In his Billboard cover story, ATL’s own T.I. reveals that at one point Will Smith went to the Obama administration with the hopes of getting him out of prison. Yeah, that didn’t work, but it’s an interesting read.
Meanwhile, Tip also shares his thoughts on whether or not going to jail makes a rapper “hotter.” In a word, no, but read on for more.
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]
It was the last time I was going back, and I was going to court for my probation violation. He was in deep discussions about it. And he’s been a huge contributor to the administration, and I mean not just in finances, I’m talking about time and other kinds of efforts, so it ain’t like his words were falling on deaf ears. But I understood. I didn’t even expect no help. I didn’t expect nobody to be able to help me. I knew I made my bed and I knew I had to lay in it.
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.
You lost a lot of corporate sponsorships along the way. How are you finding those conversations today, now that you’ve been out for a year?
A lot of people are open to it. Everyone knows that America has a short-term memory and they’re very forgetful and forgiving. I mean, I haven’t even went out and checked. Don’t get me wrong. When it’s time to sponsor events for us, we don’t have a shortage of takers. A lot of people want to be associated with our brand to create awareness of their brand, and they recognize our relevance and our influence on the marketplace.
Now as far as people calling to make me the face of their brand, there has been nothing that I have taken seriously as of yet. People have inquired about building brands around my face and about building brand-new brands from scratch more so than associating me to an existing brand, with the exception of the Atlanta Hawks. We’ve had this very, very positive working relationship with the Atlanta Hawks for quite some time, and just recently they called me to broadcast two quarters of the Hawks game when they played the Miami Heat for Fox Sports South, and I had fun. They would like to further the relationship and see how we could do more together.