House arrest has caused T.I. to slow down.
In the rapper's first extensive interview since he was arrested in October 2007 for illegally attempting to purchase firearms and since he pleaded guilty to weapons charges two weeks ago, the Grand Hustle rapper told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the events of the past year have taught him not to live life so fast.
"Patience," he explained, when asked how he's been coping. "Just a lot of patience. If I can sit at home all day and wait on people to bring me what I need ... wait on getting permission to be able to do this and do that, it's not as serious as I used to make it sometimes. Sometimes it was like, 'If I don't get this right now I'm just going to lose it.' ... When you're going 350 MPH, it tends to be that way. But when you are stopped — halted, not slowed down, but halted — you figure, 'Well I could have just slowed down. I didn't have to be stopped.' I thought it was bad just to slow down. Now I see in me being stopped, I could have done this, been this, myself, instead of being forced to do it."
The admissions came in a 30-minute-plus chat T.I. held with the newspaper at an Atlanta YMCA after speaking to a youth group for aspiring music producers called FOR ME, Inc. As a part of the rapper's plea deal, he was ordered to complete 1,500 hours of community service.
Aside from losing his freedom, T.I. noted that he's lost his high-profile endorsement deal with General Motors. He was prominently featured in ads alongside NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. He said his ordeal has cost him millions of dollars.
"GM had to back up off of me," he said. "There are films that I missed out on. Not speaking of, of course ... tours. Tons of business. I've probably lost about $10 to $12 million."
After the reporter noted that T.I. smiled while saying it, the rapper laughed and replied, "Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying. But you know, I'm blessed to be able to be out here to make $10 to $12 [million] more. Especially considering I brought this all on myself. So you know — minimal injury. Maximum lesson learned."
The rapper said he has turned to spiritual guidance in his troubling times. "I feel blessed," he said. "Lucky ain't the word. It's by the grace of God that I'm here."
He said his relationship with church hasn't changed, but he acknowledged that his prayers were answered, as he got off with a much lighter sentence than expected in the case. Not to recognize his fortunes, he said, would be insulting.
"When you do the amount of praying that anybody in a situation similar to mine spends the time doing, and for that prayer to work, and for you to have other people praying for you to get through the situation — or to see the situation beginning to look up — and not acknowledge that's what helped the situation, I think that's blasphemous," he said.
T.I. is set to record in the studio with Amy Winehouse soon, although he said he was uncertain whether the collaboration will appear on his or Winehouse's album. He maintains a new single off his forthcoming album Paper Trail will arrive in the next couple of weeks, premiering on his social-networking site, StreetCred.com.
In the meantime, T.I. is engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle and expecting a baby boy next month, although he said their marriage plans are uncertain at the moment.
"As far as a date, I'm not setting a date because then it's going to turn into a lot of fanfare," he said. "No relationship needs all that. It's more hazard than help. ... And you know today, as entertainers, as public figures, there's enough strain on a relationship as it is. I think that's a private moment for us and our families."
He spoke a little about the days before his arrest last year. The night before the BET Hip-Hop Awards, he and friends went out on the town to celebrate his success, but his subsequent arrest made his memory of that moment bittersweet.
"It was sort of like a, well, you remember the [last] Super Bowl, right," T.I. said. "You know Jeremy Shockey? He broke his leg. He had to sit up in the press box and watch. He couldn't help his team win. He couldn't play. The greatest, most talked-about, most publicized Super Bowl in our time and he's sitting watching; instead of actually being able to participate. Terrible ... And I know, I know, I brought it on myself."