New York City and Los Angeles, respectively, were considered the only cities capable of producing quality hip-hop music for a long time. From Run-DMC and Biggie Smalls to N.W.A. and 2pac, these two cities were the focus of the culture. However, this asinine notion began to change at the turn of the millennium.
As innovative producers in the South began incorporating synthesizers into their productions, the emergence and popularity of crunk music saw the electrification of hip-hop during the 2000s, which birthed artists such as T.I., the Ying Yang Twinz and Petey Pablo.
Led by figures such as Lil Jon and DJ Paul, as it evolved in the 2000s, a similar sound began to spawn, and in 2012 when an off-shoot of crunk music known as trap began to dominate the clubs, its birthplace, Atlanta, swiftly became the torch bearer of contemporary hip-hop.
T.I., the self-proclaimed ‘King Of The South,’ was one of Atlanta’s most well-known acts in the 2000s. Following his success as an artist, the emcee decided to found his own label, Grand Hustle and was actively looking for artists. However, when Young Thug and 21 Savage came looking to sign for $1 million, T.I. rejected the idea.
In an appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast, the musician (real name Clifford Harris) explained why he turned the two rappers away, unveiling, “You know, 21 Savage, [Young] Thug. A lot of them come up to me like, ‘Aye man, give me a million, Tip. I don’t care what you do, just give me a million and let me handle it from there.’”
He continued, “But nah, I ain’t gonna do that because if I give you a million, I gotta take back something that’s gonna be worth way more, and we ain’t gon’ be able to be friends from there. I always tell ’em, man, ‘Don’t worry about the money up front ’cause it’s gon’ come.’” According to Harris he explained this to 21 Savage, disclosing, “I remember telling that to 21. And even Savage, every time he sees me now, he’ll hit me and say, ‘Aye, it came.’ And that puts a smile on my face because I just know how impactful every generation has the opportunity to be even more than the last.”
Although T.I. knew Young Thug was talented, he was also aware that labels across the South were competing for him, from Birdman‘s Cash Money to Future‘s Freebandz. However, the YSL act ended up signing with neither and instead penned a deal with Gucci Mane‘s 1017 Brick Squad.
You can watch Harris speak on rejecting the hitmakers in the video below.