06th Jan2011

Magazine: T.I. Covers the Dec/Jan Issue of VIBE

by DG

Hit the jump below to read the interview.

T.I. leans back into the cushions of a well-worn sofa in the doorless green room of Atlanta’s Artisan PictureWorks studio. One foot touches the floor, the other rests high up on the sofa cushion, giving him the posture of a patient settling in for a long session at his therapist’s office. But really, he’s a man on the losing side of a war with time. On September 1, T.I. and his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, were pulled over for an illegal U-turn while he was in L.A. promoting the film Takers. The officer claimed he smelled marijuana, and an ensuing search turned up four ecstasy pills. Now T.I.’s in a familiar position. One week from today, he will report to jail to begin serving an 11-month bid for violating probation.

Over the next few days, Clifford “Tip” Harris will scramble to shoot 11 months’ worth of music videos, which will be used to promote his upcoming album, No Mercy, while he does time at Forrest City prison in Arkansas. His strategy is “to be as forward-thinking as possible to make sure we have more than enough content to make a realistic attempt at, like, replacing my presence,” he says, chuckling at the absurdity of it all. “Of course there is never no real replacement.”

The album’s original title, King Uncaged, referred to Tip’s release from his 366-day prison sentence for trying to buy illegal guns back in 2007. In an unprecedented “experiment,” U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell, Jr. allowed him to do 1,000 hours of community service to shave almost four years off his sentence. “I’d like to thank God for blessing me with a second chance in life and success,” he said at the hearing in March of 2008.

But this time around, there are no do-overs. “I think Mr. Harris had had about the limit of second chances,” Judge Pannell said at his October 15 hearing. And T.I. confessed that he had a drug problem: “I need help,” he told the court, “for me, my mother, my kids. I need the court to give me mercy.” While the D.A. in Los Angeles dropped the case, reportedly because of shoddy police work, Tip still must serve out his sentence for violating probation.

Meanwhile, much of the goodwill he’s earned has been erased with one traffic stop. “You’ve been given a bunch of different chances,” Ne-Yo told the Associated Press, “and now is the time to really go, you know, I get it.”

The whole ordeal has taken a toll on Tip’s mental state. Right now, his only comfort is focusing on his music career. When asked how long he’ll be working tonight on his video-shooting marathon, he sighs and shakes his head. “I don’t know, however long it takes, I guess.” For T.I. the days are too long, and yet not long enough.

VIBE: What are you hoping to accomplish with No Mercy?

T.I.: It’s supposed to tell how I feel right now.

How did you go about picking songs?

Most of those songs I made aren’t on this album. They were made from a different point in my life. It gotta speak to the moment. And the records that don’t necessarily speak to the moment are put there for the purpose of not being overwhelmed by the moment. It’s too dark.

What is this “moment”?

I don’t know what more I can say besides saying it is a dark, humbling and painful moment.

I’ve heard you mention how the good that you’ve done is easily forgotten. Do you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly?

I’ve heard you mention how the good that you’ve done is easily forgotten. Do you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly?

If I place my value in the way humans treat me, then maybe. But they’re human, man—they can’t help themselves. They do that to people they know personally. So how can I expect them to treat me only knowing me through television? They did that to Jesus. They did that to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali. They did it to every great person you could possibly think of. When it was all good, they was with them. When things got bad, then they was against them.

But in this case things didn’t “get bad.” It’s something you did.

Let me just say this: If you look at a guy who came up, no pops in the house, moms on welfare, food stamps; started selling dope when he was 12, 13 years old, came up handling guns, being in shoot-outs; started going to jail when he was 15. In all of this chaos and this mischief and lawlessness, the person who was just in jail for machine guns and silencers turns his life around. And now you want to crucify him, for what? Three pills. I mean, of course it’s wrong and unacceptable and inexcusable. No problem. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s rather petty. It’s rather petty to hold someone’s feet to the fire for something so small when they have overcame things that were so big. All that could have been going wrong—if I was riding with more guns, or if I had gotten into a shoot-out and killed somebody, then I could see that. But just think about it. I’ve gotten it down to this much.

So you’re saying it was different this time. It was just a few pills.

Right, I was on my way to my honeymoon. I was going to go and celebrate the union of my wife and I. Had I used them yet? No. Would I have? Yes. But that’s neither here nor there.

You mentioned to the court that you would rather go to a rehab than jail. Do you have a drug problem?

I did have a drug problem at the time. Me sitting here for this amount of time, from September 1 to now, I’ve kicked the habit.

How did you get a drug habit?

I had a lot of work done to my teeth. Oral surgery, extractions, 6, 7, 8 root canals. Between January to February. As soon as I got out, I had a lot of stuff done. In the joint, you eat shit that is unhealthy for you. I had fillings that fell out and stuff that had to get dealt with.

Of course for the pain they gave me oxycontin and hydrocodone. And, mind you, on October 13, 2007, I had cut off everything—weed, alcohol. Then I get these pills and I start taking them for the pain at first. And then I’m like, Wait—this shit makes me feel good. And it’s legal. After the pain went away, I kept taking it. I had like five, six prescriptions. So I had, like 80 pills. Everybody else might have a drink or smoke a blunt, I took a pain pill. Times when I had 18-, 20-hour days, I’d take a pain pill. And eventually I developed—I guess—the beginning stages of dependence.

What kind of high was that for you?

They’re called opiates and they basically create a sense of euphoria. Everything is okay. It takes the edge off. You’re not really stressed or worried about the problems of the day. The same thing that Em started.

After I ran out of the pills, which was probably about late July and early August, I started drinking codeine, which is basically the same thing in a different form. And the ecstasy—that was just recreational, something just to do.

How are you dealing with your addiction? Are you getting therapy?

I’ve gone to meetings, and I’ve had therapy. I’ve been analyzed and diagnosed by psychiatrists. I think that the courts and the media were more concerned with punishment than with treatment.

Do you go to anonymous therapy?

Yeah. And one-on-one. I went to one-on-one on Mondays and group therapy on Sunday and Wednesday.

How do you go to group therapy?

I just go. The people are very supportive. They understood. They share, I share. They open my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t take notice of before. I opened my mind to the fact that something must be changed.

What types of things did you learn?

That you ain’t got to be a pawn-your-TV, steal-your-mama-purse, do-dope-every-day-all-day type of junkie in order to be an addict. If you rationalize putting yourself in harm’s way, risking your well-being, your health, your freedom, your family’s well-being and livelihood in order to be high, that’s the rationale of an addict.

When the cop pulled you over, what went through your mind?

When the cop pulled me over, I wasn’t thinking nothing. At that point, I didn’t even know what was in my pocket. So I’m thinking, Here’s my license, come on with the ticket. And he immediately opened the door, like, “Get out!”

[I thought,] This is different. You haven’t even ran my license, the tag or nothing. You just pulled me out the car and put my hands behind my back immediately. So right then, I was like, “This is some bullshit.” And then he started patting me down, and he went in my pocket and found the pills. And I was like, “Ahhh shit!”

One Response to “Magazine: T.I. Covers the Dec/Jan Issue of VIBE”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: