T.I.: Southern Gentleman

The T.I. that you read about in the media is presently the exact opposite of the T.I. that sits before you to discuss his upcoming album Paper Trail. Perhaps that’s a continuation of his T.I. vs. T.I.P. alter ego, or maybe he’s just growing up. T.I.’s “paper trail” runs thick, including banknotes and legal documents, but none that would call him a snitch. Regardless of the media hype – from tons of guns to Shawty Lo and 50 Cent drama to bitch slapping Luda’s manager Chaka Zulu – T.I. is as calm as ever, reflecting on the past, accepting it, and moving forward. T.I.’s involvement with the law reads like a well-dressed crime novel, inevitably forcing him to lose his right to vote. That doesn’t stop him from respecting yours, as his Respect My Vote campaign with the Hip-Hop Caucus is currently one of his main focuses, among other things. He even proudly dons a Respect My Vote t-shirt. Besides that, T.I. has a budding acting career, a new son, and a love life that he chooses to play like Jayonce and keep on the low. Let’s not forget the album, Paper Trail, available on “Grand Hustle Day” September 30th – a release date that he shares with labelmate Big Kuntry. As T.I. sits back and reflects on the past year, he explains his formula for peace – accepting God in your life, and letting your momma do whatever she wants with the house you bought her.AllHipHop.com: So first things first, you know we’re anticipating your album Paper Trail.T.I: September 30th.    AllHipHop.com: Yes. And it’s been quite an interesting year; it’s a change for you. Does the album reflect that at all?T.I: Absolutely. This album as all of my other albums is indeed a reflection of my life, what I’m going through, how I’m getting through it, my mind state, my emotional state.T.I. “Whatever You Like”AllHipHop.com: Many people consider King to be an epic album. T.I: Thank you.AllHipHop.com: In the albums that followed King, did you always feel that you had to make albums that had to compete with it at all?T.I: No. King represented me in that period of my life. There are certain elements in my life that have changed dramatically, so there’s no way I can compete with that. I have to make an album that’s true to my current situation. That’s not just for [Paper Trail], that’s for T.I vs. T.I.P. I made an album that was true and relevant to the person that I was at that time. This album’s the same, the next album will be the same and so on and so forth.AllHipHop.com: What would you consider your mind state to be right now?T.I: Calm. Secure. I think that I really drifted business wise. I spent so much time sitting still not being able to conduct business – to make a move to take advantage of opportunities – so right now I’m trying to make up for all that lost time.AllHipHop.com: Now you’ve had a few brushes with the law…[T.I. laughs and spits out the coffee he’s sipping]T.I: That was funny how you tried to understate that statement. That was funny, yeah.AllHipHop.com: What would you consider to be some lessons learned?T.I: Um…let me see, lessons learned – through God all things are possible. We learn that the decisions you make can very well affect your future. We learn that there’s no status that you can be that supersedes poor judgment, and you learn that walking with guns and fire is [as] safe as walking with God. AllHipHop.com: Did you want to clear up anything going on with the Shawty Lo situation? I’m sure that there’s kind of been a back and forth type of thing.T.I: Yeah, but you know what? I’ma end that right here. I ain’t speaking on it, it’s over for me. I don’t want to speak anymore. I ain’t speaking on it.AllHipHop.com: So it’s a done deal.T.I: Done deal for me. All my beefs, situations and issues with anybody, you know it’s been done for me in my head. But if you know what I’m just saying it’s just I’m saying verbally I’m through. I got other stuff, I gotta bring little son up you know what I’m sayin’? That’s a thing I need to do. It’s real trivial from my angle.AllHipHop.com: Yeah and with the whole 50 Cent snitching situation, you kind of took on the same kind of mentality, though. Like it’s not worth it.T.I: I’m not…I mean you know, I worry about the truth and to be quite honest with you, I ain’t got myself into any situation for anybody in regards to anything that wasn’t true. So I shouldn’t even be involving myself in matters that don’t end and begin with truth.You know somebody can say something about me that’s true then maybe, maybe just maybe. I mean I got too much on my plate right now, it’s just really no time.  