In 2010 he released his seventh studio album, “No Mercy,” married his longtime girlfriend, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, starred in a hit movie, “Takers,” and was nominated for a Grammy. But it all came crumbling down when he was arrested for violating the terms of his probation in September 2010.
Now, a month after his release from prison, he’s putting pen to paper and releasing his debut novel, “Power & Beauty,” co-written with David Ritz. He could’ve taken the expected path of writing a biography, but the self-proclaimed King of the South is still trying to accomplish the unexpected.
He spoke with ESSENCE.com about the motivation behind “Power & Beauty,” and how writing was his main escape in prison.
ESSENCE.com: What was the motivation behind creating a novel?
T.I.: The motivation was trying to find things that would help young people and people in urban areas read something that would thoroughly entertain them and educate them at the same time. Also, I wanted to stay away from what people expected me to do. Everyone expected me to do a biography; to write a book about being in prison. This book is neither.
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ESSENCE.com: Power and Beauty are the names of the main characters.
T.I.: These two characters were raised together as brother and sister, although they’re not blood. Beauty was adopted by Power’s mom when her mom died of cancer. The story is really about how two teenagers’ lives are thrust into adulthood when tragedy strikes their home. That’s a familiar situation in the hoods of America. I just felt like that was a very compelling place to start.
ESSENCE.com: Was this book something that helped you get through your time in prison?
T.I.: It definitely kept me busy and made use of a lot of idle time. If it wasn’t [writing] it would’ve been something else.
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ESSENCE.com: How have the ideals of power and beauty played out in your life?
T.I.: Well, the characters experiences don’t derive directly from my own personal experiences. Some of those experiences derived from things that I’ve seen other people go through. I think growing up in certain areas, you’re just exposed to so many different lifestyles and circumstances and sometimes as a kid you don’t understand all the dynamics that exist within those circumstances. I think this book is a great example of that.
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ESSENCE.com: Are there any more novels in your future?
T.I.: I’m working on part two right now and we’re at the end of part two trying to figure out how to end and begin three. There will be a trilogy.
T.I.’s debut novel, “Power & Beauty” is out today.