The self-proclaimed King of the South Clifford “T.I. Tip” Harris, is living up to that name by building his ever-growing empire. Since bouncing back from the federal weapons charges that once threatened his career, along with longevity in the forever-changing rap game, Tip just released his eighth studio album Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head. He’s also growing his clothing line Akoo, and shares his family life on the VH1 reality show T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle; all this amid a blossoming acting career. He mentioned a future movie role when he found time in his busy schedule to speak with us about Trouble Man, being real on reality TV, and his ideas regarding the gun control debates.
Rappersroom: With this new LP, Trouble Man, what was the main message you wanted fans to take from it?
T.I.: I really just wanted to have an album fans can appreciate. That’s as far as I look into it. Trying to make the best music that I could and deliver it in a way the fans can appreciate it.
Rappersroom: You recorded 120 songs for Trouble Man, and said there will be a sequel to release the cuts that didn’t make this album. How do you get inspiration for so much material?
T.I.: Life is my inspiration, my life experiences. When I get up, I still have a journey to try and be the best.
Rappersroom: Do your current songs reflect your current lifestyle, or are you drawing from previous experiences?
T.I.: (Laughs) All of the above.
Rappersroom: You’re an inspiration for many when it comes to taking care of your family. Is this because of how you were raised?
T.I.: I think it’s more how I wish I was raised. I try and provide a lifestyle that I always wanted.
Rappersroom: You have your own show The Family Hustle. Do you feel you need to act a certain way because of the cameras?
T.I.: Oh naw, naw. We don’t act a certain way just because the cameras are around. We just live our lives with or without the cameras being there.
Rappersroom: Speaking of reality TV, what’s your take on the Love & Hip-Hop franchises?
T.I.: I think it’s wonderful for Mona Scott who’s the television producer. I wish them nothing but the best, I tip my hat to them. It’s not what I would tune in to watch, but nonetheless, there’s a market for it. So whether I agree with it or not, I still have to acknowledge the success of it.
Rappersroom: Many celebs and musicians are attending the Inauguration. Will you be there at any of the events?
T.I.: No, not going. I went to the last one, I went to the first Inauguration. But I don’t think it’s a place for me to go hang out and party. I think it’s a place for a person with a purpose. I’m not going to a ball, my background won’t allow me to be cleared to appear at a Presidential Ball, so I’m going to stay put (laughs) and find me something else to do.
Rappersroom: Ok (laughs). Where do you stand on the gun control debates?
T.I.: I honestly do not agree with the idea of the notion that firearms should be banned, that second amendment rights should be taken away. I don’t agree with that, cause if you do that, you leave the guns in the hands of the people who are willing to break the law. Take the guns away from the law abiding citizens and only place them in the hands of criminals, eventually. Right now, I don’t have my second amendment rights, my right to bear arms has been taken away. But, if I choose right now to have a firearm, then that means I’m willing to break the law to have one. If today they say everybody has to turn in their firearm, you think I’m ‘gon turn mine in today because they say it’s legal? It’s still legal for me to have it, but now they just don’t want me to use it, and that’s only because of what happened. The people who have rights to have a firearm just for the purposes of protecting your house, they gon turn theirs in, so that means only the criminals will have firearms in the streets. I don’t believe in that. Like people who own small businesses. Like let’s say you own a small business in uptown New Orleans, or if you own a small business in Southside Chicago, if you own a little convenience store. It’s different to own a business in a very urban, poverty stricken area. Cause in and out of these buildings goes cash, you know, because you own a business. So that means if you close your business or open your business, they’ll be in and out of these areas, bagging money or having cash. And that means you’re a victim, and when you’re a victim, it ain’t like you’re gonna have an armed guard, you know what I’m saying, escorting you to and from your small business to protect your profits. You gon have to have something that can protect you. And if they take away your right to bear arms, then that means you’re just gonna be a victim. That’s how I feel. I do feel like they should raise the criteria to a higher standard that you have to meet, or to have a permit. I feel like, there should be a mental stability test, I feel like that should be a reinstatement period every year where you constantly have to reinstate it with your permit. Now, the only criterion is that you should not have a felony. That’s not enough criteria. That can protect you from a felon, but it doesn’t protect you from a mentally unstable individual.
Rappersroom: Is there one defining experience in your life that has made you into the man you are today?
T.I.: I’ll have to say a combination of all experiences. I can’t credit just one experience for my entire upbringing, for my entire life enlightenment. I think it’s a combination of all of the experiences I’ve had.
Rappersroom: What other things are you working on outside of music?
T.I.: Well, let’s see here. I have a film coming out this year. It’s a family comedy, it’s my first comedy. With Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. It’s a mainstream comedy, and when I say mainstream, that means white people can go see it (laughs). We also have Akoo in stores. Other than that, those are the things that I have, you know, those are the things I’m most passionate about. And my other artists at Grand Hustle, tryna make sure they have the available opportunities to them, for the artists to have under my umbrella.
Rappersroom: What do you think your purpose in life is?
T.I: To speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Inspire those who don’t have hope. They may’ve given up on the thought of success and may think they’re defined by their environment. I’m an example, and now I guess I’m a beacon of light now cause I came from nothing. And people who, right now, are in that same environment, in that same situation, they can look at me and all I’ve accomplished, and that could be their inspiration to do something better for themselves and their families.