T.I. Says “We Have To Hold Ourselves Accountable For Our Communities” (Video)

In September 2016. T.I. released the most powerful music video of his career in the form of “Warzone,” a visceral depiction of America’s ugly police violence problem. However, the video turned the tables and envisioned our problem from a provocative angle: what if the killer cop was Black and the unarmed victim White? The video came during what appeared to be a new sense of political vigor in the Grammy-winning rapper’s music, and by the close of the year, Tip dropped a social-justice manifesto in the form of his Us or Else EP.

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The Rap superstar has not toned down his efforts in 2017, and is in fact continuing to bring the “us or else” message to wider audiences. Last night (April 24), BET aired his short film Us or Else, in which T.I. plays the role of an embattled police officer looking to heal broken relationships and mistrust in his community. But his concept of “us or else” extends far beyond sticking up for oneself in the face of violent police. It also means involving oneself with community-related issues like gentrification, education, food deserts, crime, and more. For T.I., taking back “our communities” is of utmost concern, which he expressed with great passion in a recent interview with Mass Appeal.

“Until you begin to tackle or address difficult, uncomfortable circumstances, you don’t have a real shot at change,” says the Atlanta rapper. “Where I’m from, we ain’t promised today, neither.” He continues, “It seems as though the Black man’s answer to problems in his neighborhood is to simply move out of it. Everybody’s like ‘yo, yo, yo, I wanna get me some money, man, and get me the fuck on outta here, man.’ That’s always the answer. And everybody who has some chance and some prosperity, their answer is to move out. But then what happens to the community? What happens to the people who stuck there? You can’t do that.”

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He goes on to include some suggestions for proactive involvement. “We have to take back our communities. We have to take ownership of our communities. We have to hold ourselves accountable for our communities.” However, he says that far too often, a preoccupation with enjoying good fortune leads to apathy. “We don’t really want to be bogged down with the stress or the weight of injustice,” so we instead focus on whatever new job or car we have distract us from what we leave behind. “That’s how most of us feel, but I think that it requires a definite, immediate attention now,” he says of the movement for justice. “I don’t think we can afford ourselves the luxury of just sitting by, kinda pretending like it ain’t our problem ’cause it’s not happening to us anymore.”

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T.I. went into further detail about the topic of self-sustained neighborhoods with BET, where he said “if you look at any other minority, they have self-sustaining communities. They have their own supermarkets, they have their own banks, they have their own schools. Some even have their own doctors and hospitals.” It’s that kind of approach to civic engagement that Tip says needs to happen more in the African-American communities across the country. “If we go into one of our communities, you have different people owning the laundromats, different people owning the convenience store, different people owning the supermarkets, banks.”

He uses Koreatown as an example to illustrate his point, but it’s clear the same things can be said about America’s Chinatowns, Hasidic communities, White enclaves, Latino communities, and so forth. “They all got the message,” he says. “All of them understand the principle of keeping the community connected, and supporting one another’s businesses…you have to show that your community is a valuable one.”

Heads may recall that T.I. recently spoke about Tupac Shakur’s legacy, saying that he felt the slain rapper could have one day had a career as a politician. What about Tip himself?