T.I. knows what it's like to be locked up with your family, friends and rap career left hanging in the balance, so when he shouted out "free Hardo" on his "About the Money" single, the gesture wasn't lost on the 22-year old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania rapper.
"It felt good, it felt like there were people that were really pushing for me, calling for me," Hardo told MTV News on Friday (October 24). "Just to be in my cell and hearing that over the radio and people screaming out their cells, 'Hardo turn on the radio,' it felt good."
Hardo, born Joseph Barnett, was released from prison on Tuesday, after serving 15 months while awaiting trial on drug charges and a parole violation.
The rapper was arrested on August 30, 2013 and charged with possession with intent to deliver, after officers pulled him over for running a stop sign and discovered 250 individual stamp bags of heroin in a closed bag under the driver’s seat. He was found not guilty of the charges on June 9, 2014, but was still ordered to remain in the system to serve time on a parole violation.
The prison stint briefly derailed his rap career, which begun to show promise last year.
As a teen Hardo attended Taylor Allderdice high school in Pittsburgh with star rapper Mac Miller and struck up a musical affiliation with the "Donald Trump" spitter. He also caught the ear of T.I., who took a liking after hearing Hardo's 2013 track "Stressin." Though Hardo is still unsigned, he's kept an affiliation with Tip's Hustle Gang clique.
"I acknowledge all authentic talent that is worth observing, and Hardo, I’ve been looking at him since like the first of the year," Tip told us bad in June 2013 when we interviewed him in Atlanta.
In addition to the shoutout on "About the Money," T.I. has stayed in close contact with the youngster, encouraging him to focus on the music and educate people on the pitfalls of the street when he got free. Now, Hardo has a autobiography on the way ("My Life So Far") and a new mixtape titled The Trapnanti.
"It feels great. There's an opportunity at hand, but at the same time I'm humbling myself because it's a blessing to know that I've been through that to just understand the great things to help me move forward and really accomplish the things that's ahead of me," he told us. "I'm glad that God put me in a situation where I got to be done. I was acquitted of all my charges and now I got another opportunity to do the right thing and that's just what I gotta do this time."