When rapper T.I. was arrested early Wednesday morning in Henry County, it wasn’t his first run-in with the law. The Atlanta native has been jailed several times -- most notably, a stint in federal prison on a weapons charge in 2009.
Still, there’s a lot more than that to T.I., 37, a prodigious and wide-ranging artist who’s won Grammys, written novels, turned in well-reviewed acting performances in several top-grossing films and thrown himself into community and charitable work more recently.
Here’s what you should know about T.I.
He’s Atlanta-born and bred: Born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. in Atlanta, he was mostly raised by his grandparents in a neighborhood near Bankhead Highway. He went to (and later dropped out of) Douglass High School. He’s always called the metro area home -- indeed, his arrest around 4 a.m. Wednesday took place at the entrance to his gated community in Henry County, when he reportedly didn’t have his key and a guard wouldn’t let him in.
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He started rapping at eight and never looked back: His childhood nickname of “Tip” had morphed into his stage name of “T.I.” by the time he released his first album, “I’m Serious” in 2001. Two years later, he launched his own label, “Grand Hustle Records” at Atlantic Records. He’s released nine studio records and collaborated with the likes of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Destiny’s Child and, in 2013 with Robin Thicke on the insanely successful single “Blurred Lines.” And if you think trap music is a recent phenomenon, think again. In 2003, he released his second album, “Trap Muzik,” which is credited with helping to introduce and more widely popularize the form of hip hop.
He’s a father of six: They include his two sons and one daughter with Xscape member Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, whom he married in 2010 (although their relationship started in 2001). He’s also stepdad to Tameka’s daughter, Zonnique Pullins. Between 2011 and 2017, the duo co-starred in a VH1 reality series, “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle.” Tiny filed for divorce late in 2016, citing irreconcilable differences, although they were later said to be trying to reconcile. The situation with their marriage was chronicled on the show’s final season.
He’s pretty much a cultural Renaissance Man: T.I.’s acting career began in 2006, when he starred in the loosely autobiographical film “ATL.” Since then he’s had big screen co-starring roles in “Entourage,” “Get Hard” (with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart) and the Atlanta-film Marvel film “Ant Man.” With David Ritz, he’s co-authored two novels, the aptly titled “Power & Beauty” and “Trouble & Triumph; and last year, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey worked a T.I. quote into her commencement address at Emory University. And on a slightly less high-minded note, two years ago, he opened a strip club, V Live, on Marietta Boulevard (It made big news when TMZ obtained video of some 1,600 would-be dancers showing up to audition).
He had an only-in-Atlanta arrest and incarceration saga: He’d been in county jail several time for probation violations, but things turned much more serious for T.I. in October 2007 when he was arrested in the parking lot of the Walgreen’s shopping plaza at the corner of North and Piedmont Avenues for allegedly trying to buy unregistered machine guns. The arrest took place just hours before the BET Hip Hop Awards were held at the nearby Atlanta Civic Center. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison in Arkansas (he was later moved to a halfway house in southwest Atlanta, and a few years later, made a holiday visit there). Before his sentencing, he appeared in an MTV reality show entitled “T.I.’s Road to Redemption,” and two days before starting his sentence, he performed a “farewell concert” downtown at Philips Arena.
He’s become active in community work and causes: T.I. spoke at area schools as part of his post-prison community service and has donated time and money to worthy efforts ranging from hurricane relief to the Boys & Girls Clubs. And when it comes to political and socially-driven causes, he’s talking the talk and walking the walk of late: In July 2016, he joined hundreds of Atlantans in peacefully marching to protest police-involved shootings of African-Americans; last month, he joined others in calling for a boycott of Starbucks following the controversial arrests of two black men that was widely disparaged as racist.. And in a widely popular move, in February, he helped buy tickets for hundreds of people to attend an early screening of “Black Panther” at the Regal Hollywood Stadium 24 in Chamblee.