What is it with the magnetic attraction of Clifford Harris, better known as Grammy-Award winning superstar rapper, T.I., to law enforcement officers?
After his Wednesday night arrested in West Hollywood, Calif. with new wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle on suspicion of possession of methamphetamines, the self-proclaimed, “King of the South”, doesn’t seem satisfied with his reign and all that comes with it.
With his empire potentially crumbling around him and naysayers boasting loudly, “I told you so,” all I could think about was being a high school sophomore and playing his first album, I’m Serious, just loud enough to enjoy but quiet enough as to not perk my Moms ears up to the lyrics, “I’m [lady part] pumper number 1.”
I was hearing the album but I wasn’t listening. It was years before I dissected the album’s message and realized “Tip” had a keen understanding of the pitfalls in the life he was trying to escape and the opportunity rap gave him to do that. Sure, it was an ode to the life and the people in it, but nestled nicely between all that was a warning; this lifestyle doesn’t have longevity. It’s been managing the pressures of staying on the straight and narrow that has been the hardest part for him.
But why? After every fall from grace he’s successfully rehabilitated his image, projecting himself as humbled, reformed and respectable. Again and again, he’s squandered good will with lapses in judgment only to put himself at our mercy in a manner that’s so easy to forgive.
He says all the right things, mentors all the right kids, puts his money behind all the right causes, but at what point do we question the sincerity of his, seemingly, heartfelt statements on being a role model and changed man? Are they even his words? He certainly delivers them like their his own but are we all being played for fools?
He’s openly admitted before that the bulk of his life lessons have been learned by trial and error but how else do you explain someone whose just five months removed from serving a seven-month stint in federal prison, three-months in a halfway house, and despite all that, currently co-starring in the number #1 movie in the country, even risking being caught with the aroma of marijuana or Ecstacy-like tablets in their possession?
Even more curious, this comes after his stature in the entertainment industry helped him in his run in with the law where he was only sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and an $100,300 fine for charges related to obtaining machine guns and silencers. He could’ve served ten years.
Then, he had huge names in his corner. Vouching for his character and highlighting it as an opportunity for everyone in the community to learn, prominent figures in the Black community like Bishop Eddie Long and U.N. Ambassador, civil rights activist and former Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young, all went out on a limb to say they believe in him.
What have they been given return for their outspoken support other than egg on their faces? What is the government left to do when the loss of certain rights, freedoms, property and invaluable time with an ever expanding family aren’t enough to get through?
Again, his music may shine some light into where his contradiction stems. On his album, Paper Trail, he repeatedly apologized for his transgressions but not to far behind those, there was always that, “but.”
He wanted us to understand he didn’t know any other way but what he was really doing was giving himself an automatic out in case this happened again and crippling any argument we could come up with against it. Who’s going to tell a man not to protect his family? How many of us can relate to being surrounded by people but not feeling secure?
With the loss of close members of his inner circle, he has validated paranoia but that doesn’t explain all the other shortcomings people have stuck by him for. Before we herald him an inspiration again by beating the system and willingly paying his debt to society, let’s hold him accountable for real.
Federal investigators seem intent on doing that with a probe already underway into the details of this case and the ramifications it may have on his future as a free man and career. His probation officer has also requested he return to Atlanta where he’ll assuredly stand in front of judge to address this.
Strangely, this may all blow over. King Uncaged will drop and everything will go back to normal. Even if that’s the case let’s not neglect the opportunity to ask him serious questions about his responsibility as a role model, voluntarily or involuntarily, and this time, listen to what he’s really saying, don’t just hear it.
He knows better, we know it. Don’t let well-regurgitated rhetoric cement your support but really see if the ‘King’ even cares about himself as much as we do.