ATLANTA — The sentencing judge called it "experimental." The U.S. attorney who helped broker the arrangement called it "unique." And [artist id="1225081"]T.I.[/artist] himself acknowledged that his plea deal — which reduced a potential 10-year prison term into community service and, more than likely, less than a year's worth of jail time — was "an opportunity."
T.I. wasn't the recipient of the plea deal because he snitched, he's often said. Nor did he get the benefit of the doubt from the legal system because he's rich. Tip landed his plea deal due to a combination of his fame, his familiar troubled past and his ability to recount his transformation from trap star to rap star as a means of influencing at-risk youth.
"If they would have gave Joe Blow, who got arrested with guns the next day or the next week — if [the court] would have gave him my deal, could he have turned around and given as much back to the community as I have? No he couldn't," T.I. told MTV News' Sway during their conversation for "Road to Redemption: The Reckoning," which airs Tuesday on MTV.
"I showed I was worthy of this and this was something possible," Tip continued. "So they decided the opportunity was worth the chance."
The rapper's lawyer has said his client has made upwards of 260 public appearances in the past year, talking to schools, youth groups and churches. T.I. speaks about his mistakes during these appearances, owning up to his behavior and aiming to keep kids on the right path. In his sit-down with Sway, Tip explained that he understands one conversation with children may not be enough to deter them. But he's staying in touch with those he can. The rapper eventually hopes the positive interventions — from "Road to Redemption" and his public appearances — will be a strong enough alternative to an at-risk teen's turbulent influences.
"I try to get eye-level with these kids," T.I. told MTV News, referencing his troubled history. "The only thing I have that they don't have is the experience of making it through."
Tip added that he believes he's helped to give some of the kids he visits "a conscience," even if takes some longer than others to realize it.
"It's like with cigarette smokers," he said. "Not everyone can go cold turkey. Some go from two packs a day to one pack a day to the point where they don't buy cigarettes anymore, they just bum them, and then they quit."
At his sentencing on Friday, Tip's legal team said although there may not be any hard numbers to confirm the rapper's influence, they believe his work with kids to be exemplary. One of T.I.'s attorneys read a letter from the probation officer of one of the "Road to Redemption" kids, Anthony, thanking Tip for his work and hoping he continues his outreach after his prison stay.
MTV News will have more from T.I. in the coming days. Don't miss "T.I.'s Road to Redemption: The Reckoning," airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.