’m actually
writing down lyrics on paper like the old days. From Trap Muzik to T.I. vs. T.I.P.
I would always listen to the music, formulate in my head what I wanted to say,
step into the booth and rhyme. I never really wrote anything down since I’m Serious, and people were saying that
they were missing that sound, and that they were looking forward to that sound
being brought back again.
I kind of
tapped into my old element, and I think that’s what they’re gonna get from this
album. I think that the rotation in music right now is suffering. It’s
definitely a void to be filled right now, and as usual, I’m coming to set it