And I’m really just blessed to be here and I’m not gon’…I’m not gon’ slap the powers that be, being God, in the face by involving myself in anything that’s just like I said trivial, unimportant. If anybody ever been in a situation similar to mine, you already know once your agreement has been agreed to, it’s supposed to work with journalists, press, people. You know you can Google my name T.I is agreed with you know what I’m saying? It’s gon’ pop off and any of those claims….and [50 Cent] said he wanna talk about it, that’s what I heard, but if any of those claims – it’s not even him, it’s other people like online talking ‘bout, “Oh he did this, he did that.” If that was the truth, it would be in my agreement, all you got to do is pull my agreement up; there’s no such thing as a secret exchange. If that was the case there’d be no such thing as the witness protection program.AllHipHop.com: Right.T.I: Everyone knows that in order to get favor shown to you by the government in exchange for cooperation, you have to sign documents, you got to come to court, you got to physically point people out and at least someone saying, “Yes I am the person that he put here.”And that’s not the case. Man if I was lying, people just don’t want to excel, but God got another plan for me that supersedes the other issues; my stupidity you know what I’m saying and anyone else’s opinions. God’s plan – that’s over all – and I’m sorry if they don’t like it. I think they’re barking up the wrong tree they need to take it upstairs you know?AllHipHop.com: You’re one of the few artists that you know if trouble finds you, you accept it as a mistake and you keep moving forward. But why do you feel that people are still trying to test you then?T.I: [laughs] I don’t know, maybe ‘cause I’m good looking. I don’t know man, I guess [people] get tired of [their] little girlfriends talking about me. You know everywhere keep talking about you, keep talking about you. “I’m tired of this n***a,” you know what I’m saying? I don’t know what it is, maybe my size, maybe they feel that because of my size that I’ma be an easy [target].AllHipHop.com: So how do you manage to keep such a healthy married life you know being…?T.I: How do I manage to keep such a healthy what?AllHipHop.com: Married life.T.I: Who? [laughs]AllHipHop.com: Married life. [laughs]T.I.: [laughs]. We’re actually a couple.AllHipHop.com: Love life.T.I: Secret. Top secret. I am drawing from the book and blueprint of Jay and B you know what I’m sayin’. I see it’s obviously worked and I have seen the other way fail so many times, and I care too much about my situation to allow it to fall victim to such unfortunate circumstances. So next question. [laughs and toasts with his cup of coffee]AllHipHop.com: Taken well. So you know you’re the King of the South… T.I: Yeah.

“You can call me the King you can call me rubberband man, you can call [Wayne] the monster, the greatest rapper alive, just call the South number one when you do it.”

AllHipHop.com: But with the rise of Lil Wayne do you feel that’s affecting your title at all?T.I: No, that’s my partner you know. I salute, I salute. Shorty just like if I come out and if I say it more than him when his album’s released it’s not gonna affect his title as the best rapper alive you know what I’m sayin’? Like we co-exist with one another, we have a mutual understanding, respect for one another. I mean I don’t ever claim to be able to do what he do nor does he claim to be able to do what I do. We both have our own positions that we play, but our main goal/focus is make sure that the South stay on top. So you can call me the King you can call me rubberband man, you can call [Wayne] the monster, the greatest rapper alive, just call the South number one when you do it.AllHipHop.com: How did you get a song with Ludacris [“Wish You Would”] after the situation with his management?T.I: I told you, I’m done with all that. When I say I’m done with that, I ain’t just talking you know? I’m doing everything in my power if I can to move forward, and that’s just an example of that. But you know me and ‘Cris have always spoke. We never had no problems – we speak, he has my number. I have his. It’s always been that way. I’ve never known – and I’ve went at it with a lot of cats – but I’ve never had such worthy competition.As a mutual respect you know I’m sure that [Ludacris] has to acknowledge my contributions just like I got to acknowledge his. I ain’t never been a hater and now is not the time for me to start, so we ain’t got no problems with one another. If it ain’t no beef, ain’t no reason why we shouldn’t be able to work together.Wish You Would – Ludacris ft. T.I.AllHipHop.com: True. Let’s talk about the Respect My Vote campaign.T.I: I’m working alongside the Hip Hop Caucus, and it’s a voter registration campaign and we’re doing everything in our power – from rallies to PSA’s to public appearances, television appearances, print ads, everything that we can think of to do – to create awareness and encourage masses to get out there and become a part of the decision making process. It’s special. It’s special, not only but especially young people between the ages of 18 to 29 who are not in college because the statistic of people between 18 and 29 who are not in college that don’t vote are 93 percent.     