T.I.                                                   By Nooreen Kara

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He’s the self-proclaimed ‘King of the South’, who’s latest single ‘Bring ‘Em Out’ has been setting airwaves alight across the country. The Situation caught up with the hottest new star straight out of ATL.

T.I. is one of those types of rappers who says what he wants to say, does what he wants to do. He is one of those types of people who radiates confidence and walks with a certain attractive swagger. And he’s no stranger to cocky claims. The Atlanta native is currently on the back of his third album release, his current entitled ‘Urban Legend’ – he claims to be “the king” no fewer than 10 times on the opening track.

With all these boastful declarations, it is easy to see how T.I. could receive criticism from people labelling him as arrogant, but he remains strong in his response: “If they knew better, they’d do better. I’m not really concerned with what people think of me. People are gonna believe what they want to believe anyway. They gonna think what they want to think, they gonna say what they want to say. I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about what the truth is.” So what is the truth? To him it’s that he is “among the best”.

Despite only really starting to gain recognition, T.I. has been in the industry for years. He says, “I just took to it when it when I was a youngster, about seven or eight years old… I just did it. I suppose you could say I listened to LL’s ‘I’m Bad’ record. But when I started writing my own… I think I was in school with nothing else to do.”

T.I. refers to himself as T.I.P in a number of his songs, which comes from the name Tip. He says, “That’s my name. Anybody who knows me, that’s what they call me.” ‘Tip’ was made to be changed to T.I. as Q-Tip was already on the same label, and bosses believed people could get confused. Talking about who has most supported him in his career, T.I. says, “Man believe it or not, everybody. It’s hard to say. I have to say my homeboys because they were there most of the time, but none of my family members have experience in music, so they didn’t really know much about it. They couldn’t give much more than moral support.”

Continuing on the idea of growing up, the rapper born Clifford Harris explains how the concept of the song ‘Rubber Band Man’ from ‘Trap Musik’ came about: “I used to wear rubber bands on my wrist. It was a habit from comin’ out of hustlin’, that’s just what some of us used to do. I kept doing it in the industry and people used to always ask me why, so I made a song out of it.” He adds that the rubber bands “definitely represent the struggle”.

It was this struggle that led T.I. into drugs, and the young rapper found himself in even hotter water after violating the terms of his probation for a 1998 drug conviction. He was last year sentenced to three years in prison, but was released after just a few months. He says, “I don’t think being in prison has affected my music in any way. I think I’m making the same kind of music as I would have made if that never happened, aside from a couple of songs that just really lit a fuse and motivated me to really find the best of myself.” He continues, “As a person, it’s made me want to exercise better judgement.”

So it’s here we come to the present time in the life story of T.I. Out of prison and with a third album released, the 24-year old looks to be finally receiving real acknowledgment. Unlike his previous record, ‘Trap Musik’, which featured tracks aimed mainly at those in the ‘trap’ – a name given to the ghettos, with ‘Urban Legend’ T.I. aims to appeal to a more mainstream audience. He says, “I think [‘Urban Legend’] is more diverse. There’s different types of music on there. Rather than just trap music, rather than just ghetto Southern rap music, it’s all types of stuff.” T.I. has previously admitted dumbing down some of his lyrics in order to appeal to a wider range of people. However, he says he does not think this is conceding his principles: “I am what I am and I can’t change that – that will never be compromised. I’m just adjusting to the ways of the industry.”

The title ‘Trap Musik’ clearly links back to the idea of the struggle, but with ‘Urban Legend’, it is a different story: “[An urban legend] is something you hear about. You know, you may hear about it so much that you believe it to be true, but it isn’t. There’s a lot of things which were said about me that are not true… like when I was arrested and people were saying I was gon’ do this much time and that much time; those were just things people say.” He continues, “But to say that I’m not true, I don’t think that’s even possible. Everything what most of these kids are rapping about, I’ve done it – aside from get shot, thank the Lord. People just fix their mouths to say anything.”

Going back to boastful claims for a second, and T.I. has been known to call himself ‘King of the South’ a fair few times, which have in turn led to beef with Houston’s Lil’ Flip, who once reportedly said he himself was ‘King of the South’. On the topic of Lil’ Flip, T.I. says, “That doesn’t even register. It’s not even worthy of commenting on. I don’t acknowledge it. At all. Period.” Another beef T.I. has been involved in was the brief one between him and Ludacris. This stemmed from an incident where T.I. believed Luda had someone wearing a ‘Trap Muzik’ T-Shirt in a video being beaten up. This was then classed as a misunderstanding whereby the person was actually wearing a ‘Trap Wear’ T-Shirt and the pair agreed to put it behind them. However, somebody recently bought the domain Ludacris.com and had it forwarded to T.I.’s official TrapMusik.com website, so anyone who visited what they believed was Luda’s site, ended up on T.I.’s. News quickly spread around the Net but he says he personally had nothing to do with it: “Those are games, and I don’t play games. Those kinds of things, they’re not my style.”

Away from controversy, T.I. states who – besides himself of course – he rates in the industry: “I like all the greats – Big, Pac, Jay, Em, NWA, OutKast, Scarface, UGK.” Another arguably ‘great’ in the game today is Jay-Z, and he is one of the people T.I. has been getting involved with recently. On the first single from ‘Urban Legend’, ‘Bring ‘Em Out’, included is a Jay-Z snippet from ‘What More Can I Say?’. On top of that, T.I. has signed up to model the new S. Carter Reeboks. “In ‘Bring ‘Em Out’, that was Swizz Beats who put him in, but the sneakers, while I was incarcerated Steve from Reebok got with me and told me that Jay was interested in having me endorse the sneakers and it was my pleasure.”

Besides business ventures and making hot music, T.I. has fathered four children and, unlike many young dads, he actively participates in the upbringing of them all. He says, “[I] just separate business from home life.” When asked if he gets to see his children a lot, he answers, “Not as often as I’d like to; probably about a week or two out of a month.” Possessing sexy, cute looks, it is no wonder that T.I. attracts plenty of female attention. “That’s my mom and pops doin it; I take no credit,” he laughs. He is currently in a relationship with Tameka "Tiny" Cottle from the girl group Xscape, which he says is “coming onto three years”. Talking about how he handles groupies while in a relationship, he says, “You tell them you appreciate it but… thank you but no thank you.”

So what is T.I. looking towards in the future? He has his own label, Grand Hustle, and says, “The P$C’s [Pimp Squad Clique] project will be out this spring.” He is still carrying on with a construction project in conjunction with his uncle: “We basically buy run-down properties in vacant lots and renovate them.” He says we can expect “more music” and “just progression” from him, and says this about his next single, ‘U Don’t Know Me’: “I think [the video] will do well because the people asked for it. The public was requesting it.” Ladies and hip-hop heads alike can breathe a sigh of relief as when asked if he has any plans to come to London and the UK, he says, “Yeah, soon as I can.”

T.I.’s latest single, ‘Bring ‘Em Out’ is out now, as is the album ‘Urban Legend’. Visit his official website for more information: http://www.trapmuzik.com

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