Atlanta rapper and Grand Hustle founder T.I. is a well-known name in hip-hop. First arriving in the mainstream during the late-1990s, the emcee (real name Clifford Harris) was one of the pioneers of the South’s trap music movement and, with hits such as ‘What You Know,’ he became a household name.
However, after peaking in his career as a recording artist, Harris transitioned into acting. That said, in an appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast, the lyricist revealed that in 2007 he gave the iconic actor Denzel Washington a pep talk.
In 2007 Harris made his acting debut as Stevie Lucas, the nephew of Frank Lucas in American Gangster. Directed by Ridley Scott, the Oscar-nominated movie was a box office hit and starred a number of esteemed actors, including Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Denzel Washington.
The New York-based film stars many rappers, including Chicago emcee Common and the legendary Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA. Having rapped for over a decade by 2007, American Gangster was Harris’ first role in a film, and he was extremely nervous about his performance.
However, Harris got some much-needed advice from Washington during the filming. Harris recalled the story for Sharpe, detailing, “As we’re rehearsing, I’m pacing back and forth, pacing back and forth, and he said, ‘What’s up, n*gga? You nervous?’ I’m like, ‘Man, I’m just making sure I don’t mess it up.’”
He continued, “He said, ‘Here, man, listen. They could have had anybody in here doing what you’re doing right now. They could have anybody in the world, they could have called anybody right here to do what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He said, ‘They called you for a reason, didn’t they?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You know what that reason is?’ I started thinking, and I said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ He said, ‘Alright then, do that, and you ain’t got no reason to be nervous.’”
Harris explained how the cast was like a hip-hop all-star show and in a 2007 interview with MTV, stated, “It’s a phenomenal film! It’s one of the most prolific Black gangster pictures ever to hit the screen. Tremendous amount of acting. Everybody’s going hard!”
You can watch T.I. speak about his discussion with Washington in the video below.