T.I. conducted by Bayer L. Mack  

T.I.: Return Of The King

October 2004

I'm sitting in a parking lot trying to make sense of the scribbled notes in my lap. They're from an interview I did earlier with some "new" artist on Atlantic. It's one of those interviews you do for your "friend" at the label in order to get a big fish later. Don't get me wrong; he was a real cool brotha. Our conversation was broad. It shifted from his desire to be recognized outside the South, to his relationship with his late father and baby mama. As I sift through my chicken scratch, a song comes on the radio. Instinctively, I begin to nod to the track's infectious hook and hard driving beat. I like it. Then it dawns on me. The song on the radio is by this same guy. I think to myself, "This could be big."

That was August 22, 2003. The song was "24's." The artist was T.I. The rest is history.

Fourteen months, four days and over a million albums later, the self-proclaimed King of the South is calling again. He's gotten the acceptance and recognition he so desired. However, true to the immortal words of the Notorious B.I.G., mo' money brings mo' problems, jealousy and envy. In March of this year, T.I. was incarcerated because of various open court cases. It was during this time that another popular southern rapper, Lil' Flip, reportedly began "bad mouthing" him over his "King of the South" claims which launched a much publicized feud that has yet to be officially squashed.

Still, through it all Clifford Harris has been hustling. The rapper continued to record new material and release hit single after hit single. He even filmed a video in jail. That's what you call being on the grind.

On November 30th, the saga will continue with the release of Urban Legend, T.I.'s much-anticipated follow up to Trap Muzik. Haters better mark that date on their calendar because the rubber band man is coming for that a**.

MVRemix: Okay, let's get these hardball questions out of the way first. You're legal troubles made headlines earlier this year. What's the current situation?

T.I.: I handled it. Basically, as long as I stay out of trouble, I'm straight.

MVRemix: Do you feel like people intentionally try to get at you sideways to start something?

T.I.: I've dealt with that as long as I've been in the game. Like Jay-Z said, 'It's a full time job not to kill n***as.'

MVRemix: Why did Lil' Flip's comments get you so upset?

T.I.: Anytime someone speak on me and don't know me, that [is upsetting]. I don't speak on no other man. I live and die by respect. I've heard comments about Flip and his lyrical ability for a long time, but I didn't speak on it. I wasn't raised like that. Plus, why [Flip] wait until I go to jail before he say something?

MVRemix: Well, you dropped that lethal mixtape on him so hopefully it's water under the bridge. Let's switch gears. What's on the horizon for Grand Hu$tle?

T.I.: P$C. That's the Pimp Squad Committee. They'll be in action next year.

MVRemix: Are they coming through Atlantic or...

T.I.: Nah.... they're going to be on Grand Hu$tle all the way. We're being distributed through Asylum. That's another one of the small labels in the Warner Music Group.

MVRemix: When did you record Urban Legend?

T.I.: I've been recording the entire time. This is what I do. I'm recording the third album right now.

MVRemix: Trap Muzik had everything. You had beats from hot producers like Jazze Pha and David Banner. What's the biggest difference between that album and the new joint?

T.I.: I got Jazze Pha and David Banner on this album too. I got Scott Storch ("Lean Back") and the Neptunes. Diversity.... that's the major difference.

MVRemix: Releasing four music videos is unheard of for a rap artist nowadays. Do you think you could have still worked Trap Muzik?

T.I.: I feel you. Yeah, I could have released eight singles from that album. See, my deal with Atlantic is 50/50. I'm in control of my budget. I spent the same amount on four music videos as some people spend on one. I made the "24's" video for about seventy-five to eighty thousand dollars instead of $200,000. "Be Easy" cost about $170,000 where most people spend $300,000 or more on a second video.

MVRemix: Lots of rappers claim to be the CEO and running their company, but you actually seem to be pretty hands on with Grand Hu$tle.

T.I.: Hell, why wouldn't I be? If you in the game to make money, you got to handle yours. Every time we did a video, we looked at how many records we'd already sold and how doing another video would [affect that]. You can't make money if you waste money.

MVRemix: Okay, I want you to finish the next four statements about Urban Legend. Ready?

T.I.: Let's do it.

MVRemix: If I liked "24's," I'll love...

T.I.: If you liked "24's," you'll love "Countdown" because it's letting haters know I'm coming for them.

MVRemix: If I liked "Be Easy," I'll love...

T.I.: Hmm.... I'm trying to think of something that musical.

MVRemix: That's right, because you had those organs going.

T.I.: Yeah.... if you liked "Be Easy," you'll love.... I'd probably say "Stand Up."

MVRemix: Okay, if I liked "Rubber Band Man," I'll love...

T.I.: "ASAP," just like on "Countdown" I'm letting them haters know I'm coming for them and they have a short amount of time. They better get it together "ASAP" -- as soon as possible.

MVRemix: Last one, if I liked "Let's Get Away," I'll love...

T.I.: "Freakdom" produced by the Neptunes and "Chillin Wit My B***h" produced by Scott Storch.

MVRemix: Urban Legend drops November 30th. How do you defeat the bootleg man? Or is there even a way to?

T.I.: Technology is technology. Nah.... you can't stop em, but me.... I'm gonna hit the warehouse. I hit a bootlegger on the street. They be like, hey it ain't me. I'm just the little man. Then I be like take me to the big man and they do.

MVRemix: You've actually done that before?

T.I.: I'm notorious in Atlanta for that sh*t. Ask the bootleggers down here about T.I. I'm worst than the task force and the narcs. We done had cases. We've had shootouts and fistfights. You ain't gonna steal from me.

MVRemix: If you were a football or basketball player, probably football because you're from Georgia...

T.I.: Nah, I like basketball too, but I'm football man, yeah.

MVRemix: Okay, if you were a football player, who would you be? Who would your skills as a rapper most equate with?

T.I.: Damn.... that's a hard question because there's so many. I'm gonna give you two on offense and two on defense. On offense I'd say [Hall of Fame running back] Barry Sanders and [Atlanta Falcons quarterback] Michael Vick. Barry was just graceful. No matter how good he was at his game [critics] never wanted to give him that spot of being the best. Like me saying I'm the King of the South. It's like to say 'I am' is to say [someone else] ain't. With Mike Vick, the league was used to doing things a certain way, but he had his own intentions.

MVRemix: Do you ever run into Michael Vick down there in Atlanta?

T.I.: Yeah.... we cool as hell. We hang out all the time. We hit the clubs. Me and [former Atlanta running back] Jamal Anderson is real cool too. We went to school together.

MVRemix: Okay.... here's my last question.

T.I.: I didn't tell you my defensive players.

MVRemix: That's right. Who would you be on defense?

T.I.: They both on the [Baltimore Ravens]: Dion Sanders and Ray Lewis. Dion because he so arrogant and cocky, like me, but you can't say nothing because he back it up. Ray Lewis is just intimidating.

MVRemix: As king of the south, what does the Dirty have to do to stay on top?

T.I.: We got to keep on making hits.... period. Right now the South has to maintain and keep it's game up.

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