T.I. has been a massive force in hip-hop over the years and has done a lot concerning Southern rap. Alongside the likes of Lil Wayne and Lil Jon, T.I. helped popularise the South and helped it become mainstream.
Born and raised in Bankhead, Atlanta, T.I. (real name Clifford Harris) was always talented and wanted to pursue music since he was first introduced to hip-hop. With acts such as the Goodie Mob helping the city on the underground. Harris wanted to represent his city in the charts.
In an interview with the prestigious magazine Forbes, Harris revealed, “This is always what I wanted to be. It’s always been my passion. I was always the one who was very outgoing, ambitious, and charismatic; I just always had a different aura, especially from where I came from in Bankhead.”
He continued, “Bankhead kids aren’t the type to just walk up to you and hold a conversation or articulate themselves, you know what I mean? This is always what I loved and wanted to do, I just didn’t know of any specific avenues or routes to get here.”
Alongside Big Kuntry King, T.I. released records and demos independently across Georgia until Kawan ‘KP’ Prather of Arista Records noticed his ample potential and presented him with a record deal. T.I.’s debut album, I’m Serious, did poorly concerning sales but was popular in the South. With appearances from the likes of Lil Jon, YoungBloodz and Jazze Pha, the project was very Southern-oriented and failed to resonate with the entire US.
However, after slowly tweaking his sound and bringing in producers such as The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz to give his music a broader appeal, T.I. began to rise up the ranks and quickly became a household name. But, a decade after the release of his second album, Trap Muzik, Harris grew disenfranchised and highly frustrated with the workings of the industry.
In an interview on the New York morning radio show, The Breakfast Club, Harris explained his anger, stating, “This is what everyone fails to realize. I want out. I want out, man! What the game is going to and what it has evolved into from a personality standpoint it goes against what I represent. What I embody, this game contradicts that. I want out. I’m in it because I love music, and I have obligations, contractually.”
He continued, “It was at one time, this music was about speaking to the people who felt like you feel. Now, the people I’m speaking to they don’t necessarily feel like how I feel. In my day, if you were rapping about something you weren’t really living, that was a strike against you. You were held accountable. Nowadays, nobody even expects you to live up to the things you rap about. That goes against what I represent, what I stand for.”
T.I. didn’t completely stop making music. However, during this period, the musician transitioned into TV and acting. In 2011, Harris landed a deal with VH! for his reality TV series, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, which showed the emcee’s chaotic household and tenuous relationships with friends, became extremely popular. Following this, the star began to land roles in movies and slowly but surely pivoted away from music.
Although the lyricist didn’t quit music as he had expressed, he did slow down his music career to focus on other endeavours. You can watch T.I.’s interview in the video below.