The rapper talks family, music, and why he thinks Americans are too sensitive.
Though he has spent the last year-and-a-half in trouble with the law, chances are you'll never see that side of T.I. on his latest reality show, VH1's "T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle." T.I. is a proud family man on the show, which he says was done to give fans insight into he and wife Tameka "Tiny" Cottle's life in a real way. "So when they comment or critique they can do it from a place of knowledge, rather than a place of confusion and speculation," he says.
Now back home from a 11-month prison stint, T.I. says he's ready to get back in the race, and is working on a new album (slated for a March 2012 release). He also has a book out, "Power & Beauty" co-written with David Ritz.
He spoke with ESSENCE.com about his show, new music, and a controversial comment he mad about gay Americans.
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ESSENCE.com: Your reality show, “Family Hustle” is doing great. It premiered with 4.3 million viewers last week. Were your surprised, excited?
T.I.: It’s amazing to see that level of success. It's also an honor to share this moment in the sun with my family. After all they've been through, they deserve it. I am humbled by how supportive fans have been for all of my projects.
ESSENCE.com: After being away for so long, did you feel you had to get right back in the studio?
T.I.: I had to get back in because it's a love of mine and I had some things I wanted to say, and some songs I wanted to make, and some sounds I wanted to hear. I wanted to get in ASAP, and express myself and get back in the race.
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ESSENCE.com: Are you working on any new music?
T.I.: Yes, "Troubleman” will come out in March. I'm embracing the troubled man in me. Everything that's on this album can get me in trouble. Everything. Which makes it fun. Everyone loves danger, you just don't want the repercussions of danger. It's exciting, it's fun. So you can live vicariously through my dangerous activities of the past.
ESSENCE.com: You recently made some comments to Vibe Magazine saying gay Americans were too sensitive…
T.I.: I think a lot of people are too sensitive. I think America as a whole can be too sensitive. They just happened to be the topic at the time. I think African-Americans can be too sensitive. I think women can be too sensitive. I think a lot of people can enjoy life more if you don't take it too seriously. Some outlets and some blogs, they do their business by sensationalizing and over embellishing nothing. So as long as they get page views, as long as they get traffic, no matter how outrageous, outlandish, or how far out of context they drag it, then they do it. And I expect that. I'm not tripping. I'm more concerned with me and how I am. I know my heart, the people around me know my heart, and so I'm more concerned with that.
ESSENCE.com: After your troubles with the law, do you feel like you have to get back in the public's good grace?
T.I.: No. As far as the public is concerned I have to deliver compelling material to them. That is my obligation to them because if I had never gotten in trouble, if I was never a felon, never been to prison, never did any of these things, and I never made good music or movies, then you wouldn't know about me or care about me anyway. So it all begins and ends with entertainment. So I have to entertain the public adequately. Everything else is my obligation to myself, my God, my family.