I was reading about the arrest of T.I. on drug charges a while ago. Sadly, it’s a vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior I’ve seen one too many times in my neighborhood.
A man who has tremendous talent, T.I (Clifford Harris) is an entertainer on the cusp of taking his craft to the next level. A multi-platinum selling rapper, with several hit movies under his belt he has the potential to become the next Will Smith, an international superstar who commands $20 million a picture and has legions of fans worldwide.
But lately T.I. seems to be following in the footsteps of another rapper who was on the brink of a breakthrough.
Like Tupac, T.I. has had several run-ins with the law. Recently, T.I. was just coming off a bid in federal prison for weapons charges. When he got out, things were looking up. He got married, released a new album and had a hit movie in Takers. The world was his oyster again.
Until his Maybach got pulled over.
Officers say they smelled marijuana smoke. They found Ecstasy and Crystal Meth in the vehicle. Violating his Parole for a previous weapons charge, T.I. is going to do 11 more months of Federal time.
At 30, T.I. looks like he’s on the fast road to having his life cut short like Tupac did.
What’s sad about T.I. is that like Tupac he is on the cusp of taking his craft to the next level. But Just like Tupac, T.I. can’t leave the streets behind. An adherence to staying “real” to the streets cost Tupac his life and looks like it’s keeping T.I from actualizing his potential as an entertainer.
In both men’s cases I have to wonder if they’re staying on this self-destructive road to keep it “real” to an unwritten “code of the streets” or if it’s really fear of the unknown. In the cases of rappers who were on their way to national and international success like Notorious B.I.G, Tupac Shakur, and now T.I. I’m wondering if death was easier for them to accept than adapting to a changing world.
The next level in the entertainment business (The one that M.C. Hammer was on, Will Smith currently is on, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is approaching) requires coming out of the ghetto and leaving street culture behind. It means leaving behind friends. Family. Business contacts brothers knew from day one to establish new ones. It’s a scary place. A place governed by a different set of rules and a totally different culture than the inner-city. A lot of brothers aren’t comfortable in that new realm. Moreover, they aren’t willing to allow themselves to be vulnerable as they adapt to their new environment. Instead of seeking out counseling to talk about their fears, brothers calm their anxieties with drugs, alcohol, and sex.
A lot of brothers fear if they adapt to their changing realities and adopt a new way of living outside of what they grew up in the inner-city they’ll lose everything. The fear of being branded a “sell-out” by the African-American community forces many Black men bend to pressures to “Stay Real”. These anxieties about racial identity prevent many brothers like Biggie and Tupac from reaching finish line and actualizing their potential like M.C. Hammer and Will Smith. Ironically, it’s giving into these same anxieties and fears regarding identity that prevented entertainers like Biggie Smalls and Tupac from making it to the next level. I’m hoping that T.I. overcomes his problems and makes his way to that next level of success.