After T.I. was released from prison September 29, it was business as usual. He dropped a handful of songs (including his new single, "I'm Flexin' "), attended a few welcome-home parties, and performed with Taylor Swift and at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards, airing Tuesday (October 11). Tip also began strategizing his Akoo clothing brand, a company he actually claimed did better while he was behind bars.
"We are definitely at a place in business where we're proud of our accomplishments and looking forward to what we have to accomplish in the days to come," T.I. told MTV News last week during a brunch to celebrate the clothing line in Atlanta.
Akoo, which stands for "A King of One's Self," is a street-wear brand T.I. and his partner Jason Geter conceptualized in 2008. "We represent artistry, we represent culture, we represent fashion, we represent being fly and just doing you to the best of your ability and getting paid for it," Tip explained.
Geter toasted T.I.'s return by saying there is nothing better than having him back, though the rapper joked the brand has fared better without him: "We're actually doin' a little better in my absence," he said with a chuckle.
Akoo creative director Ralph Reynolds described the company as a partnership and stressed that T.I.'s involvement is imperative to the line's success. "Tip is our partner, Jason is our partner, so it's not one of those types of scenarios where if someone falls, you just switch and get a new horse," he said.
He added that, while T.I. was incarcerated, "We had to just keep on grinding, keep on working hard, and make sure that when he came back to us, that he had something to smile about."
Ultimately, it is T.I. who is the line's chief inspiration, though the rapper agrees with Reynolds that Akoo is a real collaboration.
Regarding how the trio develops designs, T.I. said, "Ralph raids my closet from time to time to see how I'm feeling for that season or seasons to come, and we just grow from there. It's a very collaborative effort."
The rapper also opened up about all of the celebration surrounding his release. "I feel phenomenal," he said. "But I've always been the kind of guy — I never really get a chance to soak up the feeling of the moment, because even as we speak, I'm planning for the next moment. I'm looking to the future and trying to just move forward, just moving forward. I refuse to remain stagnant."