Tuesday, April 15, 2008
T.I. sits down with the AJC for his first official interview (still can't talk about the case...)
I wanted to post the interview that the AJC had with T.I. late last week for those that haven't seen it. He's amassed much humility that I pray he'll fight to keep. I love this guy, always have. Very very proud. Read below:
T.I.: 'I know I brought it on myself'
By SONIA MURRAY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Late Thursday afternoon Atlanta rapper-actor T.I. granted his first sit-down interview since the convicted felon was arrested for, and pled guilty to, three firearms charges last month.
T.I. has admitted he bought the machine guns and silencers, has 1,000-plus hours of community service to complete, and has been sentenced to an expected 366 days in prison in March 2009. And while the events of Oct. 13, 2007, were off limits, the 27-year-old born Clifford Harris Jr. talked openly about a number of things: from the son he's expecting to the 24 hours before his life changed.
Here are excerpts from the 30-plus minute conversation the AJC had with him at the Villages at Carver YMCA, right after he spoke to a handful of aspiring teen producers at a FOR ME Inc. workshop:
Q. Who is T.I. — or Clifford Harris, Jr., now?
A. It's hard to say because a lot of things are the same and a lot of things have changed. I still have a huge amount of passion for what I do. I still have a huge amount of passion for doing what I can for the community. I still have my foundation — remembering where I came from and principles that have been instilled in me. But at the same time I also have an acknowledgement of things that need to be left behind, let go. And also an acknowledgment that there has to be an about-face. A 180-degree turn, in order for us to continue on the path to success.
Q. Do you feel lucky?
A. I feel blessed. Lucky ain't the word. It's by the grace of God that I'm here.
Q. People don't hear you talking about God on record or in person.
A. When you do the amount of praying that anybody in a situation similar to mine spends the time doing, and for that prayer to work, and for you to have other people praying for you to get through the situation - or to see the situation beginning to look up — and not acknowledge that's what helped the situation, I think that's blasphemous.
Q. You probably did more praying between October and last month than maybe you ever have, huh?
A. Nah, nah, I can't say that. I've always [drifts off] situations tend to arise and prayer tends to give the strength to get through it. I've always recognized that I'm blessed to be here. I've said that in my music — plenty of times. So may different outcomes could have been mine... God shows me favor for some reason or another.
Q.What have you learned bout yourself, being on house arrest for months?
A. Patience. Just a lot of patience. If I can sit at home all day and wait on people to bring me what I need. Wait on getting permission to be able to do this and do that it's not as serious as I used to make it sometimes. Sometimes it was like, 'If I don't get this right now I'm just going to lose it'...When you're going 350 mph it tends to be that way. But when you are stopped — halted — not slowed down, but halted, you figure 'Well I could have just slowed down. I didn't have to be stopped.' I thought it was bad just to slow down. Now I see in me being stopped, I could have done this, been this, myself, instead of being forced to do it.
Q. Going back to that day you pled guilty, that night you went out to Ruth's Chris (restaurant). Is that what you missed having to stay home?
A. I mean just the ability to do me. Whether it was going to eat with my family. Whether it was having my family to be able to come eat with me. Whether it was going to the grocery store for myself. Picking my kids up from school. Taking my kids to the movies and to basketball practice. Going to the studio. Handling my business at the office as I need to. Whatever doing me was.
Q. MTV was there that night too. Are they doing something on you?
A. Well, there is some documentation being done. We're actually in the middle of negotiating exactly what it would take to be able to have that type of access to my life. But I think it's something that needs to be out there on a broad spectrum.
A. The message that I'm trying to get out. How much work that I have to do in the time that I have to do it in. All of this, I think, needs to be known. And that's a way to deliver the same message that I just delivered to those 15, 20, 30 kids, to the nation. They'll sit in front of the TV — even if I can't make it to their school; or if I can't make it to their Y.
Q. Do you feel like at this point in your life, 'OK I need to be closer to my family. Spend more time there. Or like, 'Businesswise, I need to really get as much as I can'?
