In the immediate seconds of the season premiere of T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, T.I. makes light of the obvious as he looks into the camera to declare, “So, uh, things have changed a bit since ya last saw us.”
He nearly soils the moment by then offering a quip about the current joke of an administration, but considering this show - now in its sixth and final season - is centered on their modern family, Tiny filing for divorce at the end of 2016 cannot be so quickly glossed over with humor. And if you were bothered by T.I.'s comments in which he described his marriage as a "distraction," that moment and those that follow may only further annoy you.
As previously reported, during an interview with Power 105.1's Angie Martinez, T.I. shared: “It seems to me that marriage and what marriage means and what marriage does — it’s just one of those things that’s going to distract me and deter me. And that could be selfish, but ultimately, I’m the patriarch of this family. And it’s my responsibility to take us onward and upward. I just have a purpose and I don’t always have the time to do the thoughtful and considerate things that a husband should do.”
There is no question about it: T.I. sounds selfish as all hell.
As for his claims about being the patriarch of his family, sure, but based on past instances of sexism, T.I. seems to operate within very rigid prisms of what manhood and marriage look like. His inability to shift away from each is certainly what contributed to the decimation of the marriage. When Tiny speaks about the state of her relationship on the season opener in the confessional, she speaks in gray: "We're not divorced, but we're not together."
However, when Tiny's friend and former reality show co-star, Toya Wright, stops by to talk about the fallout of her relationship with T.I., she's much more frank about their problems. She speaks of trust issues -- squarely "his work and all the things that come with it."
Then we return to Tiny in the confessional and we hear her discuss how in marriage "you settle into the roles you create for yourself." For anyone that's watched the show in recent years, it's been quite apparent that the roles of wife, mother, and being the woman behind T.I. had lost their luster.
"Over the years, I wanted more for myself, but Tip say that part a different way," Tiny revealed. "And now I feel like it’s time to take the space that I need and live the life that’s best for me."
When people watched T.I.'s interview and his use of the word "distraction" to describe his marriage with Tiny, many highlighted that Tiny was already a part of a platinum-selling girl group. And that she, along with fellow Xscape member Kandi Burruss, co-wrote one of the biggest songs in decades in TLC's "No Scrubs." When you are married to a millionaire songwriter who already cemented her stature as part of one of the biggest girl groups of the 1990s, it's hard to hear a man rationalize that he sucks at marriage because providing for everyone was his main priority.
Others noted that Tiny took a charge for T.I. in a 2010 arrest, but when talking about how ride or die Tiny has been for her estranged husband, their reality show ought to be added to that list. When T.I. was arrested for what felt like the millionth time in 2010, it was a month after the release of Takers, which was helping him steer towards a successful career as an actor. A lot of T.I.'s fans were exhausted by the arrest, feeling like he had once again behaved self-destructively.
Shortly after his release from prison, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle premiered, helping him create a family friendly image at an opportune time. The show was likened to a modern day or hip-hop answer to The Cosby Show, and even for those who stopped watching, its impact has been felt because mixed families were given space to be depicted as any typical family because they are any typical family.
Still, when you watch the show years later and see that after years of relegating herself to the background on behalf of T.I., you can't help that Tiny makes the most of her newfound freedom — starting with this show. He used this show to boost himself when he needed it. She ought to do the same.
The same goes with the Xscape reunion. For those of us that are fans of Tiny's voice, we've long wanted more for her, too. Here's hoping she gets to hustling to create the life her talent commands.