T.I.: You Still Don’t Know Me

T.I.’s loving the game right now. While he didn’t release an album in 2005, Tip caked up on features with homies, Young Jeezy, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall. In 2006 however, the Atlanta trap-star aims to conquer the market with, KING coming with the arrival of spring. T.I.’s not out to melt anybody’s snow or ice though, and he makes that quite clear to AllHipHop.com.

Lounging in a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper, we thought we’d take it to another level with “The Rubberband Man.” In a light-hearted feature, T.I. speaks on issues ranging from gay rappers, to Dave Chappelle, to video chicks, and Ferraris. He’s already rap royalty, so see “What You Know?” ‘bout T.I.

AllHipHop.com: You know, Brokeback Mountain is huge…

T.I.: [Laughs] Now, why the f**k are you gonna ask me a question about Brokeback Mountain?

AllHipHop.com: Would you ever make a song with a gay rapper?

T.I.: Hell no! We don’t mix.

AllHipHop.com: Really?

T.I.: Who is the gay rapper?

AllHipHop.com: I don’t know.

T.I.: There is no gay rapper to make a song with, so that question is non-applicable!

AllHipHop.com: At this stage in your career, you remind me of Scarface…

T.I.: What makes you say that?

AllHipHop.com: You’re lounging on the couch, just like the scene in the movie when he was in the Jacuzzi. You made it to the top…

T.I.: Not yet…

AllHipHop.com: Well, you’re on the throne as the “King of the South…” what else is there to prove now?

T.I.: Man, you know, just the will to be the best. It’s the constant pursuit of perfection. As long as there’s an award to win, win it. As long as there’s a record to sell, sell it. If there’s money to make, make it. Do it, get it and be done [laughs]. You know what I’m sayin’? I feel more comfortable being done. Ideally, I would love to walk away having introduced an artist to the industry that outsells me and exceeds my success.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking of success and Scarface, Hip-Hop has always been about claiming the throne. Tony Montana had the Diaz Brothers and Caspar Gomez as his competiton, and now you have artists like Young Jeezy and Slim Thug as viable threats to the “throne…”

T.I. But they’re my partners…

AllHipHop.com: I know…but they are threats to the Kingdom.

T.I.: No threats, I mean like, we work together. That’s the benefit of having allies. No matter how successful they become, they’re not a threat to me.

AllHipHop.com: Best friends become strangers though, sometimes…

T.I.: On the real, if Jeezy, Slim Thug [and] Paul Wall sell three times the amount of units as me, I’m a salute them and be happy for them. There’s certain people that I’m cool with and even if they exceed my success, I’d be comfortable knowing that they are in that position, because I know that they share my enthusiasm as far as putting real n***as on top. I know that it would have been harder for n***as like that to get on right now if there never was a n***a like me. I take their success as a compliment. It’s kinda like the groundwork has been laid. I made it to where you could get away with saying “dopeboys” and “trap” on the radio. [I] kinda loosened them up and Jeezy just flooded the market with the “Snowman” s**t. That’s what he supposed to did. I don’t look at it like it’s a threat at all. Threat is a very harsh word. If someone’s a threat to me that means there’s something wrong.

AllHipHop.com: There was a pic in Ozone magazine called “A Great Day in Atlanta.” What was the vibe like for that shoot? What did it mean to be around your comrades?

T.I.: The vibe was cool, man. I knew everybody there. A lotta people who I ain’t seen in a minute and it was good to catch back up with them and, you know, see people all in the same place and the same time. You very,very,very rarely get to see that. It was a positive outcome. Everything was smooth sailing, easy going.

AllHipHop.com: Pharrell Williams called you the “Jay-Z of the South…”

T.I.: [Laughs]

AllHipHop.com: What did you think about Jay’s line off of the Biggie Duets, “Rubberband man before T.I. was”…?

T.I.: Man, you’s a real s**t-starter, you know that? You trying to see what I’m a say.

AllHipHop.com: Well, when I first heard it, I was like, “What would T.I. say to that?”

T.I.: He was the rubberband man before I was publicly known as “the rubberband man”, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m sure he was getting money, and wrapping rubber bands around it. Am I supposed to be f**kin’ [mad] at him? I’m supposed to feel bad about it? I’m supposed to have an attitude and be salty? That’s what b*tches do. I’m a stand up guy. That s*** wasn’t out of line. I’m not sensitive. Especially to motherf**ka that I know I’m cool with.

AllHipHop.com: Tell me about ATL: The Movie…what’s the story behind it?

T.I.: It’s a look inside the lives of five, six teenagers growing up in the A and basically how they resolve their conflicts; how they get from where they are to where they want to be in life. A lot of different scenarios play themselves out; it’s just interesting how it all unfolds. Big Boi’s in it, Diana’s Ross’s son, Evan Ross is in it, Mykelti Williams…a lot of people are in it. It’s a wonderful ensemble cast.

