“This ain’t no album. This ain’t no game. This a trap!” Long before T.I. was hip-hop’s “King of the South,” he was Clifford “Tip” Harris, a teenage drug dealer living the seedy life he would later detail in his music. Where many of his peers have moved on from a life of crime to one of luxury and fame, T.I. has struggled to leave it all behind. We love him, but he’s a rollercoaster.
Earlier this month, just as Takers, a film he produced and starred in, made its debut as the most watched film in America, T.I. got arrested on drug-possession charges. Anyone who’s been following T.I.’s career for any length of time knows that this latest bust was unfortunately neither his first nor his worst. For those that haven’t been keeping track, here’s a rundown of his most shocking offenses.
5. Manufacturing and Distributing Crack Cocaine (1997)
T.I.’s troubles started early on. He took to the street life when his father passed away, and his uncle went to prison on drug charges. T.I. started selling drugs out of his home as a teen, eventually dropping out of high school to push weight full time. After numerous close calls with law enforcement, an 18-year-old Tip finally found himself arrested in 1997 on charges including felony distribution of crack cocaine, giving authorities a false name, and manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance.
Sentence: Seven months in prison and seven years of probation.
4. Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer (2003)
In September of 2003, mere weeks after the release of his breakthrough album, the Southern rap landmark Trap Muzik, T.I. found himself back in hot water. During a trip to the University Mall in Tampa, Fla., Harris and his entourage were accosted by mall security and asked to leave due to their loud behavior. Tip and company refused to leave, and the police were called. Rather than picking up and leaving, T.I. instead assaulted the female sheriff on the scene. T.I. was convicted of battery of a law enforcement officer and violating probation.
Sentence: 225 hours of community service.
3. Probation Violation (2003)
Trap Muzik and successful singles like “Rubber Band Man” and “Let’s Get Away” rose T.I.’s stock considerably, but trouble still loomed on the perimeter. Years of living recklessly in the wake of his 1998 jail stint and subsequent years of probation caught up with T.I. as he racked up a litany of offenses ranging from possession of marijuana to possession of a firearm, leading the state of Georgia to revoke his parole.
Sentence: A year in prison (during which time a camera crew was inexplicably snuck in for an unauthorized video shoot that accidentally facilitated the escape of another inmate), and two years on a work-release program.
2. Purchase and Possession of Automatic Weapons (2007)
2006 was a tough year for Tip. In March, he released King, whose singles such as “What You Know” and “Why You Wanna” made him a staple on television and the radio. In May, T.I.’s entourage was involved in a fatal shootout that claimed the life of his best friend and personal assistant, Philant Johnson. Crushed and paranoid, T.I. began amassing weapons to fend off a perceived threat against his life. He became the subject of a federal investigation that culminated in his arrest hours before 2007’s BET Hip Hop Awards, where he was scheduled to perform. He’d been using his bodyguard to broker a deal for the purchase of a veritable Call of Duty match worth of weapons including, but not limited to pistols and sighted machine guns. The vendor turned out to be a federal agent.
Sentence: Six months in prison, three months in a halfway house, one month of house arrest, three years of probation, a $103,000 fine, and a thousand hours of community service whose completion was documented in the brazenly self-promotional MTV series T.I.’s Road to Redemption, which looked like more of an extended commercial for his 2009 album, Paper Trail, than a punishment.
1. Possession of Controlled Substances (2010)
Fresh out of his latest trip up north, T.I. came back swinging with a string of incendiary singles letting fans know he was back to claim his throne. With the release of a new album, King Uncaged, looming, a new single, the Rick Ross-assisted “Pledge Allegiance to the Swag,” just released, and Takers sitting comfortably at the top of the box office the weekend of release, T.I. was busted with his new bride, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, during a routine traffic stop on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard. Suspicious officers smelled marijuana wafting from the vehicle. A search revealed undisclosed amounts of marijuana and ecstasy. T.I. was still on probation at the time of the incident.
Sentence: Events are still unraveling. A probation revocation hearing would appear to be imminent, and it doesn’t look too good. Quoth 50 Cent, a sage if there ever was one: “Tiny gotta take that charge. Say it was yours, baby.”