Posted by | Ray Cornelius

To say that Clifford “T.I.” Harris Jr. is a ‘man on a mission’ is an understatement!

Over the last year, the Atlanta-based rapper has been strategically revamping his career, image and brand following a highly publicized 11-month sentence for probation violation. So far, all of his positive efforts have paid off through his highly successful reality-show, lucrative book deal and numerous acting gigs.

Now the father of seven is focused squarely on his music and new album, Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head. According to T.I. it is the single most important thing to him right now simply because its success will determine his place and relevance in today’s rap game. If things go as planned; it will put him back on the throne as “King of the South.”

T.I discusses this and more for December’s Billboard magazine. Inside he speaks candidly about  the new project that features collaborations with everyone from Pink to Cee Lo Green to R. Kelly.  He also chats about the possibilities of a world tour and the unexpected love and support he received from his brothers in hip hop.

Check out a few excerpts from his interview…

Originally, you were looking at an early fourth-quarter, late third-quarter release. Now, here we are moving into December. Why the date shift?

It wasn’t ready. I knew that this was a moment for me, and I had to dedicate the necessary time, attention and energy to ensuring that it would be of the classic proportion that I feel the fans deserve. I could have settled. I could have put an album out in September, but I still was on probation, which would have limited the amount of travel that I could do. So that was another factor that was extremely important. And all the songs that I’ve done since then, they take it over the top.

You mentioned the significance of this album for your career. Can you talk a bit about that?

It goes without saying that it’s hard to attain a certain level of success. And it’s hard to maintain this level of success and even more difficult when one is separated from your environment, especially if you’re separated from the environment due to negative reasons. So coming back, most people aren’t able to. And if you try to come back and you don’t make it, it’s probably lights out. To half-ass and take it lightly could end up catastrophic.

There are those who say that when rappers go to jail it makes them hot. What’s your take on that?

I tell you what: If it did, I’d give it back in a second for the time that I lost. I can say that it has made me more famous, and people probably know my situation more than they know my music. However, it also interrupted a lot of very lucrative and noteworthy opportunities. In my case, I lost as much as I gained, probably.

Do you have your eye on a big spring tour?

Yeah, definitely. I just got to see what the most lucrative, reasonable opportunity is for me. I would like to focus more on my international presence. Due to my circumstances, a lot of people that know my music, know who I am and want to see me, but haven’t had the opportunity because I haven’t been afforded the opportunity to travel abroad. Now that I can, I would like to strengthen my international presence. I’ve never been to Africa. I’ve never been to China. Aside from seeing the world and living life, it’s leaving a lot of money on the table.

Through the years, you’ve mentioned different people being supportive of everything you’ve gone through, including Eminem. Who else has been there to help?

As you mentioned, of course, Em. He was extremely supportive and inspirational during that time. Busta Rhymes, Puffy, Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons, Nelly, David Banner, Charlie Mack, Will Smith. Will actually went as far as getting in touch with [attorney general] Eric Holder and the Obama administration trying to see if we could get some kind of release. He was very politely told that was not possible. [laughs]

Check out T.I.’s latest with fellow ATLien Andre 3000 in Sorry

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