On Tuesday, October 18, Harper Collins will release the first book written by rapper Clifford "Tip" Harris, better known as the rapper T.I. The book, entitled Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets (William Morrow), is a novel written by Tip "T.I." Harris with David Ritz, a novelist who has also co-written the true life stories of such artists as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Grandmaster Flash.
In an interview with Billboard just two weeks after he was released from an Atlanta halfway house (after serving an 11-month sentence in federal prison for violating the conditions of his parole stemming from a 2008 guilty plea on felony weapons charges) the chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning rapper said that he hopes Power & Beauty would fill a hole in the marketplace.
Asked why he chose to deliver a novel as his debut rather than a biography or a memoir, T.I. said it was all about defying expectations. "I was always raised to, or at least raised in this industry, in entertainment, I was raised to never ever let them see you coming, keep them guessing," he said. "When they think you're going right, go left. So after that, if at all possible, I would want my [first] book to be something out of left field."
T.I. said that he began working with Ritz at the beginning of 2010 and that the two developed the idea and the story together. They delivered the finished book this year, "around mid June."
During the call also discussed a recent shift in his management team. T.I. who co-founded his own record label Grand Hustle Entertainment with longtime manager Jason Geter in 2003 and has been operating under the Warner umbrella with distribution by Atlantic Records since, will now also be represented by Hip Hop Since 1978, the firm that also represents Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Drake and others. "Gee's always been a big part of our operation just not in the capacity of manager," said T.I., in reference to "Gee" Roberson, HHS1978's co-CEO, who recently left his position as VP of A&R at Atlantic Records to become Chairman at Geffen.
"[From] the executive producer standpoint and A&R standpoint, he made gigantic contributions to probably the past three or four T.I. albums, but he's assumed a large responsibility over at Geffen so that kind of took a big part of my team away. When [Jason Geter] and I both agreed that we would be considering expanding the management team, and then sat down and talked about possible candidates, he was definitely one of the first people that came up."
When asked when the arrangement with HHS1978 was formalized, T.I. demurred. "Once again, it's a team, it's a collective," he said. "It's an unconventional arrangement as far as management. Of course you also have Grand Hustle management - Jason still maintains his position. You have Gee and [Hip Hop Since] '78 who come in with their expertise in several areas, who works alongside [Jason]. And then you got Category 5, Brian Sher [founder of Category 5 Entertainment, formerly of ICM], who's there from the film and television area. I've got different pieces of management who have extreme levels of expertise in their areas… We feel that's the best way to have appropriate execution and to take advantage of all the opportunities that are ever present in the marketplace for me."
Three years ago, T.I. set the record for the biggest jump to No. 1 on the Hot 100 after entering the charts with his single, "Whatever You Like," (72-1). He quickly broke his own record with an 80-1 leap for the single, "Live Your Life," which features Rihanna. Both songs appeared on his chart-topping sixth album, Paper Trail, which appeared in 2008 on Grand Hustle/Atlantic. Since his Sept. 29 release, T.I. has appeared on several songs, including Young Jeezy's "F.A.M.E.," 2 Chainz "Spend It (Remix)" and his own single, "I'm Flexin'." He helped open the BET Hip Hop Awards with performances of both "F.A.M.E." and "I'm Flexin'" just days after his release. Asked how it felt to be working again, T.I. said, "it feels outstanding."
"It feels great to be home," he said. "The little things, the small things feel great. Making music, performing, putting out records, and doing all those other things, they're just the icing on the cake. Sleeping in my bed, opening my refrigerator, being with my kids - all those things are primary. Making music and performing and getting back into my professional life, that's all significant, but it takes a backseat to my primary appreciations."
T.I. noted that his stepdaughter, Zonnique, who performs under the name Star, was currently on the road with OMG Girlz (the group she formed with Lil Wayne's daughter Reginae, who also goes by Baby Carter). He also said that his two oldest sons were playing football and that Messiah, 11, had begun working on a children's book, while his seven year old son, King, had taken up rapping. "Everyone is doing wonderful," T.I. said. "I'm proud of all of them."
On the business front, T.I. said the Grand Hustle team was "proud to death" of the new B.o.B. single, "Strange Clouds," which features Lil Wayne and currently sits at No. 19 on the Hot 100. Grand Hustle is currently setting up for the release of B.o.B.'s sophomore album, Strange Clouds and T.I. said that the label is looking to shoot a video for the title track "in the next week or so." "We're looking forward to a huge year for him," said T.I. B.o.B.'s chart-topping debut album, B.o.B. Presents the Adventures of Bobby Ray, appeared on Grand Hustle/Rebel Rock/Atlantic last year and featured the hit singles "Nothin' On You," which featured Bruno Mars and hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, and "Airplanes," which featured Hayley Williams of Paramore and peaked at No. 2.
In addition to mapping out plans for the OMG Girlz, Young Dro, and newcomer, singer/songwriter Lil Sean, T.I. said that Grand Hustle is looking to restructure as it enters its eighth year. "[We're going to] reshape and remold this company from the bottom up, from an executive standpoint and an artist standpoint," he said of the label he co-founded with Jason Geter and that has been operating under the Warner umbrella, with distribution through Atlantic, since 2003. "It's a unanimous decision," he said. "The way we've done it, we've been considerably successful, but in order to do better, we're going to have to do things differently."
T.I. did not offer specifics regarding the Grand Hustle restructuring, but he did mention that there is a sequel to "Power & Beauty" already in the works, with a third installment to the series planned as well. "I'm halfway through ["Power & Beauty 2"], [but] I have to figure out the beginning of three before I get to the end of two," he said. "I know it sounds kind of backwards, but I'm trying to figure out what I want to do. Outside of that, I definitely have the intent of putting a biography together. And [my wife] Tameka and I, we're having discussions about doing a his and hers guide to relationships in the world of hip hop, in the fast lane of this generation."
"How to do it right and keep it tight," he added, with a laugh.
T.I. has released seven solo studio albums since his debut, I'm Serious, which appeared on Arista in 2001. His most recent album, No Mercy, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 when it was released in December 2010. As an actor he has appeared in the films "ATL," "American Gangster," and "Takers," as well as in the MTV reality show, "T.I.'s Road to Redemption."
T.I.'s Grand Hustle Entertainment produced "Takers," along with Screen Gems, Rainforest Films, and Overbrook Entertainment. "Takers" opened at No. 1 for the weekend when it was released in Aug. 2010 and has grossed over $57 million according to IMDB. T.I. has a reality show with VH1 currently in the works. The series, said to be 10 episodes and centered on T.I.'s readjustment to life post-prison, is reportedly set to for a Dec. 5 debut.