A room waits for T.I. It isn't an Atlantic Records office
or a line around a record store; this is a West Philadelphia community
center gymnasium, filled with less than 100 children, between the ages
of four and 12, with a few special exceptions.
There is no mention of T.I.'s mandatory community service, or voting or his upcoming Paper Trail
album. As select kids are leading a makeshift pep-rally, spouting off
the lyrics to songs like "Top Back," "What You Know" and "Big Things
Poppin'," a fleet of Secret Service-like black Ford Excursions pulls out front. Clifford Harris,
a father of five, will meet the audience that isn't critical in the
market-place now, but may prove to be in the next decade, should the King of the South continue to deliver the goods.
Sporting a Respect My Vote campaign t-shirt, sweatpants and a few select platinum and diamond jewelry pieces a drippin', T.I.
enters the gym to a crowd that immediately recognizes his face.
High-pitch cheers erupt, and the A-Town superstar takes a cordless
microphone and walks over to the seated audience. In a succint
seven-minute speech, T.I. stresses the value of education in contrast to the ephemera of material objects. He urges hard work, proclaiming, "You only get out of life what you're willing to put into it."
Lastly, the platinum rapper reminds these '00 babies that school
conditions people for life, and you're going to have to sacrifice to
get where you aspire to be.
Whether or not the message sinks, all eyes on the room are on T.I.P.
and all side conversations can wait. The superstar takes questions,
written the day before by his audience members, and speaks on his
career, personal life and past. Perhaps simple, the questions, and the
personalized responses to the youth, portray T.I. in a light
different than many of the headlines towards the end of 2007.
Regardless of whether he was doing it for community service or simply
doing it for community, T.I. gave 100 kids and a handful of
press something unforgettable, amidst a revealing look at what
tomorrow's consumers want to know about their celebrities.
What is the biggest challenge of being a successful rapper?
biggest challenge of being a successful rapper