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  • Atlanta native T.I. began rapping when he was only 8 years old.

    Atlanta native T.I. began rapping when he was only 8 years old. Credit: Christian Lantry

  • T.I.'s career spans beyond music. He's also a producer, author and reality TV star.

    T.I.'s career spans beyond music. He's also a producer, author and reality TV star. Credit: Matt Jones

He was born in Atlanta as Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. and he is known by his family and friends as Tip, but he is recognized by his legions of fans as T.I., hip-hop artist, rapper, producer, actor, reality star, author, entrepreneur and co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records. His life has not been without mistakes and challenges however. He has served numerous jail stints for drugs and probation violations and, at the height of his career, served an 11-month prison sentence for federal weapons charges.

Despite the troubles, T.I. has proven himself a shrewd businessman and a talented artist. He began rapping when he was 8, and by the time he was 16, he and another Atlanta rapper, Big Kuntry King, were producing mixtapes that got T.I. signed first to Ghet-O-Vision and then in 2000 to LaFace Records, an Arista Records imprint. His debut album, "I’m Serious," dropped in 2001, and despite guest appearances by a hip-hop who’s who, it failed to generate commercial interest and T.I. was dropped from the label. Undaunted, he formed his own label, Grand Hustle Entertainment, and began releasing mixtapes that eventually earned him a joint venture deal with Atlantic Records.

In 2003, T.I. released the first album on his label, "Trap Muzik," which debuted at No. 4 and sold more than 100,000 copies the first week. The following year, he released "Urban Legend," which generated his first top 10 hit. In 2006, he earned two Grammy nominations and won multiple awards at the Billboard Music Awards and BET Awards. Fueled by his growing notoriety, T.I.’s fourth album, "King," debuted at No. 1 on the "Billboard" 200 chart and sold more than half-a-million copies the first week. The single “What You Know” won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. His collaboration with Justin Timberlake for “My Love” also earned a Grammy for Best Rap/Song Collaboration. On a roll, T.I. released "T.I. vs. T.I.P." in 2007, which also debuted at No. 1 on "Billboard’s" Top 200, just three months before his arrest on federal weapons charges. He initially served time under house arrest, during which time he wrote lyrics for the next album, "Paper Trail;" the lead single, “Whatever You Like,” released in summer 2008, was a No. 1 hit. Subsequent singles also hit No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5. His legal troubles came to a head when T.I. was ordered to serve a year in prison. Since that time, he has released both mixtapes and the albums "TM103," "Trouble Man and Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head;" written two novels, "Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets" and "Trouble & Triumph;" guested on numerous singles by other artists including Jay-Z and Kanye West, Ke$ha, Drake, Lil Wayne and Future; had his own VH-1 reality show, "T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle;" signed and produced new artists for Grand Hustle; started Grand Hustle Films; secured numerous sponsorship and endorsement deals; and worked on his clothing line, A.K.O.O.

But in a sign of maturation and perhaps redemption, T.I. also finds time now days to support charity, philanthropic and social efforts, including working with troubled youth in Atlanta.