Originally Written Jun 18, 2014
I must give the disclaimer I guess. T.I. is my favorite rapper and as far as I’m concerned, the most versatile rapper of all the major southern rappers. Therefore, If you get the feel of a “fans perspective” from this, then you’re absolutely correct.
When I first stumbled across the young barefaced nigga, I was in a homie’s car. We all decided to get out of Philly so I was deciding between ATL or Miami. One of my partners chose ATL and I went to visit to scope out the scene. It was 2002 and he was playing T.I.’s “I’m Serious” album and I recall saying “Who is this? This nigga is country as fuck but he’s kinda aight.” He replied it was T.I. and a local rapper who was bubbling. I didn’t think nothing of it, I wasn’t even close to being interested in the music business at the time, I was a street nigga trying not to catch a charge. You know, beat the system. Furthest thing from my mind was finding out who this dude was, becoming a fan, etc etc.
The next time I’m exposed to T.I.’s music I had already moved to Miami, by this time I was throwing parties on South Beach. One Monday after another successful event and my sleep til 4pm routine I wake up to a Bone Crusher video on my tv. I was about to turn it, but it was catchy & lo and behold it’s T.I. on the 3rd verse. A verse he absolutely murdered not only in delivery but as well as in the video. I immediately thought “This dude is going to be MAJOR”. I then started looking for his music and Trap Muzik was my first personal listen. He was like the country cousin to Beanie Sigel the way he painted pictures so vividly via his spoken delivery. His album encompassed everything and the song that won me over was “I Still Love You” where he owned up to all his mistakes and apologized as a man. A soul bearing ode to everyone he loved. For most casual fans of music, they want something they can blast in their honda’s or dance to in the club. A more in-depth fan wants that record that connects with them. If you look at all the greats, they have such a record, quite possibly many.
I was on a mission, I turned all my friends, all my girlfriends at the time, everyone I knew, into a T.I. fan. It had to happen. His streak of great music and features continued: Urban Legeng, King, T.I. vs. TIP (Debatable), Paper Trail.. however in the midst of it all, he had run-ins with the law, unfortunate incidents that put him in a bad space mentally, yet understandably so for the latter half of the issue.
Lets be clear, Jail time derailed T.I. and quite frankly he never regained the momentum he once had. I somewhat gained a working relationship with Tip in 2009 via Yung LA. I wasn’t sold on the kid, but it’s my favorite artists, artist and If I can help I will. I was set to handle the marketing for the kid and he just didn’t get it. His music wasn’t amazing and he was even dumber. T.I. goes to prison and Yung LA true colors shine even brighter. All I could think was “There may not be a Grand Hustle when T.I. gets home” because granted, Yung LA was Young Dro’s artist in a way and when LA is talking his shit, you feel like T.I. would take it that Dro don’t give a fuck how he should. Which anyone could argue, but at the end of the day, T.I. went to jail for shit T.I. did and if he wasn’t in jail he could have properly run things how they should have been.
T.I. gets hit with the federal gun charges in his prime. He was SO smoking hot that label execs were working every avenue they had, putting up homes as collateral just for his freedom or at least so they could wrap up projects that needed to be wrapped up… No matter how you look at it, it was 2 freight trains on the same track headed towards each other. The rising superstar that no one could stop, who was very relative to the streets & the same guy you could put a suit on and sell to corporate America. The sky wasn’t even the limit for T.I. him at his best, is what any label exec, any brand, and even any fan of music would want. Yet, he blew it. He had the do first, think after moment than some of us have when we are from the environment we come from, and T.I.’s has cost him dearly. When you listen to ‘Dead & Gone’ Featuring Justin Timberlake he even talks about how if he would have used his brain at crucial moments he wouldn’t have lost his friend. I wont dwell on that because that may be something that haunts him to this day. However, everything else, even up to yesterday’s reaction to Azaleia Banks (who has been baiting for awhile) could have used more critical thinking. One who’s 100 steps a head, less time on irrelevancy, more time on longevity.
So So Def died a long time ago and in their decline, T.I. has become the face of Atlanta. The ruler of Zamunda, while Young Dro is highly underrated, and Doe B passed before his time. T.I. hasn’t played the role he should have as far as bringing out local talent. He should be the outlet of ATL rappers. Not really sure how a Future slip by you, and now there’s this Young Thug artist who is making a ton of noise that slipped by, there’s other dope artists in the city just bubbling. T.I. has to realize, while he still have many good rap years ahead of him, it’s also time to start creating that Hustle Gang/Grand Hustle legacy.. how So So Def did.. take someone, develop that guy, put a real good team together, slap a billboard up alongside a highway. Less sideshow shit like fighting Mayweather, More King shit. Get your kingdom in order. Your personal one and your business one.
If you listen to all the new music Hustle Gang has put out, you’d be hard pressed to say “It’s trash” the problem is, you can’t focus or no one else is focused on it because T.I. isn’t focused on it. Just like I think his VH1 #AskTi is a bad idea, because hardly anyone will ask about music. They care about the messy shit. There’s too much shit he’s making the digital news for, and at this point his legacy can’t afford it.
At the end of the day I’m a fan of the music and the person who shared some parallel struggles with me. The person who wants to do right, but at times get it wrong. We’re all human, but there’s the “ok, you know what, I can see myself doing that” mistake.. and the “WTF are you thinking” mistake. T.I. need to make less of the latter, get back to the enigmatic persona he was. The crazy shit about all of this, is he’s not a “created player” he’s a very authentic guy, so it’s not hard for him to be who he is, what’s so bothersome is how he let shit take him away from being who he is. I will never know the pressures of being a superstar. That’s not a lane I’m ever trying to get into, but you start to wonder if the crown is becoming an unbearable burden for one to bear