T.I. has a lot going on right now, with a new album—Paperwork the Motion Picture—due out this fall and a new season of his VH1 reality show, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, about to launch. The self-proclaimed “Kang of the South” recently sat down with EBONY.com to speak about the upcoming projects.
EBONY: One complaint we never hear from you that we hear from other reality stars is, “Oh, I was edited wrong. That’s not me.” How do you keep that together? Do you have ground rules about what absolutely can’t be on camera?
TI: Nah, man. We do us. We ain’t gon’ do nothing to embarrass ourselves anyway, on or off TV. We really this cool. We like that for real. It shows the genuineness of our relationship and our connection. It’s how we approach life and love and adversity and challenges. It’s all authentic, and I think that’s what really resonates with the people and makes them gravitate to the show.
EBONY: You and your wife are grown and have been in the business a long time. You’ve dealt with rumors and gossip, but the kids are kids. They’re not immune to reading blogs or hearing things from their friends. How do you insulate them?
TI: I don’t insulate them. They talked about Jesus. They talked bad about Martin Luther King. They talked bad about Nelson Mandela. Why should you expect to be treated any better than the best human beings that have ever walked the earth? I think to keep them away from it instead of preparing them contributes to delusionalism. I don’t shelter them from that. I just talk them through it.
EBONY: In terms of delusions, they’re growing up very different than most kids. They’re on TV every week, they have two famous parents, they have an abundance of material things. How do you keep them grounded?
TI: I whoop they ass… when necessary. [Laughs] Nah, but for real, we celebrate when things are done well, and we know we will be held accountable when we’re wrong. I think that is a simple yet effective approach to life.
EBONY: What about marriage and love? Do you think the show has impacted that at all?
TI: Man, listen. I think that all of those things, they happen intangibly. I don’t think there’s anything you can show on television that can contribute to that. If you have it and it’s there, it’s kind of known, even if unseen. It’s more of a feeling and a thought than an action. I feel like when people go above and beyond and out of their way to kind of publicly display things, it seems coerced. Nah mean? It seem like they over compensating for something. Don’t nobody kiss that much. What you hiding? Something’s going on. [Laughs]
EBONY: Speaking of having something going on, you have a new album coming out. “No Mediocre” is already a single making waves. What can you tell us about Paperwork?
TI: Paperwork the Motion Picture is executive produced by Pharrell Williams. It’s my best work yet. I have no problem saying that with a clear conscience. I think it is probably one of the best infusions of nostalgic sounds of yesteryear and the new, cutting edge, ahead of the curve sounds of tomorrow. It’s the first time in my career I’ve been able to do that effectively.
EBONY: In “No Mediocre,” you teamed up with Iggy Azalea, and you’ve been there from the very beginning of her career. In those early stages, did you anticipate what was coming in terms of criticism?
TI: Man, there can be no great without horrible. Nothing is all good without any kind of backlash. The best thing you can hope is that the backlash is unwarranted. I think no one has presented a substantial claim about why we should not celebrate the success of Iggy Azalea.
EBONY: You don’t think anyone has had legitimate criticism?
TI: It’s all been “I don’t like her, I just don’t.” Since when do human beings have the right to say they don’t like something just because? When you have Black people in their genre taking the stand against a minority in this genre and really doing the same thing they are accusing others of doing to them, I think that is wack within itself. I think just to create insignificant excuses to tear someone down who is doing well for themselves is a horrible quality to show of yourself as a person. That’s it. [T.I. literally sips his tea.]
EBONY: Now that your wife Tiny is putting her music out to the masses again, do you think there’s a possibility for a future collaboration?
TI: I don’t see a Jay Z and Beyoncé thing. Just me personally, I just really ain’t that kind of guy. That’s just not me. I’m real to myself with my music. I don’t know. I’m real funny and particular. I’m just like that, and that’s not a discredit to who she is as an artist or to who the OMG Girlz are as artists or who Domani is. I just haven’t seen the set of circumstances that would make that realistic to me.
EBONY: You already do a lot of family business together, so you want to keep some things separate?
TI: Right. We’re not the Partridge family or the Brady Bunch. But I celebrate the success and support. I appreciate greatness from anyone on all levels. But everything ain’t for me.
EBONY: A number of your kids are interested in the entertainment industry.
TI: All of them, except Major. Major say he want to work at a toy store. That’s his ambition.
EBONY: Too cute. Outside of hopping on one of their singles, how do you see yourself helping to shape their careers?
TI: Just showing them the rules of thumb of professionalism, preparing them for the nonsense of being a celebrity. With Domani, with him being a rapper, I give him constructive criticism, direction and insight on how to be ahead of the curve. I told him he had to change what he listens to. I gave him Biggie’s discography, Tupac’s discography, OutKast. I made them go to Coachella to the Outkast concert. They’re like “Who are these guys?” I told them to shut up and watch and they did and then they got it. Then they went themselves and got all the Outkast records.
When Kendrick Lamar dropped, I told him, “This what you need to listen to, listen to this.” The funny thing is, when they heard OutKast, Domani say, “Ya know, OutKast sounds a lot like Kendrick Lamar.” I told him, “Listen, you not gone do this to me. This is not gon’ happen.” But just applying that insight and pushing them past their own limitations that they’ve created for themselves, that’s the best way to keep a hand on their constant progression.
Demetria Irwin is a New York City-based (Detroit born) freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.