With this being the most important election of our lifetime and this being the most critical condition of the country and our lifetime, I think for us to not be a part of this process is detrimental to our progress. I’m doing everything I can – and not to mention I ain’t gonna be able to vote, so I’m just trying to make up for my minus one.If I can make up for my minus one by encouraging one million to get out there and do they thing, then I feel like my job is done. And not to mention man in 2000 man – 2000 which could arguably be said that that’s the election that got us in this whole mess to begin with – it can be arguably be said that we wouldn’t be at war, that the state of the economy would not be the same, a lot of the judicial standings would not be the same had it not been for the 2000 election. The 2000 election was decided by under 600 votes, 583 I think…under 600 votes. If 600 people would of got up, got out, did they thing we probably wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with and we cannot afford for history to repeat itself.AllHipHop.com: Why do you think the government designs the voting system to not include people who have a record?T.I: I’m not going to say anything bad about the government. [laughs] Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-government whatsoever. I love my country you know what I’m sayin’? I’m a patriot, I try to be. I’m a tax-paying upstanding citizen. I ain’t got nothing bad to say about my government. I mean no system is perfect, but I think even more so than that it’s up to the people to do everything in their power to work within the system. First you must understand the workings and rules of the system. Once you have knowledge of that, you now work within the system to get done what you think needs to be done. Now if you find out that the rules are this, this, this and this and you know you just don’t feel like doing it, then that’s your fault, it’s not the system’s fault. If you didn’t like it, if you think it should have been different, you should have been more involved earlier on so you could of weighed in on the decision making process whether or not it should be this way. If you fail to even become knowledgeable of the system and you go out there out of your own ignorance and then you find out in order to vote you gotta do this, you gotta do this, and this you gotta do this, well then you should’ve found out first.You should’ve researched but now all you have to do is go to HipHopCaucus.org and they’ll walk you straight through it. Just put the Playstation down for a second, come home from the club and go to HipHopCaucus.org. They’ll take care of it.AllHipHop.com: Who would you say has been one of the most positive influences in your life?T.I : I mean of course my family, my uncles, my grandfather my grandmomma, my momma, my daddy, you know. But outside of my family in recent history, I had the pleasure of speaking to and being mentored by Ambassador Andrew Young. He’s been an outstanding inspiration to do the right thing.AllHipHop.com: Growing up what was your favorite subject in school?T.I: Math.AllHipHop.com: And what did you want to be when you grew up?T.I: This.AllHipHop.com: Yeah?T.I: That’s it.AllHipHop.com: If you weren’t doing this where would you be?T.I: Real estate, construction, still business.AllHipHop.com: With some math in there.T.I: Yeah, absolutely. I got to be able to add, subtract, divide and multiply.AllHipHop.com: You’re very fortunate that your career includes the math of many album sales and stuff. How do you keep humble? How do you keep going and not get so jaded by anything?T.I: I mean I guess it would be [attributed] to my morals, standards, principles, beliefs, foundation, upbringing, my grandmom, my momma…see I know if I get out there, I can’t get big headed. My momma’ll say, “Boy you still…” My momma say, “Don’t forget where you came from.” And my momma like…’cause you know I bought – I gave my mom my old house. You know 10,000 square foot, $850,000 house. And you know she got a sub zero refrigerator, granite countertops, mahogany wood floors. She still take the plastic grocery bags and tie ’em around the knobs of the cabinets. I say, “Momma why you do that? You know you don’t have to do that.” “Oh I ain’t wasting nothing, you can’t tell me, I’ma keep my bags. I know where I came from.” “But momma you don’t have to. You need some bags I’ll get you some trash bags.” “I got trash bags, this my house.” So I’m like, “Alright momma you got it. It’s cool.” I think things like that, you know, they taught me how to withstand any conditions and how to be comfortable with the most life has to offer or the less in life or the least life has to offer.My uncle man, my uncle raised me as a man, my pops raised me as a man; not as a superstar, not as a celebrity. Stars are in the sky, people are in the streets. My status is just due to my, I guess you know, my occupation. That’s not where I end and begin. I’m a man first before anything, and I keep that in mindI don’t think I’m better than nobody else – I may look better than some people [laughs] –but I don’t think that makes me better than nobody else. I mean I’m still the same dude, I’m still the same cat, got the same friends you know I still…I live somewhere different, I enjoy different things now, but I’m still the same person man.AllHipHop.com: What kind of acting projects do you have coming up?T.I: Bone Deep is the film that I’ll be starting on in September and it’s starring Idris Elba, Matt Dillon, Chris Brown and myself. It’s an action drama movie, it’s a flick about some young, cool, fly well dressed, good looking, intelligent, articulate…bank