T.I. still can’t seem to shake his inner thug. The rapper known for his dope boy persona and street-inspired lyrics is currently incarcerated in federal prison. T.I., whose government name is Clifford J. Harris, Jr., was arrested throughout his youth. But shortly after his drug possession conviction in 1998, he took steps to turn his life around for the better.
Harris, who started rapping at age nine, was signed to Arista Records and released his debut album, I’m Serious, in October 2001. Although his album was poorly received, 2001 proved to yield good things, such as the birth of two children and a new relationship with Tameka “Tiny” Cottle of girl R&B group Xscape.
In 2003, Harris established his record label, Grand Hustle Records, with Jason Geter in Atlanta, GA. That same year, he signed with Atlantic Records and released his sophomore album, Trap Muzik, which yielded several hot singles including “24’s,” “Rubberband Man,” and “Let’s Get Away.”
After a brief arrest earlier in the year, Harris’ next album, Urban Legend, dropped in November 2004. And in 2005, “Bring Em Out” became his first Billboard Top 10 hit. Later that year, he opened a nightclub in his hood, Bankhead in Atlanta, GA.
In 2006, Harris’ fourth studio album, King, debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. Three days later, ATL, his first film, became a box office hit. Later this year, he won numerous awards, including BET’s Award for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist and five Billboard awards.
Harris continued his winning streak in 2007 by receiving two Grammy Awards for “My Love” with Justin Timberlake and “What You Know.” And his gun-shot laced number one single “You Know What It Is,” gave fans a glimpse into his ultra gangsta lifestyle.
Shortly after the release of T.I. vs. T.I.P. that summer and a few moments before his scheduled performance at the 2007 BET Awards, Harris was arrested for possessing machine guns, silencers, and firearms. Appropriately, he appeared in hit flick, American Gangster, later that year.
In 2008, Harris released his sixth album, Paper Trail, which spawned Billboard record-breaking singles, “Whatever You Like” and “Live Your Life.” In 2009, he won his third Grammy for “Swagga Like Us” and aired his MTV original series, T.I.’s Road to Redemption.
Harris served 10 months in an Arkansas federal prison for illegal possession of weapons from May 2009 – March 2010. After marrying his long time girlfriend Tiny in July, the two were arrested in LA in September 2010 for drug possession. But Harris balanced out his bad deed by convincing a young man not to jump from a high-rise building in Atlanta.
Since his initiation into the music industry in 2001, T.I.’s career has been a cycle of arrests and album drops. But hopefully he will find more productive ways to stay connected to the streets. He is expected to be released from jail this September.