Now, the self-proclaimed "King of the South" is back and looking for a musical rebirth. He changed his stage name to his childhood name of Tip, and with his new EP Da' Nic, he's gone independent, breaking away from a label for the first time.
T.I. says his ability to boost others -- like his cameo on the Robin Thicke 2013 smash "Blurred Lines" -- and the success of his street anthem "About the Money" last year proves he is still highly capable of churning out hits.
"If you can put together the right music, create the right energy and story, you can still have exceptional success," said T.I., who is set to release his tenth album, The Dime Trap, later this year.
Associated Press: Outside of family and friends, the masses know you as T.I. Why make the change to Tip now?
T.I.: At this point, for me to be world famous and for being called a name that no one else really calls me just seemed kind of awkward to me. I never thought enough to do so [change the name]. It just seemed like more trouble than it's worth. If I was still at the same label or situation, it would be a different story. This sets the stage and opens the door for a new start.
Your 2014 album, Paperwork, which was released under Columbia, seemed to garner mostly positive reviews. Why did the partnership end?
We had one, plus an [additional year] option. We did the first project and we both made money. We didn't shock the world or blow the roof off of what we intended to do. But I think that I walked away with a positive enough experience to say I'm good. I really don't have a problem with them. They were good partners. We shared that moment. ... I don't think it was impressive enough of a project or a rollout or relationship that either one of us needed to stay longer and invest more.
T.I. Talks Return to TIP Moniker, Tenth Album and the State of Trap Music
You released Da' Nic independently through your label Grand Hustle Records and Empire Distribution in September. How has independent life treated you?
I don't have to wait on anybody. I don't have to wait on the opinions or the objective of anyone else other than me and my nucleus around me. We have been producing great material for years. We have a perfect idea of what we do and how we should apply it to the market place. ... We don't need anybody in the midst of that slowing it down, because they don't get it or haven't caught up to us artistically. They just aren't on the same page. It's refreshing to not be constricted.
What's your reasoning behind releasing the EP?
The core of what I do is to be a voice for the people in the underserved areas of society that can't speak for themselves. That's what they want me to do.
Could you ever see yourself back with a major label?
If I found an appropriate partner through my campaign [to get back on a label] that could benefit me, I won't ignore it. But right now, we're doing this how we did it since day one. We're doing it the same way when we left Arista, and started working Trap Muzik on our own before we left Atlantic [Records]. It's a perfect time to make a change.