robbers. You know, not just your shoot’em up bang bang, bust’em in the bank Set It Off bank robbers, I’m talking inside man, Ocean’s 11 heat type bank robbers. I’m one of the producers also. I’m looking forward to that.AllHipHop.com: Common was talking about how as an MC once you go through with acting and you start becoming an actor as well, the pressure off releasing that album that makes that hit is kind of easier because you know you got that acting money that’s coming in.T.I: [laughs] Well hey I don’t know about Common, I can’t really…Common done been in a few more movies than me, but I ain’t really got no money like that on acting. Both the movies I did I lost money. I put off millions of dollars, yeah, to do ATL like with touring I put [off] millions of dollars to do ATL for the opportunity and I’m glad I did it, it worked out. Now American Gangster did take off better than ATL and didn’t cost me as much, but I damn near ended up paying them to do it. But I’m not doing it for the money right now. AllHipHop.com: So there’s also a rumor that you’re in Fast and the Furious 4.T.I: I ain’t…I been hearing that rumor man! Whoever doing Fast and the Furious y’all need to holla at me, because I don’t know nothing about me being in the Fast and the Furious. I mean for real. I didn’t even know they were doing another one. Not to say that I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t know nothing about it. Do you know what the script is about? Do you know what the premise of the next one is, I don’t know?AllHipHop.com: Does it like freak you out where you know you’ll hear something like that and just be like where’d this come from?T.I: Freak me out? Nah…it’s a part of the job.AllHipHop.com: If you had known before becoming T.I what was going to happen – you know with people testing you, trying to put your stuff out in the public and everything – would you still have gotten into it?T.I: That’s a very worthy question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know man. If I knew how much hate was involved, how similar the dangers were, I don’t know. I don’t know, I probably would have. I probably would have, but can’t tell.

“I made the adjustments in my life that I feel were necessary for me to grow and expand and mature as a man. It’s unfortunate that it took such a severe situation to bring about that change, but what’s important is that the change happened.”

AllHipHop.com: Would you say at this point in time you’re 100 percent happy?T.I: 100 percent happy…yeah, yeah, yeah definitely. I think I’m happier now than I was before. I made the adjustments in my life that I feel were necessary for me to grow and expand and mature as a man. It’s unfortunate that it took such a severe situation to bring about that change, but what’s important is that the change happened, so yeah I’m happy.AllHipHop.com: What would you say is one of the smartest decisions you’ve ever made in this industry?T.I: One of the smartest decisions that I’ve ever made in this industry is to start my own company and lead my way after the first album. Let me see…and to step away from music for a minute to film ATL. Those pretty much they standout off top. The best thing for myself – and oh, to do mixtapes – the first album didn’t work, started doing mixtapes to keep myself present in the marketplace instead of just waiting on the label to do something for me.AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about your company, Grand Hustle. Explain why you got started and talk about some of the artists that you work with.T.I: Big Kuntry King – his album comes out September 30th as well as mine – name of his album is My Time to Eat. Alfamega, I Am Alfamega comes out in October, DJ Drama he’s preparing his album and getting ready for a release later this year, hopefully by the holidays, and Young LA his single “Ain’t I” is tearing the clubs up, taking off in the South. He’s about to start on his second single. JR “Get Money” you know his first single, “Nobody But You,” ladies will love it, it’s doing very well. Let’s see 8Ball & MJG, they’re working on they album we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming them to the family. [Young] Dro. Dro has just finished his second album and picking the first single for him, he’ll be ready to go the beginning of next year. So we’re doing pretty well.AllHipHop.com: Why did you decide to put your album and the Big Kuntry album on the same day?T.I: Well because I figure people will already be in the record stores, they’ll already be encouraged to buy music, so why not support both members of the hustle while they at it?AllHipHop.com: Makes sense. So what else do you have coming up besides that?T.I: My clothing line, AKOO, a king of oneself. It’s gonna be launching October/November of this year. We’ll be at Magic, so you can catch me there and I’m proud of it. I’m looking forward to releasing it and presenting it to the world.AllHipHop.com: So when do you sleep?T.I: [laughs] Ahh not much. I don’t know man, the Lord promised me I would get enough sleep when I die, and He promised me all the sleep I want when I die.

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