Few anticipated that T.I. would become one of the hottest and biggest selling young artists to come out of the South. T.I. became Rap's Man of 2006 when he won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance with "What You Know" and was also nominated for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album, for the aptly titled King.See Also:
His mainstream appeal skyrocketed: He starred in his debut movie, ATL, and now has a role opposite Academy Award-winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in upcoming American Gangster.
But with the good comes the ugly and T.I. has had his fair share of knock backs between his last album, King and T.I. vs. T.I.P. which is in stores now.
Five weeks after King debuted with very impressive sales, T.I. witnessed his long time friend and personal assistant Philant Johnson being gunned down by bullets the rapper is convinced were meant for him. The case remains unsolved. Then less four months before the release of T.I. vs. T.I.P., the father of five and his on-and-off girlfriend, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, lost the daughter they were expecting.
These incidents inspired T.I. vs. T.I.P. a concept album literally living out the classic "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" dilemma.
But if you, like myself, expected to hear a rap battle between the two alter egos, then you may be disappointed. T.I. vs. T.I.P. is really about the relationship between the two personalities. Just days before the album released, those two sides of Clifford Harris came to a clash at a Kevin Liles gathering in Los Angeles, and Ludacris' manager, Chaka Zulu was physically confronted. Just like the verses on his albums, T.I. - or T.I.P. has no problem keeping it real with AllHipHop.com, and provided Cliff's Notes to the album everybody's weighing in on, and clearing up the issues that left us guessing.
AllHipHop.com: So I just listened to your new album...
T.I.: You have? Okay, so what do you think?
T.I.: Honest, give me your honest opinion.
AllHipHop.com: Don't worry, I will. It's okay, as you're on the phone not face to face... I can be honest.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, when I first listened to King. I automatically liked it and could spot the huge singles and anthems. With T.I. vs. T.I.P., it's harder to spot those signature anthems you have become known for. I think this album is probably a grower, something people need to listen to a few times to get into.
T.I.: Exactly, you're right. You really have to listen to this album three to four times before you can truly understand it. If you listen to it from top to bottom, it's just a wild ride. There's not two of the same type of songs on this album at all.
AllHipHop.com: I definitely felt this was a personal album for yourself; it wasn't like any of your past albums...
T.I.: Right on. I didn't do any conventional methods when making this album. It was all abstract; it was all songs made from given situations. You know, you just mentioned that I have a formula that I use or that I'm known for the club tracks, well I wanted to step away from that. The most important thing for me was the concept and [completion] of the obligation; I had to re-enact these situations that had happened the way they happened in real life. You know? So if that meant I had to lose a couple of anthems or big singles, then so be it.
AllHipHop.com: So do you feel a constant battle in real life between these two personalities?
T.I.: Yeah, I do. I mean every day is a battle between the two, even with things like people constantly coming up for autographs. I have to stop myself from losing my patience and saying, "Okay, enough now," and at times, the battle is a frustrating one.
AllHipHop.com: When going through the process of recording, did you feel you took one personality to the extreme over the other?
T.I.: Yeah, it was T.I.P...this album is mostly T.I.P. for sure. I mean, just because I feel he's been suppressed for so long that he really had a lot more to say.
AllHipHop.com: As far as commercial success, wouldn't T.I. have been a safer choice?
T.I.: Yes, absolutely it would have, but me and my homeboy for life [Philant Johnson] actually spoke about doing this album T.I. vs. T.I.P. before he [died]. When the first week sales for King came in last year, me and Philant, I believe we were on the golf course and he was like, "So what you going to do next time man, how you going to top this?"
And I said, "Now what if T.I. could do an album and T.I.P. could do an album?"
[This was at a time] when my life started to become some big tabloid story and different controversies were hitting me. I actually didn't want to record no more. So I felt like if I was going to record another album, I was going to do the album that me and Philant spoke about doing. This is why this album is so personal to me because I knew I was doing it for him; I was doing songs that I knew he would appreciate. This was our concept, what we came up with together and this was one of the last great conversations we had.
AllHipHop.com: So you were really close to quitting...
T.I.: Nah I wasn't close, I did quit. I was out. I was done completely. I didn't want to do it no more. I had already made my mind up. Just because I felt the risks were too great and not in my favor. I mean I could just do films and earn more money and not have to go through any of the stuff I have to go through with music. With music... you know, I have to be in and out of these clubs and different places. I'm taking more of a risk and not earning as much money. It didn't make any sense to me, it really didn't. But then you know what, Phil came to me and said, "If you quit, I'll kill you... you think we did all this work for you just to turn around and say you don't want to do it anymore?"
And soon as he told me that, I already knew what we had to do.
AllHipHop.com: So T.I. or T.I.P., which one's at home being the family man?
T.I.: That's T.I.P. Anytime I'm away from the camera, lights and action, then I'm T.I.P.. For videos, photo shoots and anything where it's about being a celebrity, then that's T.I.. Basically, when it's just everyday things like; doing the chores, buying groceries, decorating the lounge and disciplining the kids, then that's T.I.P. Don't get me wrong though; if I'm taking the family out for dinner and the restaurant is saying there's a two hour wait then, T.I. would have to show up and use his charm to get everyone seated. That would be a time where I can use T.I..
You see T.I.P. is what comes naturally to me, it's who I am but, T.I. requires a lot of discipline and checking T.I.P. also T.I. is the one who is constantly talking me down from certain situations. T.I.P. is what is comfortable to me but, T.I. provides the balance that I need. T.I. is basically the lesser of the two evils. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: On your album intro, you're arguing with Lyor Cohen. What's the story there?
