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TI - Paper Trail - Interview

Shouts to every single time for this one

It has been a rollercoaster ride these past few years for 2-time Grammy award winning rapper TI. The self-proclaimed King of the South released 2 chart-topping albums - both of which went on to receive platinum plaques, numerous award nominations, and adulation from millions of fans. In addition to music, he appeared in films such as ATL and blockbuster American Gangster.

All nearly came to an abrupt end in October 2007 when TIP - a convicted felon - tried to buy firearms from a co-operating witness during a sting operation by undercover feds, hours before he was due to bless the BET Hip Hop Awards stage. With the prospect of facing jail for 10+ years, the performer pleaded guilty to US federal weapons charges. He was sentenced to a year in jail beginning in March 2009 after completing 1,000 hours of community service. During this time, ex-D4L (‘Laffy Taffy‘) member Shawty Lo launched into a scathing attack claiming TI didn’t live where he represents.

September 2008 saw the release of his sixth studio album Paper Trail which sold in excess of 520,000 copies in its first week on its way to claiming the number 1 spot. The initial main single ‘Whatever You Like’ broke the Billboard Hot 100 record for the highest jump to number 1. But that record was short-lived as TI went to break it with his follow-up smash ‘Live Your Life’ with pop-songstress Rihanna - a song which scored TI’s first top-5 entry in the UK singles chart, peaking at #2.

Marvin Sparks spoke to TI regarding the up-and-downs of the previous years, “Gangsta-rap”, the success of the album Paper Trail and more.

Marvin Sparks: What’s the motivation behind Paper Trail?

TI: Just the tumultuous year that I had and all of the adversity I had encountered. The perseverance and resilience that it took to get through it.

Marvin Sparks: Would you say it’s your most personal album to date?

Albums are personal; they’re all a reflection of what I’m going through. [This is] definitely the most personal yet, I guess, of the moment.

Marvin Sparks: Looking back at T.I. vs. T.I.P. do you feel you executed the split-personality concept effectively?

I know for a fact that I did it effectively. Whether it was received or translated effectively would be the question - and I feel that is a question that would have to be answered by the fans.

Marvin Sparks: Many people say Trap Muzik was your best album, what do you think about that?

Well, you know, different people have different opinions, some will say Trap Muzik, some will say I’m Serious, some will say King - now some will say Paper Trail. I think it’s a blessing to have so many albums out of your discography that are listed as your best album.

Marvin Sparks: Were there more nerves than usual when releasing this album in respects to how the media and fans will react to you after the criminal charges?

There’s always a concern, no more than usual this time.

Marvin Sparks: With the record-breaking singles performance, certified-platinum album in less than 2 months since its release; was you surprised with the response?

It’s always a pleasant surprise, y’know. You never can anticipate that success - you just have to hope for it. I’d just like to say thank you.

Marvin Sparks: People usually assume that once you get money you can move out of the ‘hood and politics associated. Is it hard to distance yourself bad guys and bad situations?

It’s not hard to separate from them, but you still will have to encounter all types of different people and interact with the public, in order to reach the level of success that you hope to reach.

Marvin Sparks: What do you miss most about being a regular guy?

My privacy.

Marvin Sparks: A lot of people say they don’t have regrets or say they take the negatives as part of a learning process. Would you class it as regret or something you will learn from?

Both; although I appreciate the lesson, I wish I could have learnt it a different way.

Marvin Sparks: What would you say you’ve learnt from the whole saga?

Lots of different things: patience, maturity, appreciation for the things in life that I have - the small things in life like my family and freedom.

Marvin Sparks: On Live Your Life you rap: “Forget what the haters say, Ignore them ‘til they fade away”; do you feel that is easier said than done?

Yeah. It’s easier said than done, but it’s also easier done once said.

Marvin Sparks: We’ve all seen the incident with Shawty Lo at the Dirty Awards and the constant back-and-forth. Do you think it was all a publicity stunt seeing as you could have been going away for a long time?

I don’t know what’s up with that brother, man, but I wish him and all those cats all the best. Whatever they are doing, I hope it works out for them.

Marvin Sparks: There seems to be this new-wave of nerd rappers coming through, which is causing many people claim “gangsta-rap”, is dead. What are your thoughts on gangsta-rap?

I think it’s overdone. I think cats go out their way in an attempt to be too gangsta and I think that they embellish a lot, and I think they exaggerate their personalities and take it to an extreme that they aren’t able to maintain on a daily basis in real-life. I feel like however your music is you should be able to say you are for real.

Marvin Sparks: In the UK we are currently having problems with gun and knife crime, especially amongst youngsters. What advice would you like to give to those going down that road?

It’s not worth it; it’s absolutely not worth it. Life is something that you can’t give back if you take it away.


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