With a reprise role in a summer tentpole movie, a new reality show set to drop and a long-awaited album (supposedly) on the way, it might be obvious to dub this the Year of T.I.
Except that every year could be the Year of T.I., given the Atlanta rapper’s penchant for consistently working multiple platforms.
On a recent afternoon, T.I. (aka Tip Harris), looking sharp in a lavender suit, sat down with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a sequestered room at The Gathering Spot to talk about his upcoming projects.
On July 6, the multi-hyphenate entertainer returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the Paul Rudd/Evangeline Lilly-starring sequel to 2015’s well-received “Ant-Man.” While his role of Dave, one of the members of Ant-Man’s (Scott Lang’s) X-Con security team, isn’t huge, it allows T.I. to express his comedic chops.
“Working along such legendary actors and actresses, I mean…I learned so much and take so much with me on to my next projects,” he said in his Southern drawl. “The improv... the art of comedy improv, when to go off the page, how to come up with different variations.”
T.I., 37, said he learned he would be in the sequel “probably a day before shooting started!” when he was sent a single scene from the movie, which filmed partially in Atlanta, as well as Savannah, San Francisco and Hawaii.
Working closely with fellow members of the X-Con crew - Michael Peña and David Dastmalchian as Luis and Kurt, respectively – allowed T.I. to delve into his goofier side; his wide-eyed expressions and rubbery grins are highlights of his scenes.
“I have to work to keep my face straight,” T.I. said, “because I usually show (my emotions) on my face all the time.”
The media mogul didn’t have to act much in his upcoming BET reality show, “The Grand Hustle,” which debuts on the network at 10 p.m. July 19.
T.I. invited 16 business-minded men and women to his Atlanta mansion (“It USED to be my house, until those people came!,” he said with a laugh) to engage in competitive tasks and try to become a six-figure-salaried employee of his Grand Hustle empire.
“This was a phenomenal experience on so many levels,” the noted entrepreneur said. “I got a chance to work alongside so many talented individuals who are on their way, beginning to figure out their path to success. All of them have incredible skills. To sift through the pool of talent put before me and find the one who was perfect for what I needed them for, that was an awesome experience.”
When asked how many other people in his employ earn six figures, T.I. smiled and mumbled, “No comment.”
At the end of each of the 12 one-hour episodes, T.I. crushes the dreams of a hopeful with a pointed sendoff. “There’s nothing left for you to do…this is not the place for you,” he tells one early exit-er in the first episode. In the second, he simply says, “It’s time for you to find the door.”
Being the heavy didn’t faze T.I., a guy who didn’t become successful by missing details.
“I just thought about how many things they would mess up if I didn’t send them home,” he said with a shrug. “I thought about how many flights they would book me into coach instead of first class; how many hotel rooms would be doubles instead of executive suites; opportunities that came to me that they may have squandered. The more I think about that, the easier it is to send them home.”
The show filmed for about three months beginning in September, and there was never a question that Atlanta would serve as its base.
“This is where most of my businesses are, so for them to get the full experience of what it’s like to work for me, this was the proper place to do it,” T.I. said.
Expressing surprise at how the season turned out, T.I. reiterated how much he enjoyed the experience.
“I got to assist in the growth and development of these young men and women’s craft. If any of them go on to be the CEO or owner of whatever,” he said, “I would definitely take some form of pride in saying I think they took something that I had to offer with them.”
As for his original outlet – music – T.I. quickly addressed the status of “The Dime Trap,” his first full album since 2014 that has been rumored for more than a year.
“It’s coming,” he said. “Freakishly soon.”
Yes, but we’ve heard that claim before.
“I know,” he smiled. “This time is the best time to tell you that it’s coming sooner than you think.”
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