Back in my early days as a writer for DJ Booth, I found it harder and harder to exactly pinpoint my emotions about the singles I had to review. Do I instantly like them to build rapport or do I give constructive criticism? I settled for the latter soon after and once I found myself in Austin for a Dom Kennedy show, a funny thing happened which lead to a conversation with DJ Z.
Basically, trying to grab an interview for a rapper who found himself under the weather was shot dead so I went merely as a freelance reporter looking for a scene. Earlier in the day, I had talked to Z and one of the main points of conversation – T.I.’s arrest for drug possession.
I didn’t know what exactly to say besides that Tip had made his bed and for somebody to have that much power only to squander it for a rock & roll lifestyle is pointless. Z shared the sentiments and wasn’t even shocked to find out the news. When the news hit late Friday that Cliff was going to serve an additional 11 months in prison for violation of his probation – all of his good will with the US Justice System was up.
As well as my good faith in him.
West Hollywood has been unkind to hip-hop. It’s the same area that saw the losses of Pimp C, The Notorious B.I.G., Kanye West’s life altering car crash and the arrest that sent T.I. back to prison for another year. In other words, it reads like Hip-Hop’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. Be aware of its existence, but do not stay for long.
From a musical perspective, you want redemption stories to hit the right chords and everyone seem to be at grace with it. It’s no surprise that T.I.’s best album both commercially and maybe critically was his last release, 2008’s "Paper Trail". Tip was in a zone, knowing the ramifications of his trip to Wal-Mart in 2007 were going to burden him in the upcoming year. He crafted an album that was both pop sensible and gritty enough for the streets to love.
But Tip couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle twice.
A lukewarm mixtape to coincide with an ironic single choice in “Got Your Back” saw that T.I. wasn’t exactly prepared to re-enter the climate which he left as one of the best rappers in the genre. Instead, he came back a man hinged strictly on the fact he just left prison and couldn’t exactly come up with a sure-fire hit.
Maybe in his actions last month in Los Angeles, he let his guard slip and proceeded to reconsider what exactly that year and a day taught him. Musically, that he had reached his apex with his back against the wall. Now with that wall removed, what exactly did he have to prove? Kanye had come back from his own exile to stampede on the world, Jeezy found himself mired in his own scrutiny after some misses of his own & Lil Wayne was gone by default.
Redemption stories are aplenty in hip-hop. Finding T.I.’s musically will be harder than the one he originally had when he started his prison sentence in May 2009. In a way, I hope Tip gets his act together.
From a human perspective, I’m pained. I’ve been through the ringers of the justice system (who says journos don’t have a little cred) and quite frankly, it’s a distinctive situation that makes me seriously want to ask T.I. a few questions in an interview. For starters, since when did you have a drug problem and why was this not mentioned during your previous cases? If your wife is so down for you and your mistakes, why didn’t she take the charge?
Matter of fact – why were you associating yourself with felons in the first place? Of all the instances to try and rehabilitate not only you as a rapper but as a person, have you yet to learn that trying to keep it street doesn’t get you victories in the long run? If anything, you could have gone to the same hiring service Meg Whitman got for her maid and saved yourself the trouble.
Even if you talked that suicide jumper out of doing it, obviously you realized the belief that it was a desperate plea to get out of a jail sentence. Commendable yes, but the way the story broke it felt a little orchestrated, which doomed your chances of sliding through the system yet again unscathed.
Either way, we’ll have to go another year without an official T.I. release and judging by how the wheel is working at Atlantic, we still won’t see another Young Dro album.