MIAMI — When you’re making music for two, sometimes it means you not only have to work twice as hard but also twice as fast.
Take T.I., for instance.
The Atlanta MC is putting the final touches on his forthcoming personality-splitting project, T.I. vs. T.I.P. — which is due July 3 on Grand Hustle/ Atlantic — and he’s already finished the album’s first two videos (see “T.I. Gives ’Rappin’ Fool’ Eminem A T.I.P. About Alter Egos” ).
The lead single, T.I’s “Big Things Poppin’,” was just shot a couple of weeks ago and should debut soon (see “T.I. Has ’Big Things Poppin’ ’ With Mannie Fresh, Himself On T.I.P.“ ).
And now his alter ego Tip is getting in on the action as he shot the clip for “You Know What It Is” earlier this week in Miami. The song, produced by and featuring Wyclef Jean, doesn’t even have a release date yet. But that didn’t stop T.I. from going full-scale for the video, even as “Big Things Poppin’ ” is just picking up steam.
“That’s what you call high-class problems,” he explained to MTV News from the South Beach set. “Not knowing when to put your second single out because your first one is doing so well. That’s a wonderful problem to have. [So] I’m not gonna rush it.”
According to T.I., the video for “You Know What It Is” is set to pick up where “Big Things Poppin’ ” leaves off. The latter ends with T.I. on a stage — at the start of the second clip, ’Clef offers his rougher alter ego, Tip, a proposition.
“[He’s] basically saying, ’Well, if you done doing your rapper thing, I got some business that I want to handle with you. Come holler at me,’ ” T.I. said. “And he says he needs me to drive him, and you probably thinking in a car, [but] then you see us in a plane, in a boat, in this car, at the house, in Haiti. So basically he wants me to come to Haiti with him to handle some business, and from there we come back to Miami and we go back to our regular lives.”
The “You Know What It Is” video was shot over two days, complete with shots of mansions, yachts and airport arrivals. Director Chris Robinson — who has worked with T.I. from the rapper’s very first video up through their collaboration on the movie “ATL” — wanted to complement the song, he said, with its own unique presentation. That’s why he didn’t direct “Big Things Poppin’ ” after shooting every video for T.I.’s last album, King.
“I was like, ’You know what, I think for that video, let’s find a young boy to do that, you want to get out there [with that energy], that joint is like that,’ ” Robison explained. “I really want to tell stories, and the truth is for me, me and T.I. always say, ’I’m Scorsese and he’s De Niro,’ so that’s the kind of relationship we want to build. We want it to go beyond music videos. This has a lot of pieces that you would see in the normal hip-hop video — the beautiful house, the beautiful girls, the boats — but it’s the way we’re shooing it. It’s the story behind us actually flying into Haiti with Wyclef. So we always try to do something not necessarily different from the industry but different from what we’ve done before together.”
The group, however, wasn’t able to actually trek down to Haiti. Instead, Robinson was able to re-create the country’s gritty setting outside a local pub in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. Rainy conditions, power outages on the set and roosters swarming about might seem like they set the perfect scene for the MC, but he said he wants to mix up his personas more in videos as opposed to distancing the two, like he’s doing on his album.
“I’m trying to show people that Tip can do what T.I. can do and T.I. can do what Tip can do, just as well,” he said. “Maybe not the same way, maybe not as much, maybe not as good, but it can be done. Accept it. I say the same way you would think wearing a [fancy] shirt like this, riding in a nice big boat, riding private jets, you would think that’s T.I., but Tip is like, ’Hell, I can do that too. Give me a shot, let me see how I like it.’ And whereas everyone may think [they’re seeing] Tip if you in Little Haiti … [or] just in the ’hood in Harlem, chillin’ — you expect that to be Tip, but T.I. is like, ’People got love for me around the word, I can go where I want to. Just because that ain’t what you see me do most of the time don’t mean that I can’t do it.’
“We just merging these personalities together,” T.I. continued. “Trying to give them their own individuality, but at the same time make them coexist.”