Two decades after breaking through on a national level, T.I. is still writing his legacy.
While Tip usually shies away from watching scary movies himself, the hip-hop polymath expanded his filmography by starring in the psychological horror movie Fear, which hit theaters in January. In addition to playing Lou in the Deon Taylor-directed independent flick — joining a cast that included Power’s Joseph Sikora, Terrence J, Tyler Abron, King Bach and Rudy Modine — T.I. also served as a producer and investor in the movie, which was filmed in the midst of the pandemic.
And he and DaBaby linked up in Charlotte in early January for a soundtrack collaboration, also titled “Fear.” DaBaby tells Billboard, “My guy Deon Taylor called me and I got to see the trailer for the film and I got to curate the song directly off that. [Deon’s] quickly become one of my mentors in the last couple of months. Ever since I ran into him at Draymond Green’s wedding, he asked me if I was interested in being on the big screen since he saw some of my music videos. I told him, ‘Absolutely.’”
Will T.I. follow up that project with a Super Bowl cameo? The rapper has been rumored to make a guest appearance at Rihanna’s Super Bowl LVII halftime show to perform their Hot 100-topping 2008 duet “Live Your Life.” T.I. caught up with Billboard to discuss the Super Bowl possibility, his ranking on Billboard and Vibe‘s greatest rappers list, Drake interpolating “24’s” on Her Loss, and more.
How was working with DaBaby on “Fear” for the Fear soundtrack?
T.I.: It was dope. Me and bro had a mutual respect for a long time. I always spoke about working together and working on film. He’s been picking my brain about it. With his videos, you can tell he’s got chops and he’s ready to evolve into another form of storytelling. I’m eager to assist the next generation however I can.
There’s so many phenomenal talents, prolific artists and iconic figures that have passed through this culture. I ain’t got no time to hold no emotions about it. I’m just thankful to be here, thankful to be part of the collective that gets to do what we love for a living and inspire people on a daily basis. I’m just happy to be around the elite. The people I used to wake up not wanting to go to school and listen to. I’m on a list with them.
Now I became the person that little truancies used to get up and not want to go to school. It’s an honor and a privilege and a pleasure to be on that list. I think it’s some people that I came before I think that I should’ve went behind. What’s the process? So people just saying let’s piss people off? If you wanna piss people off and get instant engagement, make a list about anything.
I think it’s dope. I think it’s incredible, on the 20th anniversary of Trap Muzik this year, we’re still showing the relevance and the impact of the music from having the icons of today just still find value in it and I think it’s dope that he did it. I’m happy to be a part of it in any way possible.
Are we going to see you at the Super Bowl performing “Live Your Life” with Rihanna?
Zip it. Ay man, I will not confirm or deny any potential appearance. It’s an awesome opportunity. It was awesome to have the opportunity to work with such an iconic figure and such a prolific individual and such a beautiful spirit altogether. We’ll see what happens.
It’s amazing to be in a position where you enter into a whole new generation and be this institution of culture and see the new leaders of the generation pass through your studio and find their sound and start building, meeting each other, and learning the business. I teach the way I was taught, and I was taught you gon’ sacrifice something to gain something. Part of that sacrifice early on is that up-front advance money. Then you get some equity on the back end. That’s the model I’ve been preaching for a long time.
Young Thug was another one of those artists you mentored. He’s in an unfortunate situation right now.
I still have the utmost faith he’s going to come out better than ever. God has the last say, regardless of what I think. He’s going to be a better person and in a better position.
“What You Know” celebrated an anniversary last weekend. What do you remember most about making that record?
I remember how fast I recorded it — it was extremely fast. As soon as [producer] DJ Toomp came in and played some records, as soon as I heard that beat, I knew that was it. I just went in there and did it. Everybody knew this was the first single. That was probably one of the most obvious first listens I’ve ever experienced.
I had heard that. There’s gonna be some knee-jerk reactions when it comes to change. Things are being presented a little differently than you’re used to receiving, I can understand how it may take some getting used to. Personally, he never exhibited that kind of energy toward me, and I think that Southern lyrics as a whole are made in response to people in the South and the dialect is much different than the North. I can understand if you from up North, how you might feel a little left out.
Kill the King is your final album? The last one has to be A1.
It’s definitely a feeling of that. Perfection is necessary. I kind of have to put an exclamation point on this career that is taken me to heights that I never imagined and led me places that really surprised me. I never thought I’d be in some of the great positions that I found myself in. This would be the exclamation point, and I have to do it.
A group of musicians who have gathered together under the banner of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) has published a petition calling for better pay for artists selected to perform at the annual SXSW conference and festival each March. The petition — which at press time bore the names of more than 400 artists, and which is being continually updated with more names — has been signed […]
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