Also Credited As:Clifford Harris, Clifford Harris, T.I., Tip Harris, Clifford Joseph Harris
|Actor, Producer, Music|
|Clifford Joseph Harris on September 25, 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA|
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Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. was born on Sept. 25, 1980 in Atlanta, GA. While growing up, his grandfather nicknamed him "Tip," which inspired his first stage name: T.I.P. He was seven years old when he first heard hip-hop. By 19, T.I. had already landed a major record deal. In 2001, he signed with Arista Records subsidiary LaFace Records, the proven label that had launched mega-selling girl group TLC in the 1990s. Out of respect for fellow labelmate and influential rapper, Q-Tip, the young star shortened his stage name to T.I. He released his first album I'm Serious in 2001. The first single, also titled "I'm Serious," featured reggae star Beenie Man. Even though the work of producers like Williams, Jazze Pha and Youngbloodz appeared on the album, T.I.'s initial record sales fell below expectations, with less than 300,000 copies sold. Not surprisingly, he was dropped by Arista. Even without his label's support, T.I. rose above the situation, releasing underground mix tapes and ghostwriting for fellow hip-hop star Bow Wow, for the latter's 2003 album Unleashed.
Hip-hop and rap fans received his second album Trap Muzik much more enthusiastically. Released in 2003 under T.I.'s own label, Grand Hustle Records, Trap Muzik went platinum and garnered T.I. a strong buzz in the music industry for the first time. He won his first award for the song "Rubberband Man" at the 2004 Vibe Awards. T.I. followed up his lucky streak with another album in 2004, Urban Legend, which put the Southern rapper on the map, especially with the song "Bring 'Em Out." Jay-Z appeared on the song, because T.I. used a sample of "What More Can I Say" from the legendary rapper's Black Album. In 2005, T.I. also lent his skills on the Destiny's Child hit song "Soldier," along with rapper Lil' Wayne.
The year 2006 proved to be the highlight of T.I.'s career. He received two Grammy Award nominations - Best Song Collaboration for "Soldier" and Best Rap Solo Performance for "U Don't Know Me." He released his fourth album, King that same year, watching it debut at Number One on the charts. The singles "Ride with Me" and "Front Back" pushed the album's strong sales. The music success, no doubt, helped promote T.I.'s bourgeoning acting career. He was cast in the movie "ATL" as an orphaned high school senior, co-starring along with Lauren London, Andre Patton, and Mykelti Williamson in the urban drama. "ATL" grossed $11.5 million during its opening weekend. Unfortunately, controversy followed T.I.'s career as much as fame and fortune. In 2004, the rapper went behind bars in Cobb County, GA for violating probation. In 2006, T.I. was arrested on an outstanding probation violation warrant from the state of Florida. He was released on bail shortly after being arrested. Other members of the hip-hop community had also come under fire from T.I.'s verbal attacks. He relished his ongoing rivalries with rappers Ludacris and Lil' Flip.
Perhaps the biggest news involving T.I. happened on May 3, 2006. Four members of the rapper's entourage were shot after leaving a club in Cincinnati, OH. T.I.'s personal assistant and best friend Philant Johnson was killed by the gunfire. Another member, Janice Gillespie, was seriously wounded. The event definitely left a temporary taint on an otherwise promising career in Hollywood. T.I. received a handful of Grammy nominations in 2007, for Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song ("What You Know"), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("My Love"), and Best Rap Album for King. Even though music was his first love, T.I. continued his acting career with full force. He filmed alongside Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe - two of Hollywood's heaviest-hitters and Academy Award-winning actors, both - in "American Gangster" (2007). With Washington and Crowe onscreen and "Gladiator" (2000) director Ridley Scott behind the camera, the biopic on Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas seemed a surefire hit and the film to put T.I. firmly on the in-demand list of rapper-turned-actors.
Riding high on his multi-front success, the summer of 2007 also saw the release of T.I.'s fifth studio album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Then came the beginning of the fall for the young rapper, when T.I. pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges in early 2008, stemming from an arrest the year prior. Even as he waited to learn the extent of his prison sentencing, T.I. wrote and recorded what the MC described as his "comeback album," Paper Trail, another No. 1 hit, which also earned T.I. a Grammy for his duo with Jay Z on the chart-topping single "Swagga Like Us." After filming his cautionary reality series "T.I.'s Road to Redemption" (MTV, 2009), the unbowed rapper began his prison stint in May 2009. He was released nine months later in March 2010 and quickly released another album No Mercy - named in reference to his prison sentencing - later that year.
Seemingly making up for lost time, T.I. executive-produced and took on a supporting role as the duplicitous "Ghost" on the crime thriller "Takers" (2010) alongside fellow R&B star Chris Brown and seasoned actors like Matt Dillon and Idris Elba. Buoyed by the success of that project, he then launched a reality show, "T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle" (VH1, 2011- ), chronicling the personal journey of himself and his wife after his release from prison. The industrious T.I. also added novelist to his many credits in 2011 with the publication of Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets, an urban romantic drama penned with the help of frequent collaborator David Ritz. Further expanding his acting résumé, he picked up a recurring role during the second season of the acclaimed cable series "Boss" (Starz, 2011- ), a political drama starring Kelsey Grammer, on which T.I. played a former gangbanger with designs on city hall.