The HHNLive.com Interview: T.I. Part 1June 12, 2007 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Found At Other Sites, Interviews | Leave a comment
As a young teen in Atlanta, T.I. already knew that music was going to be the thing that would take him from Bankhead to Hollywood. Few anticipated that he would also become one of the hottest and biggest selling young artists to ever come out of the South. T.I. became an icon for success in rap music last year 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.
All of the success hasn’t gone to the head of T.I. who is making it apparent that he’s not afraid of switching his style up, especially with his latest album, TI vs. TIP, which is said to exhibit the every day tension between his two personas. HHNLive.com writer Aaron Frank sits down for an in-depth chat with the self proclaimed “King of the south” T.I. In part 1 of this 2-part feature, T.I. discusses the deep ties of his PSC crew, the launch of Grand Hustle, his film aspirations, giving back to the community and much more.
AF: When did you originally shorten your name to T.I. and what was the reason behind that?
T.I.: We changed the name right before I’m Serious came out and that was because Q-Tip was on Arista at the time and two TIP’s on one label would have been kind of confusing.
AF: What all was going on with your career at that time and do you feel like you became more dedicated around then?
T.I.: Sure I did. I think I developed a whole ‘nother level of playing field for myself as an artist.
AF: How did the whole situation with PSC first start out?
TI: PSC is something that isn’t just in music, man. That’s for life, you know. Those have been my homeboys since 14, 15, 16 years old, so that comes far before the music. I had been doing demos since I was 11 or 12, but I didn’t meet them until I was 14 or 15, but at the same time I met them, I stopped doing music. I was doing it here and there, but I wasn’t pursuing it like I was when I found an outlet to do other things. When we connected, we bonded as a family first and then after that we went back and made “I Miss My Homeboys.” After that was when we really started rapping again and then we stopped again after my partner Cap went to jail. My cousin introduced me to Toomp who introduced me to Jason Geter and that’s when I started back making music around the time I was about 17 or 18.
AF: When did you decide that you wanted to get the whole Grand Hustle movement started?
TI: That was just us acting as an independent record company due to lack of support from major labels and the label (Arista) from my first album. We just figured that if we were going to act as an independent label, then we should get the credit for being independent. So, part of being an independent label is just developing a name and building a brand. Jason’s management company was called Grand Hustle and I liked that name, so I was just like let’s go with that.
AF: If you could’ve done it again, would you have just started Grand Hustle before you signed to Arista?
TI: Well, that’s just the approach that I saw fit to go with at the time, but I was fortunate enough to be able to reapply my knowledge to the market after I got myself off of Arista. I learned everything that I had to learn from being on a major, so I was able to apply some of those things to the underground and still utilize the same relationships and resources. But I was able to do it for myself instead of doing it for a conglomerate that’s going to get all of the credit for it. At that point, I understood what it meant to be on a major label and to own your own company and get profit shares and have a joint venture. I knew that was where the money and the value was for real and you could actually get equity from the work that you put out.
AF: You started pretty early with the mixtapes compared to other artists in the South, so what did you originally think about the whole idea of the In Da Streetz series with Drama?
TI: I saw how well it worked for 50 and I figured that was just a way to get your numbers up, you know. You create a demand and the best way to create a demand is to serve the people ourselves with new product, not waiting on a deal and for a label to put something out. You gotta put that shit out there and let it affect the market as necessary. I was fortunate enough to get it in.
AF: As far as the content in your music, has anything changed and what can we expect on T.I. vs. T.I.P?
TI: It’s goin hard. It’s definitely one of the best albums ever made and I think it’s going to be the album of the millennium. I don’t think there’s been a hotter album than this in about 10 years. You know, you’re gonna have to go to Life After Death, Ready To Die, All Eyez On Me, Reasonable Doubt. You’re gonna have to back to Straight Outta Compton, Southernplayalistic, Aquemini. You’re gonna have to go back a while.
AF: Yeah, from what I’ve heard, it sounds like it’s going to be up there. I’ve heard the two singles and the iTunes sampler.
TI: Yeah, “My Swag” and “We Do This” are definitely 3rd single contenders, but there’s still a hell of a lot of shit that they didn’t play.
AF: Why wasn’t Toomp featured on any of the production on this album?
TI: Me and Toomp didn’t find enough time to be able to work with one another. I don’t know, I think every time his manager spoke to my manager, all the other stuff kept getting in the way and we didn’t get the chance to vibe like we needed to.
AF: Do you think it’s going to be an album that’s ahead of it’s time or is it going to just hit you hard from the beginning?
TI: Nah, it’s gonna hit you the first time you hear it. It’s a wild ride, man. If you just sit yourself down and listen to this album from top to bottom, it’s a wild ride. I’m happy it’s coming out on July 3rd, so when everybody get it, it’ll be 4th of July. So, it’s going to be the soundtrack to every cookout and barbecue and if they don’t have it, you need to pack your shit and hit the door, because there got to be a hotter barbecue.
AF: Out of all the different albums and mixtapes you’ve put out, which songs do you feel like are most representative of the T.I. side of your personality?
TI: Pussy Popper Number One, Let’s Get Away, I Can’t Be Your Man, Why You Wanna, Live In The Sky, Get Loose, Stand Up Guy, My Love, I’m A Flirt, Be Better Than Me, Why You Mad At Me, Just Doin My Job, Do It Baby, Meet Me At the Hotel. Those are all I can remember off of the top of my head.
AF: What type of business ventures will be able to expect from T.I. in the future? What can we expect from the movies that you’re putting out soon?
TI: Grand Hustle Films. We producing a film called For Sale. We finished the script and we’re just going after directors right now. We’re gonna be casting after that and it’s just set in the world of car dealerships in Atlanta. There’s a lot of those in Atlanta because it’s a place where you gotta have a car. Our transit system isn’t elaborate like New York. It ain’t to the point where you can ride the bus and still get to all of the places that you need to get to in a days time. So, therefore everybody can’t afford it or has the credit to just go and get a new Benz or even a Ford for that matter. So, for that very reason, you have tons of “Buy Here, Pay Here” types of places. It’s a whole hustle in itself and with that whole world, we’ve just found it easy to find humor in it. We’ve also got a film called Once Was Lost that I’m producing and starring in with Danny Glover. We’re going to start production on that in late October.
AF: You don’t hear a lot about the good things that rappers are doing, especially within the media. Everybody knows you’re involved with a lot of charitable organizations in Atlanta, so do you all have anything in particular going on right now?
TI: Yeah, we’ve got the KING Foundation going on in Atlanta. That’s Kids In Need of Giving and I work hands-on with a lot of different young black males, mostly pre-teens and teenagers. I work with them very closely and I’m working with Boys and Girls Club, Single Parent Initiative, It’s Cool To Be Smart, Make-A-Wish. I work alongside these organizations and we’re trying to get as much as possible done to spread that positive message and display a positive image to the youth.
AF: What is T.I.’s favorite thing to do outside of the music business?
TI: Just spending time with my family, traveling, and golf. I like to go to the clubs and throw money up and all that too though.