I arrived at FCC Forrest City Low on January 5, 2011. I knew that the superstar multi-platinum rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris was on the compound, serving his second federal skid bid in two years. On the bus to the prison he was a big topic of conversation. It seemed the 40 dudes on the bus were split on their opinion of him, right down the middle, it was a clear 50-50 thing.
“T.I. is a rat,” some argued. To them, T.I. getting sentenced to 1 year in prison, for getting set up in a sting, buying several guns with silencers was a clear indicator that he had snitched and cooperated with authorities. But others defended T.I. questioning, “Who did he snitch on?”
Now I have been in the feds for a long time and I stand by the gangster principle that you go by paperwork. You don’t assume anything or throw stones at another person character or slander them without proof, and to call another man a snitch without the paperwork to back it up is a big no-no. But still in the feds today, with all the fake-ass studio gangstas, that is what they do, slander other men recklessly.
Now if T.I. was a gorilla convict type of dude he could have straightened it all out, but I know that a dude of his stature would have been looking at lawsuits from a bunch of bitch-ass motherfuckers if he went that route. He could have paid motherfuckers to punish dudes for him but what I saw of dude he is smarter than that. When you are that famous there will always be haters. That’s just a part of the game and T.I. knew this. You have to take the good with the bad.
But back to his case, as I understand it, his deal was unique but doable under the federal sentencing guidelines. I know dudes that I trust implicitly who have told me they looked into the statutes, and what happened in Tip’s case is entirely legit. With his position and fame, his lawyer just worked him a deal to do numerous hours of community service with public service announcements including speaking to kids about the ills of street life.
Very kind of the gangster rapper. Who better than T.I. to make such pronouncements? I’m sure the feds thought he could do some good. But still doubt persists among the inmate population, and among his peers in the hip-hop community. They are still burning bread on T.I. As the dudes on the bus were split, so is opinion in the rap world.
In a recent Smooth magazine interview with Ja Rule, they asked him, “How did you feel seeing T.I. getting caught with his arsenal and only serving 8 months?” Ja Rule responded, “Listen, I got nothing against T.I. He’s a good dude. Its all love. But I said to my lawyer, ‘Can I get the T.I. deal?’ I had one gun and this dude had an arsenal of guns with silencers and tape, no bang, no flash, everything. I said, ‘How do you get that deal?’ My lawyer looked me in the eye and said, ‘Listen, you’ll get that deal when you want to talk.’ Now that’s what she said to me. Now I’m not saying T.I. talked or anything like that, I’m just saying what my lawyer told me. She said, ‘If you like that deal, step in this back room right here and tell me what you know.’ And I said, ‘Hey, give me my two years.'”
Ja Rule slandered the shit out of T.I and tried to play it off like he didn’t. Say what you mean babyboy and don’t try to sugarcoat it. Be a man. I would expect better of Ja Rule since he was around my man, the legendary Queens gangster Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who I wrote about in The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Prince’s Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed. I know Supreme schooled Ja Rule on gangster etiquette, but then again, they said that when the feds froze Irv Gotti and Murder Inc.’s money, Ja Rule didn’t step up to help Supreme out with his lawyer fees. So it is what it is.
In a recent Hip-Hop Weekly, Cavario H. the longtime Don Diva editor reported that T.I.’s uncle, Derrick, made damaging statements that clearly implied that his nephew must have cooperated with law enforcement after his 20 count federal gun charge stemming from his October 2007 arrest, citing the light sentence he received for the offense. The comments were made in a new documentary about Atlanta’s drug culture entitled Alfamega ATL Gangsters: Real Story About Drugs in ATL + Alfamega on T.I. Abandoning Him and T.I.’s Uncle if Tip Really Snitched, put out by former Grand Hustle and T.I. associate Cedric “Alfamega” Zellars, who is a known government informer himself. But back to T.I. at FCC Forrest City. When I got on the compound I quickly found out that dudes here were split on T.I. also. Just like in the world and hip-hop circles. Some called him a rat and some defended him. Some called him a snitch and fucked with him anyway. Not like they said it to his face, dudes here are a bunch of bitches for real. In my book Street Legends Vol. 2, one of the dudes I wrote about, Big Fridge from the Short North Posse, out of Columbus, Ohio, slandered T.I. Now this was in print, in my book. I didn’t say it, but Big Fridge did and this dude has done all his time, almost two decades, in the United States Penitentiary system. That is where the big boys play and where you can get stabbed for any type of disrespect. And my man Big Fridge isn’t coming home any time soon.
