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His criminal past is behind him, but T.I. is still reflecting on the incidents that led to back-to-back yearlong sentences. In a cover story for Billboard magazine, the father of six revealed some of the big names that lent their support throughout his incarceration, including Will Smith, who went above and beyond the call of duty.

“Of course, Em[inem]. He was extremely supportive and inspirational during that time,” Tip said. “Busta Rhymes,Puffy, Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons, Nelly, David Banner, Charlie Mack, Will Smith. Will actually went as far as getting in touch with [attorney general] Eric Holder and the Obama administration trying to see if we could get some kind of release. He was very politely told that was not possible [laughs].

“It was the last time I was going back, and I was going to court for my probation violation. He was in deep discussions about it. And he’s been a huge contributor to the administration, and I mean not just in finances, I’m talking about time and other kinds of efforts, so it ain’t like his words were falling on deaf ears. But I understood. I didn’t even expect no help. I didn’t expect nobody to be able to help me. I knew I made my bed and I knew I had to lay in it.”

A year after his release, Tip has kept himself busy and stayed out of trouble. He has a successful reality show centered around his family life, wrote two novels, recorded over 100 songs for his forthcoming album Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, and reconstructed his image.

One facet that suffered after his arrest— first for carrying tons of firearms (which is illegal since he was already a convicted felon), then for violating his probation after being busted on drug charges—was his endorsement game. Now that he’s free, companies are starting to notice his selling ability. “A lot of people are open to it,” he said. “Everyone knows that America has a short-term memory and they’re very forgetful and forgiving. I mean, I haven’t even went out and checked. Don’t get me wrong. When it’s time to sponsor events for us, we don’t have a shortage of takers. A lot of people want to be associated with our brand to create awareness of their brand, and they recognize our relevance and our influence on the marketplace.

“Now as far as people calling to make me the face of their brand, there has been nothing that I have taken seriously as of yet. People have inquired about building brands around my face and about building brand-new brands from scratch more so than associating me to an existing brand, with the exception of the Atlanta Hawks. We’ve had this very, very positive working relationship with the Atlanta Hawks for quite some time, and just recently they called me to broadcast two quarters of the Hawks game when they played the Miami Heat for Fox Sports South, and I had fun. They would like to further the relationship and see how we could do more together.”

Elsewhere in the cover story, Tip talks No Mercy, which he admits was a “throwaway project.”

 Trouble  Man: Heavy Is The Head drops Dec. 18.


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Photo: Billboard

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