TIp 'T.I.' Harris
Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. was born in Atlanta on September 25, 1980. The precocious poet began rhyming over beats at about the age of nine and signed a record deal with a major label while still in is teens. After trying out a variety of colorful nicknames such as 'King of the South,' 'Rubberband Man,' and 'Tip,' the talented gangster rapper eventually settled on the simple sobriquet 'T.I.' During his meteoric rise, he's recorded four CDs, won both BET and Vibe Awards, and had each of his albums hit the top of the hip-hop charts.
Spreading his love has left T.I. the proud father of four children (Messiah YaMajesty, Domani Uriah, Deyjah, and King) from three different women. Lately, the seemingly incurable ladies man seems to have settled down with Tameka 'Tiny' Cottle of the Georgia girl group Xscape.
No stranger to controversy, T.I. has cultivated considerable street cred courtesy of a drug conviction which led to a three-year sentence and incarceration. Post parole, another plus has been his highly-publicized feuds with fellow rappers like Lil' Flip, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Lil' Wayne, thus far only a war of words which threatens to escalate into an all out turf war over who is truly hip-hop's 'King of the South.'
Making his feature film debut in ATL, T.I. adds acting to his repertoire. Here, he shares his thoughts about his career, about making a movie in his hometown, and about his use of profanity in his rap songs.
The ATL Interview with Kam Williams
Kam Williams (KW): You have a lot of names. How do you like to be addressed, as T.I.?
TIp 'T.I.' Harris (TI): Nah, I'm still Tip. Anybody who knows me, knows me as Tip. T.I. is a professional name.
KW: Okay, hey, Tip, thanks for the interview.
TI: Alright, no problem.
KW: What made you decide to try acting?
TI: Just an interest in the upper echelon of entertainment. The opportunity was very, very, very' I guess intriguing would be the proper term.
KW: and how was it filming it in your hometown?
TI: That was just the icing on the cake. I felt obligated to be involved with the film being that it was the most honest depiction of my city, my culture, and the people in it. It's the most honest representation of 'em, so I felt kind of obligated. You know what I'm saying?
KW: Yep. Is it true that the story is based on the life of TLC's T-Boz and producer Dallas Austin?
TI: T-Boz is where it started, as well as Dallas, but I think everybody put a piece of themselves into the story. [Director] Chris Robinson added a piece of his life. I added some of my experiences, and so did [co-stars] Big Boi, Lauren London, and Jackie Long. Everybody put a piece of they self into it.
KW: Did you find acting to be a whole new thing after entertaining as a rapper?
TI: The demands and expectations of the industries are different.
KW: How was it on the set?
TI: Everybody got along real well, man, and were real supportive of one another.
KW: What did you think of your co-star Lauren London's performance in this film?
TI: I think she's extremely talented, and has a lot of potential. She's one of the hottest new actresses to come along in a long time.
KW: What type of message do you think people will come away with from ATL?
TI: Just that there are positive people in urban areas, and that it's not all bad.
KW: How did you come to start rapping at such an early age?
TI: It was just significant to my culture. And my uncles were into it, and it impressed them. So, I kept doing it, and the more I did it, the better I got.
KW: Do you write most of your songs?
TI: All of 'em.
KW: Where do you get your inspiration?
TI: From life, life experiences.
KW: How do you respond to people who don't like your use of curse words and the N-word?
TI: I'm sorry. I don't mean to disrespect anybody. I'm not intentionally trying to alienate anybody, but the ability to relate is key to reaching the people I'm trying to reach, and to get the message across. That's the determining factor. If you can't relate to the people you're trying to move, then you're not going to be able to motivate them to do better. If you use a curse word in the process but make good become of that, then that's more important, as long as the good outweighs the bad. Saying the N-word enables me to be able to go into the 'hood and give back, and to help build houses for underprivileged families. Saying cuss words is the reason why I can go in the street in any neighborhood in this country and say, 'Hey, man, you need to be in school.' And nine times out of ten, they're gone say, 'You know what, man? If T.I. says it, it's probably right.' If you say that's negative, you're entitled to your opinion, but that's what gives me that influence, and I feel otherwise.
KW: I did read that you have a construction company, called New Finish. Tell me about it.
TI: We renovate as well as totally construct homes and sell them.
KW: Who came up with that idea?
TI: My Uncle, Quinton.
KW: What do you consider your big break?
TI: When I was 19, I was signed by LaFace Records. That record didn't do so well, so I asked to be released. They let me go, and then I hit the streets and had to grind it really hard till I got the attention of Atlantic Records and inked a joint venture deal with them and been working hard ever since.
KW: Do you like Cristal champagne like most rappers?
TI: Nah, I don't really dig champagne. I like wine, red wine. I like Opus One cabernet.
KW: Good taste. Are you going to move to Hollywood, now that you're making movies?
TI: I may have to secure some land out there, since I may be out there a tad more often, in order to maximize all of my opportunities. But I'm still gonna keep my house and live in Atlanta.
KW: Have you ever been to Princeton, which is where I'm located?
TI: No, I been to New Jersey several times, but never to Princeton.
KW: You had a song on Hustle & Flow.
TI: Actually, the whole soundtrack was released on my label.
KW: Wow, did you get an Oscar for that?
TI: Nah, I was just associated with it. Triple 6 [Three 6 Mafia] actually performed the song. It was already done before I signed on to do the soundtrack.
KW: How'd you feel when they won?
TI: Oh, I was proud. I was just as proud as I could be, man. I think it was very well-deserved. They've been working hard for a long time, and they're definitely some heavy hitters and some key players in this game.
KW: If you were, say, to do a romantic comedy next, what actress would you like to be paired with?
TI: There are several. You got Gabrielle Union, Nia Long, Eve' Let me see, who else?
KW: I heard that Eve is dating the son of the President of Guinea. Think she might give up rap and acting?
TI: [Laughs] No, I know Eve. She's not giving it up. It's in her heart.
KW: Who else is among your show-biz friends?
TI: Everybody from Jamie Foxx to Mike Epps to Denzel [Washington] and Will [Smith] to Anthony Anderson. And of course Puffy, Jay-Z, Nelly, you know.
Andre 3000' and Big Boi, naturally. Chris Tucker is a good partner of mine.
He's something else.
KW: What do you watch on TV when you're relaxing?
TI: I watch The Sopranos, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Friends, Seinfeld' I watch Family Guy, I like that' Boondocks' and all kinds of movies, gangsta pictures and comedies as much as I can.
KW: Is there a question you always wish somebody would ask you, but they never ask? I could ask you now.
TI: Nah, you pretty much covered everything.
KW: Well, thanks again for the time, bro, and I hope to get another interview with you down the line.
TI: Yes, sir.
KW: Continued success.
TI: Cool, homey, thank you.
ATL - Movie Review
Tip ’T.I.’ Harris - The ’Takers’ Interview (2010)