T.I. knows controversy. The Atlanta rapper has had high-profile rivalries with Ludacris, Lil Flip and others, and has served several stints behind bars on a variety of charges. As an entertainment mogul who has also starred in several big budget films and has served as a celebrity pitchman for GM, Sean John and others, he also knows how negative press can cost artists sponsorship opportunities.
“Endorsements come from corporations and corporations, that’s outside dollars,” T.I. said during an interview with SiriusXM’s Hoodrich Radio. “That means that’s money that you would not normally be making if you were not associated with this brand. So if you gone be associated with this brand, you gonna have to be associated with this brand and have them be associated with pride in whatever it is you do. So, it’s kinda like you’ve got to be mindful of things you say if you choose to take in money from outside sources.”
T.I. lost his endorsement deal with GM’s Chevrolet in 2008 after he was convicted of felony gun charges after attempting to purchase firearms from an undercover federal agent. The rapper said he also lost numerous film and tour opportunities due to his status as a convicted felon.
But T.I. isn’t alone. Several rappers have lost their sponsorship deals recently. Rick Ross lost his Reebok endorsement last month (April 11) after women’s rights groups blasted the rapper for his lyrics on Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.,” in which he rapped about having sex with a woman whom he had drugged and was unaware that the sex had taken place.
Mountain Dew pulled an ad directed by Tyler, The Creator earlier this month (May 1) due to controversy surrounding the spot’s purported racist and misogynistic bent. The beverage company also dropped Lil Wayne this month (May 3) after the YMCMB rapper rhymed on a remix to Future’s “Karate Chop” that, “I beat the pussy up, like Emmet Till.” Till was a Black Mississippi teenager was beaten and killed in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a White woman. The two White men accused of killing Till, who was visiting from Chicago, were later acquitted.
T.I. said that Wayne, in particular, didn’t mean any harm with his lyrics. “He was just kickin’ flav,” said T.I., who was on the air, in part, to promote the release of Grand Hustle’s Hustle Gang collective’s G.D.O.D. mixtape. “You’ve really got to be in our life and of our lifestyle to understand.”