Backtalk with T.I.

T.I. BY Alex Kirzhner 2

It’s good to be king. Just ask Grammy-winning rap impresario Clifford “T.I.” Harris, whose talent has earned him the titles of actor (Takers), reality star (T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle), and author (Power and Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets). He also co-owns record label Grand Hustle Entertainment. Since his meteoric rise, the lyricist, husband, and father of five has become a household name. His personal trials and tribulations, including two jail sentences, have been documented. But Harris is unwavering in achieving his goals. The King of the South spoke candidly about acting and falling out of love with hip-hop.

America will get to see more of you as an actor in the movie Identity Thief. What can we expect?
It’s a mainstream comedy co-starring Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy, who makes a living stealing from people, and Jason Bateman is one of her victims. I play a [bounty hunter] and I’m after her with one of my partners. It’s hilarious.

What tickles your funny bone?
Clever presentations of the truth. Things that are common to most people, but are presented in clever and unique ways. I like TV shows like Big Bang Theory, Seinfeld, Friends, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Is there any role you’d refuse to tackle?
I can’t see myself playing a pedophile. I don’t see how I could draw from it or what emotions in my personal character would allow me to relate to such a role. There are some typecast roles I’ve accepted, but there have also been some that are a tad bit too generic and stereotypical that I neglected to do.

Is it true you’re considering retiring from rap?
I always speak my mind and don’t filter my thoughts. Eventually, I will retire. I’m not saying that time is today, but rather than go backward [in my music career], the [King] will bow out gracefully.

So, have you fallen out of love with hip-hop?
When I was starting out there were gatekeepers and professionals who would determine whether or not music was worthy to be put on a professional level. It’s a lot of [stuff] that lacks that level of skill, and the market is oversaturated with it. There a lot of things in rap today that I would never associate with myself but by default I have been, and I ain’t digging it that much.

With the upcoming release of your second novel, Trouble & Triumph: A Novel of Power & Beauty, how do you feel about critics who discredit street lit?
This novel is about the evolution of Power and Beauty’s relationship as well as the characters around them. I think for anyone to say people don’t deserve to be represented in stories [because they can’t relate to their upbringing or their lifestyle] is discriminatory.

What are the best or worst investments you’ve ever made?
Pissing money away buying a bunch of cars and jewelry. The best: my investment in my business and properties.

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