By now you've probably heard about our evasive cover girl, Lindsay Lohan, and enjoyed our Grand Hustle double feature of cover stories with T.I. and B.o.B, but today marks the official nationwide on-sale date for our August/September issue. If you haven't already, cop one for the crib.
Since The King was nice enough to let us trail him for the whole day while he did a press run in New York, we of course spoke to him about some things that we never ended up using in the magazine. So instead of leaving potential gems on the cutting room floor, we decided to give you some of the outtakes so you could read his thoughts on Lil Wayne's incarceration, his friendship with Eminem, and who influenced his style. T.I. is back, so read on...
Interview by Toshitaka Kondo
Complex: At this point, does being "King of the South" mean as much to you as it did before?
T.I.: It is what it is now. It's sort of like asking Jordan if it's still "Air Jordan."
Complex: You've been very involved in your clothing line, AKOO. Growing up, did you look up to any celebrities in terms of style?
T.I.: Nah, not really. Maybe when I got older.
Complex: Once you got into the game?
T.I.: Not necessarily in the game, but I got most of my style from people around me who I knew personally. Back then we had LL Cool J and Run DMC, so it was really about jackets and jogging suits. Slick Rick I could say is someone whose style I admired. Slick Rick and Dana Dane. It was always a mixture...
Complex: So dudes who dressed classy.
T.I.: Yeah. I respected and admired that, but I also respected N.W.A. for what they did. I had an equal amount of admiration for both sides. I could see myself in the fur coats, turtleneck sweaters, with the Kangol hats like Slick Rick and Dana Dane. But I could also see myself in a leather Troop suit like LL Cool J.
Complex: Whose style do you admire these days?
T.I.: Puff and Jay. Puff has an all-around style, upscale, urban, and classic. I can say that for both. They just have a different way of doing it. I am very selective with my clothes. This is a time where fashion and style go against what I would rather do myself. So I have to pick and choose from people that share my enthusiasm when it comes to certain things. I'm not going to do red jeans. No green jeans. I don't do Vans and that's the style right now. I don't want to show my socks when I'm wearing jeans. So, when you ask me who I look up to and who I can admire for their style right now, I have to choose from people that represent what I represent stylistically.
Complex: Many people say gangsta rap isn't popular right now. How do you feel about that?
T.I.: There's a lot of truth to that. The trend is migrating into a different direction. Gangsta rap, you still have...
Complex: Jeezy and Ross.
T.I.: Yeah, but those are already established artists.
Complex: Maybe Nipsey Hussle?
T.I.: Yeah, but I think you have to drop an album to truly see the effects of your following.
Complex: I know you and Lil' Wayne have a close relationship, have you remained in contact since he went in?
T.I.: Yeah I've spoken to him a few times. He's doing good. He sounds good. I think he is going to be putting this behind him sooner than later.
Complex: Do you give him advice or is it more casual talk?
T.I.: Nah, I got no advice. Before he went in, I called him and offered him some advice. That's all I can do. That's all anybody expects you to do.
Complex: Did you get any advice before you went away right?
T.I.: Nah... well actually, yes I did. I got some from my uncle. He did 10 years in the Fed system, so there were things that he told me that helped me save some time.
Complex: Have you had a chance to visit Lil Wayne?
T.I.: Nah, not yet—I will be.
Complex: Wayne got in trouble after being caught at Rikers with iPod headphones and a charger. Did you have any similar issues?
T.I.: Wayne is in a state facility. I was in a fed facility so I don't know the regulations of what they are and aren't allowed to do. For us, yes, we had AM/FM radios and headphones.
Complex: Were they state-issued headphones?
Complex: Were they like iPod headphones?
T.I.: Nah, they were like little Sony radios and other different brand names or off-brand names sometimes. The headphones were I think called Koss. Like the big C-10.
Complex: Oh they looked like "Beats By Dr.Dre" headphones?
T.I.: Yeah, the sound was nowhere near.
Complex: Was it difficult to go from listening to music all the time in nice speakers to those Koss ones?
T.I.: Yeah, it was difficult, but that was the least of my adjustment.
Complex: How were you getting music in there? Do they let you go on the Internet?
Complex: You can't use the Internet at all?
T.I.: Not at all.
Complex: So you found out information from friends visiting?
T.I.: Yeah friends visiting, but we had TV so we got videos and radio, BET, MTV, VH1, ESPN, letters, and magazines.
Complex: I know you have had a good relationship with Eminem since you worked together on T.I. vs T.I.P. Have you worked on more music together since then?
