Evolution of T.I.

·5 min read
Photo:  Paras Griffin (Getty Images)
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

T.I.’s impact on rap has been underrated and underappreciated. He’s one of the best and most influential rappers to ever come out of Atlanta, which is saying something. Many credit him for popularizing Trap music thanks to his classic sophomore album Trap Muzik.

Outside of rapping, the Atlanta rapper is also an accomplished actor and philanthropist. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been without controversy. This is the evolution of T.I.

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Screenshot:  hiphopscriptures
Screenshot: hiphopscriptures

Born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., T.I. is the son of Clifford “Buddy” Harris Sr. and Violeta Morgan who resided on the west side of Atlanta near Bankhead highway. His father was from New York City and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which ultimately took his life.

Humble beginnings

Screenshot:  gigsalad.com
Screenshot: gigsalad.com

At an early age, T.I. was interested in pursuing a music career. He and local Atlanta rapper, Big Kuntry King, sold mixtapes out of the trunk of their car. T.I. later signed with Arista Records and dropped his first record in 2001.

I’m Serious

T.I. - I’m Serious (Video) ft. Beenie Man

T.I.’s debut album, I’m Serious, was released in 2001. Although he went on to have a successful career, I’m Serious, was not a hit. The album features verses from Too $hort, Lil Jon and Pharell Williams. Some of the production was handled by the legendary production team, The Neptunes.

Trap Muzik

T.I. - Rubber Band Man (Official Video)

His sophomore album, Trap Muzik, is what really put the Atlanta rapper on the map in 2003. The album included popular singles “24s,” “Be Easy” and “Rubberband Man.” Many people credit this project for popularizing the “Trap sound.”

Urban Legend

Photo:  Frank Micelotta (Getty Images)
Photo: Frank Micelotta (Getty Images)

Released a year later, Urban Legend spawned T.I.’s first top ten hit “Bring Em Out,” which was produced by Swizz Beatz. The album was also a success and staked his claim as one of the best rappers from the south.


Photo:  Vince Bucci (Getty Images)
Photo: Vince Bucci (Getty Images)

His most popular release up to this point, King was his first album to debut No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. It included popular singles “What You Know” and “Live in the Sky.” The album was nominated for best rap album at the 2007 Grammys.


ATL | Full Movie Preview | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Coinciding with the release of King, the movie ATL was released and starred T.I. as the main character Rashad Swann. The movie also featured Lauren London, Big Boi and Keith David. I don’t care what anybody says, this movie is a CLASSIC.

T.I. vs. T.I.P.

T.I. - Big Things Poppin’ (Do It) [Official Video]

The Atlanta rapper’s second album to debut at the top spot on the Billboard 200 spot, T.I. vs. T.I.P. was another huge success for the “King of the South.” While maybe not as good as his previous releases, it still sold very well. The album featured some of the most popular acts in rap including Jay-Z, Eminem, Nelly, Busta Rhymes and Wyclef Jean.

Paper Trail

T.I. - Live Your Life ft. Rihanna [Official Video]

T.I.’s sixth album is by far his most popular album to date and took the rapper into popstar status. The album was certified gold in its first week of sales and gave the rapper his third number one album. The album featured the smash hits “Live Your Life,” “Whatever You Like” and “Swagga Like Us.” Guest appearances on the album included Ludacris, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jay-Z and John Legend.

Weapons Conviction

Screenshot:  Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Screenshot: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In 2007, T.I. was arrested and charged with possession of three unregistered machine guns and two silencers, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He eventually pled guilty and served a year in prison.

Tameka “Tiny” Cottle”

Photo:  Aaron J. Thornton/FilmMagic (Getty Images)
Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/FilmMagic (Getty Images)

In 2010, Harris married Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, who was a former member of the Atlanta R&B group Xscape. They went on to have four children together.

Drug Charges

Photo:  Keipher McKennie/WireImage (Getty Images)
Photo: Keipher McKennie/WireImage (Getty Images)

In September 2010, both Tiny and T.I. were arrested for drug charges. A month later, Harris was sentenced to 11 months in prison for violating the terms of his probation. Because of his prison sentencing, he changed the name of his upcoming album to No Mercy.

No Mercy

T.I. - Get Back Up ft. Chris Brown [Official Video]

T.I.’s seventh studio album was a huge dropoff from the previous success he saw on Paper Trail. The lead single for the album, “Get Back Up” was released the same day he was sentenced back to prison. He was released from prison in September 2011.

Acting Career

Screenshot:  IGN
Screenshot: IGN

While ATL was his breakout role, T.I. appeared in many more movies throughout his career including American Gangster, Takers, House of Lies, Ant-man and many others.

Virginity tests

T.I. Comments On Daughter’s Virginity | The View

In November 2019, T.I. found himself caught in a controversy after he openly admitted to testing his then 18-year daughter Deyjah Harris’ virginity annually. He said he would have her hymen checked to confirm her virginity. This is not even a reliable way to check considering a woman’s hymen can break in other ways.

Sexual abuse claims

T.I. - What It’s Come To [Official Video]

Throughout 2021, T.I. and Tiny were both accused by dozens of women of sexual abuse. Women claimed that they were forced to take drugs, raped and intimidated. The claims came from California and Georgia and allegedly had been occurring since 2005. In a music video in June 2021, T.I. mocked the sexual assault claims.

Philanthropic work

Despite the controversy, the Atlanta rapper has been praised for his philanthropic work. He was recently recognized by legislators for his contributions to the Atlanta community and awarded the Georgia Outstanding Citizen Award at the state capitol. He was also given the Volunteers Lifetime Achievement Award by the Global International Alliance on behalf of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.