T.I. Says Blacks Should Celebrate Veterans Day For Surviving The Drug War

T.I. is the latest guest on People’s Party With Talib Kweli. In a nearly one-hour conversation that also involves co-host Jasmin Leigh, Tip discusses how his cult-lauded debut album, I’m Serious, lit a path to Rap superstardom. The three-time Grammy winner also explains the risks (and rewards) of putting his marriage and family in the public eye. He also traces “trap” from street slang to lyrics, a Rap sub-genre, and now the basis of his Atlanta, Georgia-based museum.

At 22:00, Talib Kweli points to a double-standard surrounding content in the arts and media. The Black Star MC states that while sex, drugs, and violence are often praised in award-winning films, that T.I. and others have sometimes been condemned for rapping about what may just be their environment, when they are truthful accounts of a lifestyle and environment.

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“I can’t explain nor excuse why they feel how they feel. Ya dig? But what I can justify, explain, and excuse is where we come from, and why. Of course it’s been criticized; I understand that people don’t understand it. However, we are refugees of The War Of Drugs.” T.I. is referencing legislation that punished narcotic users and sellers, often with laws that appeared deliberately aimed at the Black and Brown communities.

Meanwhile, during the same period that the “Just Say No” war was declared during the Reagan Administration, many allege that the Central Intelligence Agency was trafficking c*caine into the united states, prompting major investigations. T.I. acknowledges these forces and believes he understands their intent. “When you understand that we didn’t put ourselves in that situation; none of us really had much of a choice then, to walk outside and be bombarded with crack c*caine and her*in and guns and violence. We fell into that just like people from the ’70s fell into weed and mushrooms. When you understand that the Contra scandal—it was an operation that was intended to cripple and destroy people of color in the under-served inner-city areas of society. That is why c*caine was turned into crack. That ain’t nothin’ that no ni**a just stumbled on; I don’t give a damn what Snowfall says.”

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Moments later, he clarifies the comments about John Singleton’s television series that depicts the origins of the free-base form of the powdered substance. “I love the show, [but] that sh*t was made in a laboratory.” T.I. states, “[Crack c*caine] was put there to destroy us. We endured it. We survived it.” Referring to his music and culture, he says, “This is our celebration. Look at us as war veterans—veterans of The War On Drugs. If we went to Iraq, I’m sure there were heinous things we had to do in order to survive and in order to make it back. I’m sure there were people who died to the left or the right of us. I’m sure there were some tragedies, unspeakable, that we shouldn’t be proud of, that we had to do in order to make it back. But, we made it back. And if we make it back, if two or three of us get in a room together, we’re gonna tell our stories! And when Veteran’s Day comes up, we’re gonna celebrate! Because that’s our day. I can’t tell no soldier who’s gone off to fight and kill for a reason that they didn’t even know about—and I may not agree with—I can’t tell them not to celebrate, because that’s them celebrating the fact that they survived their horrendous conditions and they endured their pain. I can’t tell them how to celebrate that. This is our pain! These were our horrendous conditions that we endured, we overcame. They did not break us, and even more so, we found a way to make millions off of that. So you can’t tell me how to celebrate my pain.”

Long before trapping, T.I. also describes his foray into hustling. At 13:00, he says, “Me, I was an entrepreneur even before I got to the crack game. The crack game was attractive to me because I was already an entrepreneur, and I just saw that it had better margins than my present industry. I started out selling candy; I sold candy in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. I started out in fourth grade, because I traveled from Atlanta to New York every summer to visit my pops. So I spent all of my summers in New York, Upper Manhattan and in Harlem.”

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The artist who has worked with Uptown rappers including Jim Jones, A$AP Rocky, and Cam’ron continues, “So I would go from Section 8 and the ghetto to stay with my pops in the summer. When I left every summer, he’d peel me off about $300-400, and send me back. So by the second or third summer, I was starting to think [about] how I could stretch this money from the time I get off this plane to the next time I see him, which is gonna be Christmas.” Tip says that his grandmother would take him to Sam’s Club to buy wholesale candy. “I’d package it up. My goal was to make $20 a day.” Grossing $100 per week, T.I. estimated that it would give him enough money to last the period. “I went from $20 a day to $30 a day to $50 a day to where when I got to fifth grade, I was giving my teacher, Mr. Flynn—I gave him a Snicker a day to turn [his] head while I sold candy. In sixth grade, I had lockers on each hallway and other cats working for me, selling candy. I gave ’em a $25 pack of candy. And if they sold all of it, they’d get $5.” T.I. says this mentality came out of need. He does add that his father owned a candy store in Harlem, and he witnessed the distribution process. T.I. goes on to tell how his “grand hustle” moved into stolen Starter jackets in junior high school.

Last year, T.I. released DIME TRAP. It features Anderson .Paak, Meek Mill, and Jeezy, among others.