T.I.: I mean they wanted me to do another album and I wanted to quit. It was as simple as that. You know, I called them and I said "I don't care how much money I've been paid. I'm not putting out no more albums. F**k it."
AllHipHop.com: So that's a real conversation between you and Lyor?
T.I.: Yeah. That's a real conversation.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, sounds like you really pissed them off!
T.I.: I mean hell yeah, I pissed them off. Exactly what I said on the intro is what I said to them, "This s**t is real." Everything in this album is real. The song " Da Dopeman," that's all real, and the song "Hurt," that's a real situation I was going through that inspired that song. I mean this entire album is like a journal, it's like a journal of my life day after day. The subject matters and concepts are all true. All this stuff is true. None of this album is embellished, I wanted to portray accurately my life, exactly, true-to-life, just the way it happened, word-to-word. In doing so, you may compromise a few people or situations that should be kept private but for the benefit of the project so be it.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, I have to ask what went down on last Sunday with Chaka Zulu?
T.I.: [Laughs Hard] Well T.I. was invited but, I guess T.I.P. [showed] up to the party.
AllHipHop.com: You have to give me more than that. What was the problem, why did you punch Chaka Zulu?
T.I.: Okay, listen... I'm not a person that is perfect and I have never tried to hide my imperfections from the public. I have always been the most honest, the most sincere, the most up front about anything that I have ever done, you know what I mean?
AllHipHop.com: Yeah I do...
T.I.: And I have always made it a point and stressed the fact that respect is mandatory.
AllHipHop.com: So he disrespected you?
T.I.: Yeah, yeah. I felt very disrespected, and he knows what it is and everyone around him and myself knew he was being disrespectful, and I've never allowed someone like that too just blatantly disrespect me and I was being provoked and antagonized, so T.I.P. just took over. I mean, like I said, respect is mandatory, I demand respect.
AllHipHop.com: So how does this affect your relationship with Ludacris?
T.I.: Me and Chris don't have no problem, I could call him now. I just spoke to Chris the day before actually. I have no problem with Chris. Chris isn't the one who disrespected me, Chris isn't the one who is giving me sideways looks and eyeballing me. I ain't got no beef with Chris, it ain't got s**t to do with him.
AllHipHop.com: What was the conversation you and Kevin Liles had after the incident?
T.I.: Ah man. Kevin was pissed as a mother f**ker, understandably so. He had a right to be angry. This was some expensive event and not only that but people got hurt, somebody's arm got broken and there was some damage to some property.
I can understand why not only Kevin, but Julie and Lyor and everyone was upset. Everyone was hollering at me after. This wasn't an event with kids; this was a lunch for some big people.
AllHipHop.com: Well it was good you addressed it and publicly apologized.
T.I.: I have never been a person to run from controversy or someone who would hide from my problems. I've always prided myself as being someone who is honest with the people, and so I thought it was a good platform for me to apologize to everyone. Honestly though, I was embarrassed as hell. I mean I have a bad temper and once I flip, it's hard for me to stop myself. I just black out and literally, anything can happen. But when I actually came back to reality and I was on my way back to the hotel, I was like; "Man what the f**k did you just do?" I was actually ashamed... I mean the reason I was ashamed was I put Lyor , Deborah, Kevin Liles, Steven Hill and everyone in an awkward position so that's why I needed to fix it. I mean I'm sorry, I'm really sorry. I'm trying to work on it.
AllHipHop.com: Well everyone loses there temper once in a while, it's normal.
T.I.: Not my temper. Mine's different. I mean, I don't think people understand, I just can't help myself because if I could I would have done stopped myself by now. It's literally like something takes over me.
AllHipHop.com: So can I ask your opinion on something?
T.I.: Of course you can.
AllHipHop.com: On "Watch What You Say To Me," in your opinion, is he going at Lil' Wayne?
T.I.: [Laughs] I don't know that, I can't speak for Jay.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, but your opinion? You've obviously listened to it; it's on your album.
T.I.: I don't know... I'm going to have to re-listen. Is that what you think? What part do you think he's going at Wayne?
AllHipHop.com: Well when Jay says, "his DNA is in his music."
T.I.: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. I can get Jay on the phone and ask, but I don't know.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, I can wait, you want to call Jay now?
T.I.: [Laughs] Well, not now, but I'll email him and forward his answer to you.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah right. [Laughs] I have to speak to you about American Gangster, that film looks brilliant...
T.I.: American Gangster is a phenomenal film. I think it is one of the most significant films for our culture in a very long time. It's absolutely a phenomenal story, not even just a story about being gangsters, but about society and also about two different people from two very different walks of life who are so, so, so different and yet somewhat the same at the same time. The film is like a Black Sopranos.
AllHipHop.com: What about your character?
T.I.: I play Frank Lucas's nephew and Common actually plays my father.
AllHipHop.com: Common plays your father? He doesn't look old enough to play your father...
T.I.: [Laughs] I know, I know. They had him dressed up with the makeup and whatnot but he pulled it off, he pulled it off. He made me believe he was pops.
AllHipHop.com: So what does the future hold for you... more albums?
T.I.: I mean, yeah, there will be more albums... not only T.I. albums, but people around me like; Young Dro, Governor, Big Kuntry, DJ Drama's official Gangstas Grillz album coming soon of course, Rashad, I mean there's tons of talent within the camp. Lots of stuff to look out for.
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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