All T.I. wanted was to have his say. A few days ago, he finally got a chance to express himself and reflect on what he's been weathering over the past several months when he released "No Matter What," the first track from his upcoming Paper Trail album.
"I would say I recorded it probably around the holidays or January, something like that," Tip said of the song. "[That was] when the hate was real fresh and I was counted out by most.
"I see things, hear things, observe things," he added. "When I sat down to write it, all those things, the things that seemed most important, just came out. I didn't intentionally write about one thing or another; I just wrote from the heart [about] the things that stuck with me throughout the ordeal, what I had seen on the news. It just came out at the time."
"God will take you through hell, just to get you to heaven," T.I. raps on the song. "Even though it's heavy, the load I will carry/ Grin and still bare it/ Win and still share it/ Even when winning's illogical, losing's still far from optional."
"There will definitely be more records like that," Tip said about what to expect on Paper Trail. "You know how usually on the album, I'll do one record like 'I Still Luv You' [or] 'Still Ain't Forgave Myself'? It's gonna be significantly more of those [types of records] on this album. I guess you could say there are definitely more songs that are just as introspective, just as personal, just as well-written."
While the song is very emotional, Tip has also sparked some conversation online about his references to fellow ATL rep Shawty Lo. "I don't think [there are] as many references as people think," the King of the South said. "Only the obvious one in the first verse."
In the single, T.I. directly referenced one of Lo's catchphrases, "Let's get, get, get it" from "Dey Know," in the single. He was retaliating for what he calls Shawty's ongoing subliminal jabs at him (listen to Lo's "Dun Dun" for an example). On "No Matter What," Tip spits, "[I] set the standard in Atlanta of how to 'get, get, get it'/ So you up-and-coming rappers wanna dis, just kill it/ I'm officially the realest, point-blank, period."
But one verse from T.I.'s new song really set off speculation: "They couldn't wait to say, 'Good night, shawty'/ So they could try to rhyme, act and look like shawty/ Go get a beat from Toomp and make a hook like shawty/ Before you know it, I'm back/ What it look like, shawty?"
Tip insisted that he wasn't talking about Lo in those lines. "Just because I say 'shawty' — anybody who holds a conversation with me knows that 'shawty' is just in my vocabulary," he said. "I wasn't speaking to him throughout the record. I was speaking on people who took shots at me when I was down. He wasn't the only one; he was among the most consistent. But I'm focused on a greater goal. I'm not trippin' on that. Dude, that's not what's on my mind. I said what I had to say, and that's it. Whoever don't like it, so what?
Earlier this year, while talking to MTV Radio, Lo made a bold declaration while hinting at a rivalry with Tip: "I guess he's doing his thing. It is what it is."
Later in the conversation, Lo claimed ownership of the Atlanta neighborhood where he and Tip both grew up. "I feel I'm the real Bankhead," Shawty said. "I am the King of Bankhead. Can't nobody tell you no different."
"I sat still in confinement, listening to folks dance on my grave — so they thought," Tip said. "Now they gonna have to sit and listen to me. Take your medicine."
T.I. said he's trying to stay focused on his art, and a sustained back-and-forth isn't on his radar.
"I'm not looking to getting in that kind of stuff. I'm too old for that sh--," he said. "I'm not into going back and forth. Let your numbers speak. Let your success tell the story. Let your legacy speak for you. If the only thing speaking for you is your voice, then sh--, you ain't saying much. That's how I feel about it."
Meanwhile, T.I. is continuing to fulfill the community-service requirement from his weapons-charge sentence. On Thursday, he talked to the youth at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx, New York. (Check out pictures of Tip talking to the kids.)
Paper Trail is slated for August 12. Tip plans to drop more tracks before the LP's release.
[This story was originally published at 3:01 pm E.T. on 5.2.2008]