In my book, he was referring to T.I. taking the stand in another case, a murder case the state of Ohio was prosecuting, stemming from an incident where some of Big Fridge’s homeboys allegedly chased T.I.’s vehicle and Tip’s childhood friend was shot and killed. But I read the transcripts, Tip didn’t identify the shooter. But to dudes in the pen, even getting up on the stand for the prosecution is a big no-no. That is just how they carry it. Not knocking Tip, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Even the brothers doing life in the feds.
So I was on the pound with T.I. and I wanted to meet him, regardless of what dudes said about him and regardless that he was slandered in my book. I mean I didn’t say it; I am just the writer, the historian. That is what I do. So I decided to roll up on dude and see what he was about. I found out that Tip was in the unit right below mine. I was in Marianna-C and he was in Marianna-A.
Cool I thought that will give me a chance to meet the dude and show him what I am about and what I am doing with my writing and the like. But at this time Tip was in the hole, for his infamous fondling episode in the visiting room with Tiny that was reported on TMZ. So I bided my time and waited for the superstar rapper to make his presence known.
About a month after I arrived, T.I. hit the pound. I didn’t just want to go up to him and introduce myself, so I found someone on my unit who said he knew him, in fact this dude told me he was known as T.I.’s bodyguard from his first stint at Forrest City Low. I didn’t give a fuck about that, I was just trying to meet the 31-year-old actor, MC and music label, nightclub and apparel line owner. To me, he was no more than federal inmate #59458-019.
I wasn’t into his music or anything like that, so I wasn’t necessarily a fan, but I looked at him as a person who was in position, who maybe if he liked my work would be able to help my company, gorillaconvict.com grow. A celebrity endorsement can always work wonders, so I hollered at dude. Not expecting anything but hoping for the best.
Over the next 7 months I talked to him when I saw him. We had a couple of conversations about my work and what I was doing with my books and writing. I also showed him a screenplay I had written about a drug crew with a love triangle between the protagonist, his right hand man and his girl. It was set in New York, but I flipped it to an Atlanta setting after speaking to Tip about. We changed the characters’ names at his suggestion. Flipping it to a movie he could possibly star in.
He seemed interested in the project, but Tip had so many dudes coming at him with so many different ideas and projects that they were trying to get off that I am sure he was overwhelmed. Everybody saw him as their ticket, right or wrong, and they were trying to get funding for their ideas or whatever. I am sure it all bogged him down, but it’s not every day in prison you get to hold a conversation with a Hollywood player of his caliber. I noticed though that dudes were constantly on him, so I stood back and bided my time.
Before he left he told me to put a package together for him showcasing my work and books. I did that and gave him a copy of the screenplay also. T.I. then left FCC Forrest City to much fanfare. Back to his life and back to his career. You know the rest of the story, how he got put back in prison for riding to the halfway house on his tour bus and how he got out again and started filming his reality show, doing interviews and working on his album. Overall to me, he seemed like a good dude, maybe a little wary of all the guys coming at him, but who wouldn’t be in his position. But he did his time like a man as far as I could see, he was present and accounted for on the compound and stepped to dudes who he found out were talking shit about him.
More recently T.I. was involved in the rap beef between his protégé Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks. T.I. said some shit about femcee Azealia on air to DJ Drama and Azealia fired back on Twitter, questioning Tip’s already street credibility. “The streets already know what kind of dude you are.” If that is not a veiled reference to T.I.’s alleged snitching, I don’t know what is. Maybe Azealia is right, who knows, it’s not my position to make the call. Just like it’s not my position to go into the intricacies of Tip’s time here at FCC Forrest City.
I could break it down and go into all the little details about his incarceration, I’m sure people would be interested in all that, and I even know a dude here who has wrote a whole book about being in prison with T.I., but I am not even going there. That’s for somebody else to do. I just wanted to share my experiences and thoughts on the matter since T.I. continues to be a target for both negative and positive media. I know his image is important to him so maybe he will get some points with this article.