Last week, T.I. shot two videos in three days with very little time for playing around. That is, until Jamie Foxx came in the picture.
"All of a sudden the video stops, and [T.I.] says, 'You might see me in the club, but n---a, you don't know me,' " Foxx tells video director Chris Robinson, referring to T.I.'s "U Don't Know Me" video. The whole set erupts with laughter. "He's pointing, and his finger comes out the TV and hits me right in the eye. I'm like, 'Ahhh!' "
The comic relief was welcome on the set, with Foxx singing about life's ups and downs and T.I. baring his soul about loved ones he's lost.
"The song is paying homage, respect to the memory of my partners who ain't here with us today: my partner Big Phil, my cousin Toot, my partners Bankhead, Rico, too many to name," T.I. said.
Tip says he shed tears writing the record last year. And "Live in the Sky" has become a staple at his concerts, especially after the recent murder of his best friend Philant Johnson, which is one of the people he dedicates it to onstage (see "Deadly Shooting Causes T.I. To Re-Evaluate His Life").
T.I. recorded "Sky" when production was almost complete for his latest album, King (see "T.I. Says #1 Is A Position He Should've Had From The Start").
"The night before I made ['Live in the Sky,' Def Jam CEO Lyor Cohen] came to my studio and we kicked it for the evening," Tip said. "I was playing all the records I had at the time, and he was like, 'I like these records, but you have to show a little vulnerability.' I was like, 'Vulnerability? What you mean by that?' He was like, 'You gotta open up and show people you got a heart.' I [said to myself,] 'What do I hold near and dear to myself enough to where I can display it to the rest of the people through music and gain acceptance?' I started thinking about my cousin and partners, that's how the song came. The next day I was like, 'How's this?' He was like, 'This is what I was talking about. This is wonderful.' "
"It lets you know he's a true artist," Foxx said. "Anytime you have somebody that opens up and writes something off the commercial path and really talks about something that's going on in his spirit ... I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Robinson said the video will have plenty of performance scenes — with a little help from a green screen.
"The green screen is Jamie, high up on a skyscraper, hence living in the sky," he described. "The melody, the way Jamie sung the song, it's touching. As much fun as we're having, [the song] is personal and means a lot. We had [actor] Forest Whitaker come out. He's playing an angel. It's kind of a star-studded song."
Robinson said the video is especially touching for him because his best friend and cousin died around the time T.I. recorded the track.
"We've been putting this video together for two months," said Robinson, who also directed T.I. in the movie "ATL." "Usually you get music and shoot a video 10 days later. ... But we've been marinating on this for a while. We want to represent."
It's still not clear if T.I. will drop any more singles from King, which has sold almost 2 million copies. Tip is working on his fifth LP now: T.I. vs. Tip.
"It'll be out beginning of next year," he revealed. "Working on it right now. I guess [it's themed as] one part of me versus another part of me. Two alter egos fighting for position. T.I. is more of a professional, more of an artist, more of a businessperson. Whereas Tip, he's just a regular cat keeping it real for Bankhead [Georgia] who enjoys making music. He's a real principle-driven person. It's more about respect than money. They have it out from time to time."
The day after T.I. and Foxx completed the "Live in the Sky" video, Tip spent the day filming a video for the next Justin Timberlake single, "My Love" (see "T.I. Joins Beyonce, Puts It Down 'For The Young Ladies' With Justin").
"He's a cool cat," the King of the South said of JT. "He knows how to kick it. [The song] is a lot of positive energy for a female; she should be appreciated. It's about a young lady and wooing her, pursuing her."