Pioneer Exclusive: T.I. Discusses Rap, Life and New Album

Rap phenom T.I. came to San Francisco last week to
promote his upcoming, highly anticipated album.

Grammy-award winning rapper, actor, producer, philanthropist and novelist, Clifford Harris Jr., better known to the world as T.I., came to the Bay Area last week to promote his upcoming, highly anticipated album, “Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head.”

“I’m extremely honored. I’m pleased, I feel blessed and I am appreciative of the support of the people, even those who walked away and came back, I thank you too,” T.I. said to The Pioneer. “This is the first time in a long time I just said man f*** what everybody else say and what they think about me and what I do, let’s just turn up and jam!”

T.I. was first introduced into the music industry in 2001, with the release of his debut album, “I’m Serious.” Although this album featured guest appearances by well-known artists including Pharrell Williams, Too Short and P$C, it only peaked at number 98 and sold less than 200,000 copies in the U.S.

Due to the album’s lack of success, he was dropped from Arista Recods label. T.I. broke out on his own and formed Grand Hustle Entertainment in 2003, of which he is now the co-CEO.

In 2003, T.I. released his second album, “Trap Muzik,” through Grand Hustle Records. A complete opposite of his previous album, “Trap Muzik” debuted at number four and sold 109,000 copies in its first week.

Eleven years and seven albums later, T.I. has gone from the troubled neighborhood drug dealer to a multi-platinum selling artist. Through his musical accomplishments, he continues to prove those critics wrong, who doubted him from the start.

“They still saying I’m not going to make it,” said T.I. “People adamantly insisted it was over for me after the last time I went to prison and even right now cats like ‘He can’t do it again, he can’t. But it’s right in line with the way I came in the game, so I guess I shouldn’t expect much more than that.”

Rapper, actor, author T.I. talks
about his new album.

His most recent album, “Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head,” shows a familiar T.I., complete with a charming southern swagger and gangsta rap style with a more in your face flare.

“The album is a more even mixture of the familiar sounds of T.I. like ‘Trap Muzik’ and ‘Urban Legend’ with the more diversified mainstream, more broad sounds like ‘Paper Trail,” he said. “This is the perfect blend of the two. I think that it’s cohesive and I’m proud of it because I worked very hard and I challenged myself. I challenged my thoughts of what I should be doing.”

“Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head” is set to be released Dec. 18.

“I challenged my approach, I challenge my delivery, my writing, my beat selection. I can honestly say that right now, given the place that I am in my life I presented the best possible project,” he said.

“Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head” features a wide range of guest appearances, including Andre 3000, Pink, Cee Lo Green and R. Kelly.

Popular songs “Ball” featuring well-known rapper Lil Wayne and “Go Get It” are a couple of singles that have already been released from the album.

T.I. held an intimate listening session on Wednesday, Dec. 5 for his upcoming album in San Francisco last week, allowing a select few the opportunity to hear the album in its entirety.

“I got an extreme love for places like Oakland and San Francisco,” said T.I. “You got such a sense of culture and pride for where you at and I respect it and I feel it. It’s an energy here, like real people doing real s*** and you can’t help but feel it if you come from that place. That’s why it’s always been one of my favorite places.”

The listening session attendees welcomed T.I. and his album whole-heartedly, giving him a lot of energy, feedback, as well as honest critiques on the individual songs.

The overall setting was very laid back and relaxing. T.I. took time to provide background on each track before he played it for everyone to hear.

He showed guests a more sensitive, charming and humorous T.I. which, the general public doesn’t always get to see. As each song played from the album, T.I. was jumping around, rapping along, dancing and just truly “feeling” his music.

Albeit, while T.I. is masterful in the hip-hop industry, he is a man of innumerable talents.

He first showed the world his acting abilities in the 2006 film ATL and in 2007 he co-starred alongside Academy Award winner Denzel Washington in “American Gangster.”

Two years later, upon his release from prison, T.I. took over the big screen once again in box office hit “Takers,” starring a plenitude of talent, including Paul Walker, Zoe Saldana and Chris Brown.

From the box office to primetime television, T.I. continues to maximize every opportunity that comes his way.

He is currently wrapping up the second season of his reality show, “T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle,” in which he shares the stage with his wife, kids and loved ones.

“I feel like it’s a refreshing change of pace to be able to share the spotlight with my kids and everybody’s now growing into their own celebrity,” he said.

The season finale will air on VH1 Dec. 17. T.I. is simultaneously starring with Kelsey Grammar in “Boss,” a poplar STARZ TV series.

In addition to T.I.’s already impressive list of achievements, he published his second book, “Trouble and Triumph” this past September. Now, fans are readily anticipating the release of his newest album.

“It’s a wonderful time, I ain’t got no case, I ain’t got no prison, no probation, nothing hanging over my head, I’m just kickin it,” said T.I.