Rapper T.I. joined Rev. Al Sharpton, Ja Rule, and various community activists at a march on Monday (May 11) in New York City to speak out against gun violence. The rally also honored the memory of 13-year-old Christopher Owen and 17-year-old Cory Squires, both recently gunned down in the city.
"I say thank you to you all, but I also feel I owe some of us an apology. I owe us an apology because the same violence and gun activity I'm attempting to stop, I once was a part of and played a huge part in promoting," T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, can be observed speaking to the gathered crowd on numerous video recordings of the event available on the internet. "I carried guns and slung dope as a 13 year old. That's why I feel I owe you an apology, but at the same time those experiences gave me the tools I need to be able to get out here and reach the people who are now doing what I used to do."
On the eve of the event, T.I. wrote an open letter to the public on the Russell Simmons-headed website, globalgrind.com. "I broke the law and will accept my punishment. With deep reflection about where my life was headed, I have begun the process of redemption, and decided that before I go to prison, I want to speak to young people about responsibility as a lifestyle," he wrote. "I hope that through my mistakes, young people can begin to learn, as I did, that we have to put our guns down and start to give our guns back. It pains me inside to hear about so many of our people dying because of gun violence...Now is the time for me to lead by example."
In related news, T.I. booted fellow rapper Alfamega from his Grand Hustle Records following a published report by thesmokinggun.com earlier this month that claims the latter was an informant for the drug enforcement administration during a trial on a heroin trafficker.
T.I. was arrested in 2007 for attempting to buy unregistered machine guns and silencers, and he pleaded guilty last March. He was sentenced to one year and a day behind bars on federal weapons charges last month.
T.I.'s last album, 2008's "Paper Trail," has sold1.9 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.