Musically, T.I. has had nothing but success lately.
His latest CD, “Paper Trail,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and was accompanied by two No. 1 singles to match that. He’s also won a number of awards – including a Grammy this month. But the rapper also has a big challenge on the horizon.
In March, the 28-year-old, whose real name is Clifford Harris, faces about a year in prison after pleading guilty to federal weapons charges. As part of a plea deal, he agreed to also complete 1,000 hours of community service.
On Tuesday, MTV will debut “T.I.’s Road to Redemption: 45 Days to Go,” which chronicles the rapper’s attempts to help others avoid the mistakes he’s made in the past.
AP: What’s been the highlight of the new show?
T.I.: I guess the best part would be taking a very negative in a very negative time period in my life and turning it into a positive (one).
AP: Did you feel like the teenagers you helped got the message?
T.I.: I did. Especially after the fact, reaching back out to them seeing how they maintained that progress. I was very surprised. … It’s real, it’s not anything that’s made up, it’s real talk, so if you want to get a message it’s there for you to receive. If you block the message out, then you’re going to have to pay for that.
AP: What was most challenging part when mentoring the teenagers?
T.I.: I guess the hardest part would be explaining to them how they’re supposed to go against what they consider to be the only thing that they know and why. It’s not easy to go against your natural gut feeling or your instinctive behaviour. And to reprogram that, you have to have an incredible amount of logic, motivation and hope.
AP: How did you balance the community service and your busy music career?
T.I.: It was challenging, but as everything else in my career and in my life has been, nothing has been a complete walk in the park. It was always an uphill battle so this was no different. We set a goal (and) we mapped out a realistic, strategic plan of accomplishing that goal.
AP: I heard there’s a possibility you could do less time. Can you talk some more about this?
T.I.: If it is a possibility, I haven’t heard a thing about it. But I didn’t really do it for that. Of course I’m not looking forward to it, I’m not ecstatic about it, but I am looking forward to putting this part of my life behind me and moving forward. I just felt like me helping people would take the attention away from me and give me something else to focus on.
AP: Going into jail, what kind of mindset do you have now?
T.I.: The mindset I have is the sooner I get started the sooner I get finished.
AP: You’ve been to jail before. What do you think you’ll learn this time and how will it be different?
T.I.: I’ll learn to never go back again – that’s about it. …It’s fair time. It’s a lot different. I think I’m going to be around people (serving) a lot more time now.
AP: Do you feel like you’ve already learned your lesson?
T.I.: Absolutely, I don’t think there’s a lesson I can learn more valuable and you can’t drill it in my head anymore than it’s already been drilled in my head. I’m just going through the emotions at this point.
AP: This has been a wild year for you. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you look back at it?
T.I.: The first thing that comes to mind is how blessed I am, how far I’ve come and how I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to turn this whole situation around, (for it) to come full circle and how appreciative I am for that opportunity.
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