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With Jail Looming, T.I. Still Feels "Blessed"

Of the Oakland Press

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T.I. feels “blessed” — which is not a common sentiment for someone who’s about to go to prison.

The Atlanta-based rapper (real name Clifford Harris Jr.), is slated to spend a year in prison starting later this month for a 2007 federal weapons possession conviction. T.I., who boasts of being arrested some 32 times (mostly on drug charges), including several incarcerations, will also pay a $100,000 fine and has spent the past year doing 1,000 hours of community service — which included an appearance in Detroit last August, a month before the release of his latest album, “Paper Trail.” The campaign has been the subject of the MTV series “T.I.’s Road to Redemption.”

So where are the blessings in all this?

“There are a lot of (blessings),” T.I., 28, says. “The records are still selling and getting played on the radio. People are listening and buying the albums and coming to see me. It’s a blessed situation, man. I’m just ... grateful.”

And, he promises, he’s learned that he never wants to go back to jail again.

“I’ll do my time, and I really have an opportunity to turn the situation around and make it a positive change in my life,” he says.

T.I. goes temporarily out of circulation on a winning note, at least. “Paper Trail” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in September — his third consecutive chart-topper — and has sold more than two million copies worldwide. Its first single, “Whatever You Like,” made the biggest leap in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, jumping from No. 71 to No. 1 in its third week on the survey, and the track “Swagga Like Us,” a collaboration with Kanye West, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, won a Grammy Award.

T.I. is also riding high with his latest single, “Dead and Gone,” which features Justin Timberlake and is one of the many “Paper Trail” songs to address his legal woes.

“This album, as all of my other albums, is a reflection of my life — where I am, what I’m going through and how I’m getting through it,” says the married father of six. “That’s all I know how to do. I’m not into creating stories and that kind of stuff. I just like to keep it real, and right now my life is very real, y’know?”

T.I., Young Jeezy, PLIES, Rick Ross and Young L.A. perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (March 7) at Cobo Arena, 301 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets are $48, $68 and $88. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment. com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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