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T.I.: American Dream

With today’s

actor-slash-rapper contingency on the rise, a few talented MC’s 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.

 

When T.I.

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.

 

Let’s not

forget that T.I.’s 2006 album King

was the best selling album in 15 years for Atlantic Records. He didn’t need to

act, produce or expand his business to gain credibility – but he’s 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

2007’s 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.  He’s 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.

 

AllHipHop.com: You

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 [Gooding’s] 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 it’s 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

funny.

 

If it ain’t 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

project.

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

off.

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