The King of the South has spoken: "Just know whenever you hear about T.I. coming to town, it's going down. Be clear."
He has certainly backed it up during his run on this summer's Screamfest '07 tour. Nelly came out and rapped with him on two dates, Common showed up once, and former Cash Money Millionaire B.G. has popped up a handful of times. And last week, T.I. made history during the New York stop at Madison Square Garden. The co-headliner brought Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Diddy, Ciara and Swizz Beatz all onstage at the same time during his set (see "Jay-Z, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Diddy, T.I., Ciara, Swizz Beatz Make Hip-Hop History At NYC Show").
And to think: The whole thing might not have happened if it weren't for 50 and Diddy's unexpected arrivals and Swizzy's faithful fans.
"It was definitely a fantastic experience on a whole," T.I. said Friday about his first headlining appearance at MSG. "I was looking forward to it. I get the ticket numbers every day before every show, so we'll know how many people to expect. What kind of crowd. When I got the ticket numbers the day of, we were already well above 10,000. Not counting walkups, not counting contest winners. I knew it was going be a sold-out show. Then Jay had already confirmed he was gonna come kick it with me. Then that day Kanye confirmed he was gonna come. Swizz said he was running late, he was supposed to come for the first half of my set for 'Bring Em Out.' He was coming from Philly. I think traffic was holding him up, but he came right on time."
"I was running late," Swizz recalled. "Nobody [from T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records] was answering their phones. So the closer I'm getting to the city, I'm like, 'Damn, nobody is answering their phone.' I don't know how to get the credentials. So I decided to just walk through the muthaf---a. I walked up [to the Garden] like, 'I need to get to the stage.' The security was like, 'How do I know it's you?' The people in the streets were like, 'That's Swizz! She ain't got no money in the bank!' "
While Swizz was trying to get into MSG, T.I. was proceeding with his show. He brought out Jay-Z for "Watch What You Say" and the two were getting ready to announce another surprise: Kanye West was in the building. Before they could, though, 50 Cent walked out unannounced.
"The plan was to bring Kanye out," said DJ Drama, who was on the turntables as it all unfolded. "I was ready to go. I had my hand on the button, I turn around and see 50 walking up ... ooh! I hold up for a second. I don't just wanna go in, it wasn't according to plan. Everybody was like, 'Wow.' You knew from that point on, this was gonna be a bigger night than planned. I was like, 'That's 50! 50 knows how to make a movie out of anything, even if it's already a blockbuster!' "
"[Jay] was looking like, 'What are you doing? What are you doing walking out in the middle of the show, man?' " 50 told DJ Whoo Kid during Sirius Satellite Radio's "G-Unit Radio" show on Saturday. "They thought I was gonna do something because of the way they responded to me when I walked out."
Tip says he was definitely surprised to see Fif onstage but knew nothing negative would happen because he's been chilling with 50 for the past several weeks.
"Me and 50 have been delegating throughout the tour," Tip explained. "We have a mutual respect for one another. We were kicking it, he was in my dressing room before the show. Him and Yayo, they were in my dressing room, having drinks and talking sh--. Me, him, Maino, the G-Unit, as well as Puff. All of us were in the dressing room kicking it. [50 coming out during my set,] that was an extension of that moment.
"50 came out, that was spontaneous, but it was all love," T.I. continued. "He was welcomed. When he came out, we rolled with the punches. It wasn't like he wasn't welcome. It was like, '50 coming out, too? Bet.' "
With the crowd still cheering, Jay-Z finally called on Kanye, and Drama dropped the beat for West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing." While West was boppin' to the mainstage, Diddy ran past him, joining his Southern friend and NYC cohorts.
"Then I seen Puffy," Tip said smiling. "It was like, 'OK, everybody coming out!' "
By this time, Swizz had finally made it upstairs, and just like Kanye raps in the song, nobody could tell Swizz nothing. He was going to that stage by any means necessary.
"So I'm walking through the crowd, no jewelry on in my f---in' hoodie. I'm fresh off the road. I'm walking through the crowd like a regular n---a, and the people see me and were bugging. I didn't want to just run up there, 'cause I didn't know what n---as had planned. So I made eye contact with Drama and gave him the nod like, 'I'm here!' He gave the signal, and a dude just gave me a mic and pushed me to the stage. So I walked up to the stage during Jay-Z's performance of 'Encore,' and when I got up there, I did 'Money in the Bank.' You should have heard the crowd. I thought I was gonna miss that sh--, boy. That sh-- was chaos, B! It's the part that's not calculated that makes it amazing."
"I didn't know Swizz was there," T.I. explained. "When I saw him, I was like, 'Ah, man, it's going down.' I kinda forgot where we was in the show. I was sittin' back, kicking it, then I was like, 'Oh man, I forgot we got a show to do. Let me do my part.' "
Tip closed out with "What You Know About That" and "Big Things Poppin'." Backstage, there were enough bottles being popped to fill two Stanley Cups with champagne.
"It was really like the finals was in Madison Square Garden," Drama said. "It was like winning a championship. It was a good feeling. You seen that glow. Tip was calm, he was in normal form, but everybody knew how monumental it was. That was big for the game."
"An absolute pleasure, a lot of love," Tip said about the experience. "Everybody came through and showed love. It's rare in hip-hop that we have genuine, positive moments like that. It's good for us to sit back and embrace it now. It's the first moment of that magnitude that I had specific involvement in. I have been involved in plenty of moments such as that, but for it to be my show, my set ... it's the biggest thing I've been the culprit of. I feel great about it. Thanks to Jay, Kanye, Puff, 50 and Swizz. Everybody, it was really like an all-star game. It wasn't nobody worried about how many points they were scoring, who sold the most records. It was a celebration and having a good time."
"It was showtime for real, for real," Swizz said. "That sh-- blew my mind, B! The way the [people] spazzed out, crazy! Everybody was showing each other love. That's how hip-hop is supposed to be. I was happy just to be a part of it. That right there needs to be the next Vibe cover: 'Hip-Hop Lives!'
"From a media standpoint, at MTV and even people at those magazines, y'all need to make it big," he added about the coverage in the wake of the event. " 'Cause if we was on that stage and somebody would have got smacked, that sh-- would have been on covers and all over the headlines, so I think people who's controlling the media needs to make it big as life."
"All of them onstage: How big is that?" Drama said. "I was watching, like, 'Wow.' I was speechless. It was big. Just to watch all them on the stage rockin' and watching the crowd rockin', it was a monumental night."
"Just anybody couldn't have gotten all those people up there at one time," T.I. boasted. "It has to be a person of great reputation with great social standing in this neighborhood we call hip-hop. I'm real proud of that. It's not a lot of people who's cool with 50 and cool with Puff and good with Kanye and cool with Swizz and still get love in the Garden. Especially being in the Garden and being from the South. It's not a lot of people who could have pulled that off. Puff called me and said, 'Don't take that lightly. It's not a lot of New York n---as who could have pulled that off. I don't think I could have gotten all y'all n---as up there at one time like that.' I said, 'Yeah, I recognize it and appreciate it definitely.' "
After the show, Tip, Swizz Beatz and Maino joined Yung Joc, the rest of Block Entertainment and executives from the Warner Music Group for dinner in NYC. Afterward, T.I. joined the Roc-A-Fella family at the 40/40 Club. Somewhere during the night, 50 Cent got the chance to sneak in some time to make an "I Get Money" remix with Jay-Z and Diddy. Diddy told radio personality Miss Info that it's the "Billion Dollar" remix.
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