Yesterday, we unveiled our split Style & Design covers featuring T.I. and B.o.B., and today we wanted to highlight some of the best parts of Tip's revealing interview. Peppered with José ParlÃ¡'s unique art treatment (no, they're not wires, people! Click here to see all the images.), T.I.'s story focuses on his time behind bars, his evolving musical taste, and his uncertain post-prison future. Has T.I. really changed? Check out an excerpt:
You told Larry King you're a "retired gangster." Does that limit what you can rap about creatively?
T.I.: Nah. I can rap about guns in the context in which I need to rap about them. I could rap about the past. I can rap about not needing a gun. I can rap about other ways of doing things if that's what I choose to rap about. I can't change who I am on the inside. That'll shine through with no gun, no drugs. Fundamentally, who I am and what I stand for is still the same.
On Fuck a Mixtape, you make several references to having knives now instead of guns— and to stabbing people.
T.I.: It's within your rights to do anything to protect your well-being, right? That's well within the law. If my life is being threatened, I have every right, legally, to protect my life and my loved ones. So that wouldn't be getting in trouble at that point. Everybody takes everything so literal and so... I don't know. You could spit on the concrete in public and get the same reaction: "Oh, I thought Tip was done getting in trouble. What is he doing spitting on the concrete? What is he doing jaywalking?" The best thing I can do is continue to live my life the best way I know how.
At the end of "Yeah You Know," you said, "Prison ain't changed me, it made me worse." In what sense did you mean that?
T.I.: When I was goin' through it, I really felt like it added insult to injury. The lesson had already been learned. I already understood the errors in my ways and made the adjustments necessary. It did make me worse in a sense that, before I went in, I was already on a path of positivity. Putting me in prison took me off that path a little bit, and now I'm working to get back on that path—or at least back on the path to the extent that I was before I went in. I'm still not as bad as I was before this incident, but I lost a little bit of my positive focus during that period of incarceration. Being in that environment and having those daily surroundings, it's going to affect you.