AllHipHop.com: Being in New York City, a lot of times, it’s almost impossible to hear a Southern artist on some New York City radio stations. But when you collaborated with Swizz Beatz on “Bring ‘Em Out,” the single got you heavy airplay. What gave you that edge to crossover into New York radio? Was it the production? Was it your own approach to the song?

T.I.: I think it was just time, man. After “Rubberband Man,” it opened a lot of people up to my music. [They] were just waiting on what was next. Then when it was [released], of course they were going to be perceptive to it. It was a Swizz Beat…Jay on the hook. It just so happened to be the best introduction for that album. I didn’t put that single out with specific intentions to cater to New York. It was more so like after recording all the songs for the album [and] sitting back and listening to it, [I said] “which best describes what’s going on right there and best introduces the public to the album?” And that was “Bring ‘Em Out.”

AllHipHop.com: On your verse on Slim Thug’s “3 Kings”, you’re rapping about, how can I say this… a “really good time” with your Bun B and Slim. Did that really happen?

T.I.: Oh, you asking me if that s**t is true. Who knows what happens when people be out. It has just a possibility of being true as anything else. It could happen [laughs].

AllHipHop.com: What does wifey think about verses like that and video girls all over you?

T.I.: It makes home life difficult at times. I just try to keep on reminding [her] that this is what’s getting the money; this is what’s enabling us to live the life that we live and provide the luxuries that we’re fortunate enough to [have]. She understands that when I explain it to her, but she forgets it soon after [laughs].

AllHipHop.com: What if your wife was in your shoes? How would you feel if you were at home?

T.I.: It depends, bruh. Exactly what do you mean?

AllHipHop.com: I’m the jealous type. If I married a porno star, for example, I would be [heated]…

T.I.: Then your wife would be f**ked! If my wife was a actress and she was doing a movie with a dude, and they’re playing boyfriend and girlfriend, I mean, s**t man…if I’m Halle Berry’s husband, I would be just like this [Lies down with his feet on the couch] “How was work today, babes?” [laughs] “Pass the Grey Poupon. I got kind of tired of driving the Phantom, so I took the Ferrari around the corner today, you know, I hope you don’t mind.” I am more concerned about her absence from the household than I am about a fictitious visual; you know what I’m saying? Man, nobody be f**kin’ with . Man, I don’t. I don’t have time. I be working, ya dig? You can’t focus your attention on that [stuff] if you try to handle your business, anyway.

[T.I. gets up from couch and takes a seat.]

AllHipHop.com: When you were lying down on the couch you reminded me of that Dave Chappelle/Oprah skit…

T.I.: Yeah, yeah, I seen that s**t.

AllHipHop.com: Can you relate to some of his recent claims about fame, like once he got to a certain echelon, the world started changing around him?

T.I.: I don’t have 50 Million dollars, personally. I done have a few million, you know…five, ten maybe. I never had 50!

AllHipHop.com: Would you walk away from it? He walked away from it!

T.I.: I mean man, money ain’t everything. What is the profit for a man to gain if he gotta lose his soul? That’s how I always felt. If I gotta be a f**k n***as to get on top, I would never make it. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live with myself.

AllHipHop.com: I read a press release saying that you’ve done a lot of charitable efforts, and I commend you for your Katrina relief work [raising over $300,000]…but we get people in The New York Times like Bob Herbert, for example, who seem to slam Hip-Hop whenever he gets the chance…

T.I.: Oh well, you know, there’s probably a rapper f**kin’ one of his daughters. People with little d*cks have complexes man. They don’t live life well, so I could understand how he may be perturbed by the success of Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop artists. Our influence is overwhelming to someone who’s not of the culture.

AllHipHop.com: So, speaking of the culture, when you have to deal with the White culture, how do you feel when you step into a room with people completely different from you?

T.I.: How it feel? If I’m in a room full of White people with suits on, it must be time to get some money. A lot of times man, I really don’t take into account [how successful I am]. A lot of my people are like, “Do you realize how big this is?” [My response is] “Nah, not really.” They’re like, “You were at The Grammy’s…you got a Phantom….you just bought a Ferrari…” You know what I’m sayin? It don’t impact me like it impacts them.

AllHipHop.com: You sound like a Buddhist. Buddha was a Prince, and then he let it go. Material s**t doesn’t give you happiness.

T.I.: Man, shawty, I don’t buy that s**t for happiness, I just like to ball [smiles]. I know you ain’t able to do everything forever. I’m just enjoying it while I’m able to. I want to be able to say I’ve experienced the most I could say I’ve experienced by the time I’m taken away from it.

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