When T.I. releases his T.I. vs T.I.P. album — now slated for July — it won't just be a one-on-one face off of Clifford Harris' two musical personas. Plenty of his friends are jumping on it. Sunday night via phone from Atlanta, T.I. revealed some of the album's collaborators, and it sounded like a red-carpet roll call at a high-profile awards show. The biggest names? A guy who knows a thing or two about split personalities and some cat who T.I. just performed with at the Grammys.
"I'm anticipating going in with Eminem," the King of the South revealed. "Eminem, we got a real hot concept that we spoke about over the phone. It's gonna be on some real creative sh--. JT, Justin Timberlake, we're just waiting on the proper song to get him on my album as well."
That's just the beginning. The two-time Grammy Award winner says he has about 60 songs in the can and will once again be working right up to the deadline to turn the album in.
"I'm working with everybody who I have an opportunity to work with," he added. "Timbaland, I'm working with Danja [Timbaland protégé Nate Hills] today. Scott Storch, Mannie Fresh, Wyclef — [Wyclef] came through with some real worldly music and great vocals. Nelly, Lil Wayne, R. Kelly. We reached out to Ciara, gonna see what she says. Akon did his thing for me. A lot of the Grand Hustle producers: Khao, Black Mob. ... Just Blaze, we did a song called 'Help Is Coming.' I'm basically talking about how they say the industry is suffering. Well, help is on the way. Fret not."
T.I. vs. T.I.P. is undoubtedly the film/mic star's most conceptual album to date. T.I. is the persona we hear in songs like "My Love" and "Why You Wanna." T.I.P., on the other hand, takes care of the much more gutter material like "Bring Em Out" and "You Don't Know Me." Tip says the LP will give you doses of T.I. and T.I.P. solo records as well as the two collaborating on the same track. There will be interludes throughout the LP, telling a story — and don't be surprised if more than one single from the project is released at once.
"I'm not just making an album, I'm making f---in' opera here," he chuckled. With such a high concept, he says that he's making sure to take extra time and critique every song to be sure he doesn't lose anyone.
"It'd be easy for me to go over people's heads," he rationalized. "Sometime people might see me act a certain way one time and another way one another time. They might not believe the same cat you see dressed so sharp and winning awards and speaking eloquently is the same cat you see fist-fighting with hoodlums outside a nightclub. This album will be an explanation of all of this."
Inspiration for material is something T.I. is definitely not lacking. Professionally, he's thrived since the release of King in 2006. He won two Grammys, received critical acclaim for his part in his Hollywood debut, "ATL," and filmed "American Gangster" with Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. The screenplay for "T.I vs. T.I.P." is being written now, with production for the film scheduled to ramp up this summer. And lately, Tip's been on a tear as one of the most requested MCs for guest appearances, featured on Justin Timberlake's "My Love," Jim Jones' "We Fly High" remix, Fat Joe's "Make It Rain" remix, DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over," DJ Drama's "Takin Pictures" and R. Kelly's "Flirt" remix.
Personally, though, Tip's had some ups and downs. The most heartbreaking low came last May when he had to endure the loss of his best friend Philant Johnson after unknown assailants shot at his tour bus following a show in Cincinnati (see "Deadly Shooting Causes T.I. To Re-Evaluate His Life"). The death of his friend almost caused him to retire from rap, period.
"A lot of mixed emotion," T.I. began to detail. "Parts of me were ready to get out the game completely. I felt the game wasn't for me. I felt like I was finnin' to kill somebody or do something that was gonna get me killed. That was the first time I felt about the rap game what I felt about the dope game. ... Right before I got out of the dope game, and my son was [about to be born], I sat myself down and said, 'You gonna mess around and kill somebody and have to deal with that. Or you might get yourself killed.' "
T.I. said he was ultimately inspired to not give up the mic after his late friend came to him one night.
"Phil spoke to me and said, 'If you quit, I'll kill you,' " he remembered.
Tip says going back to recording after his brief hiatus was nowhere nearly as tough as doing shows shortly after losing his friend.
As fate would have it, after such a tragic loss, Tip was blessed with a life. He's expecting a baby girl this July with longtime girlfriend Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. It will be T.I.'s and Tiny second child together. The two were even engaged, but have recently decided to amicably end their long relationship and remain friends.
"She's still a part of my life," he explained the turn their relationship has taken. "I love her to death. Her children is still my children, my children are still her children," he said (both have kids from previous relationships). "We want each other to be happy. It's nothing she did and it's nothing I did."
While T.I. works on album number five and awaits the birth of child number six in his and Cottle's brood, he'll also be overseeing several other projects on his Grand Hustle imprint, such as DJ Drama's official Gangsta Grillz album and the sophomore project from Young Dro. There's also a clothing line he's involved in with his manager and business partner Jason Geter called AKOO.