A. All of the above. They both take high priority. Absolutely.
Q. OK then, speaking of business, this week the news broke that you're finalizing a deal for this movie 'Heist'.
Q. You talk about separating entertainment versus reality in your speeches, but is there any concern that your next movie is about a bank robbery considering your situation?
A. I didn't write the movie. I'm hired to do a job. I'm an actor. This is a role that the studio came to me and asked me to do [before his arrest].
Q. Are there any other projects in the pipeline — besides [his CD] "Paper Trail" in September?
A. Akoo Clothing will launch the holidays of this year. Of course we're premiering Big Kuntry's album [in August] and Young Dro. We have other television shows [about comedians] .Also we have a Young Dro reality show. You follow this guy around long enough you're bound to be entertained, at the least.
And with my project, I'm still working.
Q. Is this going to sound like T.I. as your fans have heard you?
A. There are elements that are still there And then there are new elements... But right now I think I'm about to something with (retro soul vocalist) Amy Winehouse — I don't know if it's for [my CD] or hers, but I'm definitely excited. [He added that he plans to have a new single on streetcred.com in the next two weeks].
Q. Last business thing — have you lost business since the arrest?
A. Of course. You can't be expected to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are there for you if you can't even leave your house.
Q. You had a very prominent car endorsement deal.
A. Sure. GM.
Q. Is that still in effect?
A. Nah GM had to back up off of me. There are films that I missed out on. Not speaking of, of course, shows. Tours. Tons of business. I've probably lost about $10 to $12 million dollars.
Q. And you smile after saying that.
A. [Laughs harder] Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying. But you know, I'm blessed to be able to be out here to make $10 to $12 [million] more. Especially considering I brought this all on myself. So you know — minimal injury. Maximum lesson learned.
Q. On to the personal, you're engaged right?
A. Yeah [to longtime on-and-off girlfriend, Grammy winner Tameka "Tiny" Cottle].
Q. Plan to get married any time soon?
A. As far as a date, I'm not setting a date because then it's going to turn into a lot of fanfare. No relationship needs all that. It's more hazard than help... And you know today, as entertainers, as public figures, there's enough strain on a relationship as it is. I think that's a private moment for us and our families.
Q. Another family thing, you have a son on the way. When is he due?
A. May 25.
Q. What kind of dad are you? Are you a disciplinarian?
Q. You spank your kids.
Q. Well what about them being able to say, 'Not only have you talked about guns or whatever on record, daddy, but in real life you've done those things too?'
A. If they say something like that I'm prepared to deal with it: 'I also had to pay the price, for all of the things that I did. And you're going to pay the price for what you just did. Come see me.' "
Q. While, understood, you can't discuss the arrest and all of that. Can you say what the scariest day of your life was? Was it when [his close friend and assistant] Philant was killed next to you? Or...
A. I've had bullets whiz by me before then. The scariest day?...Hmm. I mean, this past situation ranks high up there. The night of the awards ranks very high up there on the list.
Q. Professionally, what did the night of the BET Hip-Hop Awards (Oct. 13) mean for you? You were the top nominee. It was happening in your city. That should have been a great day.
A. It was sort of like a, well, you remember the [last] Super Bowl, right? You know Jeremy Shockey? He broke his leg. He had to sit up in the press box and watch. He couldn't help his team win. He couldn't play. The greatest, most talked-about, most publicized Super Bowl in our time and he's sitting watching; instead of actually being able to participate. Terrible... And I know, I know, I brought it on myself."
Q. Do you remember Oct. 12, 2007 — that Friday before?
A. We had a very good time. We were living life, man— partying. Celebrating. Celebrating success. Being hot. Being hot, working hard... I was at [adult entertainment club] 24K. Then I went to Onyx [another adult entertainment club]. Then I went to [the nightclub] Velvet Room. We were a lot of different places. We had our own little thing we were doing too — a private, members-only party. I actually rolled out of bed from there and went to [the BET] rehearsal. And never made it back.
Q. Sounds like you were having a really good time before...
A. "I was. [Smiles] I was... But I think my future's brighter than my past. Still."
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