T.I. Likely To Grow Stronger While Behind Bars
No wonder why so many rappers aspire to be incarcerated. Why not, if all a little time in cell block B can do is improve your career and bring you closer to your fans? Not to mention provide you with a steady diet of supervised sodomy sessions in the community shower.
But thus is not necessarily the occupational philosophy of Clifford Harris.
Known on the streets as T.I., the Atlanta-born lyricist was recently sentenced to a year and one day in jail for weapons charges stemming from a 2007 arrest. In October of that year, Harris, who is not permitted to purchase firearms because of a prior felony conviction, was found in possession of enough machine guns and silencers to supply a large fraction of the 1920s New York Italian mafia.
Shortly after pleading guilty just over a year ago, however, Harris lamented his jail sentence but honorably vowed to find a silver lining surrounding his legal troubles. “While I’m not looking forward to being incarcerated, I have a long road of redemption to travel,” he told reporters outside the courtroom, according to The Associated Press.
“I’m looking forward to turning this negative time in my life into a positive. I’d like to thank God for blessing me with a second chance in life and success. I realize I completely violated the law, and I take it very seriously.”
Though a federal mandate related to the charges calls for more than four years in prison, Harris’ legal team concocted a creative and highly experimental plea agreement that, in addition to the time behind bars, carried a $100,300 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.
Harris is scheduled to be taken into custody no earlier than May 19. He is expected to serve only 298 days of his 366-day prison term.
In fulfilling part of the agreement, the 28-year-old Harris has traveled the country speaking to youth groups about the dangers of violence. To date, he has racked up 1,006 hours of service, many of which have been chronicled on MTV’s T.I.’s Road to Redemption: 45 Days to Go, a program that documents the rapper’s outreach efforts as he inches closer to his incarceration.
Despite the public humiliation, many rap enthusiasts contend this incident can only help Harris’ already flourishing career.
“I think that if anything, it will gain him more fans and actually support his fan base, because he’s talked about making a mistake,” said Emil Wilbekin, editor in chief of Giant Magazine, a publication focused on urban music. “He’s talked about taking care of the error of his ways.”
And more fans mean more copies sold of his sixth album, Paper Trail, which has sold more than two million copies since being released. The inevitable increase in record sales will be piggybacked by projects that will still keep Harris in the spotlight during his absence. His label has announced it will create a remix version of Paper Trail to be released this summer, while several videos which Harris is in the process of shooting will be released during his jail term.
Efforts to keep Harris’ name fresh aside, there are those who believe the Grammy Award-winning artist will emerge from jail with even more to offer his throng of adoring patrons.
“His music reflects his experiences,” said Jason Geter, Harris’ business partner and co-owner of Grand Hustle Productions, the rapper’s label. “He makes himself vulnerable, and that’s why people like him so much. And people always love to hear a good drama.”