T.I.: We did two or three records in that time. We haven't worked on any more since, but we definitely have plans to do so.
Complex: You guys have remained in communication, right?
T.I.: Yeah, close communication. We've been speaking back and forth ever since.
Complex: Do you guys ever get to hang out at all?
T.I.: Nah, not yet. Not presently, but we will. We always plan on it and talk about how we should make it happen. But he movin' a million miles a minute and so am I, so whenever our schedules permits us to, we will do so.
Complex: On a more serious note, with the revelations that your former artist, Alfamega, cooperated with authorities in the past and your body guard cooperated with the authorities, which led to you catching federal weapons charges, how did that change you in terms of trusting people?
T.I.: It made me more cautious and aware. I'm not to the point where I need to shut myself off from people, unless I feel like I need to, but I don't force myself to deal with people. If I'm not in the mood to deal with you, then I just don't deal with you. I look at it like, me not dealing with you could save me a lot of trouble—me forcing myself to deal with you could bring me a lot of trouble. So I just play it by ear.
Complex: With the situation with Alfa, do you wonder how you let someone like that get into your camp?
T.I.: Nah, I don't feel like that. The people who introduced him to me, they didn't know. I ain't trippin' off that. On some real shit, I don't think about. I'm not angry, I'm not upset. I don't have any hard feelings.
Complex: Have you seen him since? People were shocked when the news came out.
T.I.: No I haven't. Shit, we were, too. I'm past that.
Complex: Is B.G. still on Grand Hustle?
T.I.: Nah, I believe he went back to Cash Money.
Complex: You co-executive produced his last album, Too Hood 2 Be Hollywood. Did it get lost in the shuffle?
T.I.: Nah, it didn't. It's hard to say; I really did want it to work, but I just couldn't get Atlantic to see what I saw. Especially with me being away and not in the building. I couldn't make them invest in it. He had some hot shit.
Complex: What's going on with Young Dro?
T.I.: Dro got music for days. He's just... I don't know, man. He just need to come on with it.
Complex: Has it been hard for him to find "that" record?
T.I.: The records he likes, I feel like they have regional success. The records I feel he could have are not instantaneous regionally. So we have to find a common ground.
Complex: When you were filming your first movie, ATL, you talked about how you were coming late to script readings at first.
T.I.: Yeah, I almost got fired.
Complex: Were you out partying?
T.I.: I wouldn't say partying, but shit... I was just doin' me, living my life.
Complex: You weren't prepared for how strict filming a movie could be?
T.I.: I wasn't even warned to be prepared. No one ever told me. You know when muthafuckas say "Ay, man, don't be late..." So if I come 15 minutes late I think I'm straight, I'm on time. But they meant don't be a minute late, be early. That's what they should have said: "Be early." But valuable lesson learned.
Complex: So the producers said they were going to kick you out the film?
T.I.: Actually my agent and the director, Chris Robinson. He was like "Ay, man, I need you. This is my first movie, this is your first movie, and if they fire you they're going to shut the movie down."
Complex: Had filming even started at that point?
T.I.: It was in its first week.
Complex: After that you shaped up?
T.I.: Yeah, I did.
Complex: You were a producer for your new movie, Takers. What did you learn from that?
T.I.: Well, just what it takes to successfully present a film. So many people to have to be on the same page at the same time to successfully present a motion picture to the public. From production to marketing to promotion to pre-production to casting. It's so many different elements to a film. Just learning the ins and outs and how the machine works.
Complex: What would you say is more difficult, producing a film or overseeing a label?
T.I.: Producing a film is more unfamiliar territory. Although producing an album and overseeing artists is a task within itself. But film is unfamiliar territory so, here and now, that's more difficult.
Complex: Is there anything you learned you can't do when producing a film?
T.I.: I can't say. It was a very positive experience. I think once I learned the fundamentals I learned in ATL, I was able to carry to American Gangster and Takers. It made me a better actor, a better star, and a better producer.
Complex: You mentioned that your agent asked you why you were still rapping.
T.I.: Of course, while I'm doing a movie the label gon' be asking me why I'm doing the movie thing. They gon' be thinking I should be doing the album. Everyone has agendas. That's just his. If I had just focused on movies ever since American Gangster, I could have been up to $7 to $10 million a movie right now. That's just a conversation that he and I had.
Complex: What do you tell him when he asks why you still rap?
T.I.: I say it's passion. I wouldn't trade it for all the diamonds out of Africa.