Originally known by his childhood nickname Tip, Atlanta rapper Clifford Harris Jr. successively labeled himself T.I.P. and then T.I. after he was asked to drop the "p" so his name would more unlike that of a fellow Arista Records artist, Q-Tip. He's also known as the King of the South, and for getting into legal trouble. T.I., who was born September 25th, 1980, got signed while he was still a teen, but his 2001 debut I'm Serious, which featured production by the Neptunes, failed to make waves and he was dropped from the label.
Intent on continuing his career, T.I. cofounded Grand Hustle Records (which is distributed by Atlantic Records) and began building a street buzz thanks to a succession of mixtapes with DJ Drama, as well as a guest appearance alongside Killer Mike on Bone Crusher's "Never Scared" (Number 26, 2003). His second album, Trap Muzik (Number Four, 2003), did far better, launching the hits "24's" (Number 78, 2003), "Be Easy" (Number 55 R&B, 2003), "Let's Get Away" (Number 35, 2004), and "Rubber Band Man" (Number 30, 2004). He followed it up with Urban Legend (Number Seven, 2004), which yielded the hits "Bring 'Em Out" (Number Nine, 2005), "U Don't Know Me" (Number 23, 2005), and "ASAP" (Number 75, 2005) T.I. also became an in-demand guest MC, appearing alongside T-Pain on R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt (Remix)," with Lil Wayne on Destiny's Child's "Soldier" (Number Three, 2005), on Justin Timberlake's "My Love" (Number One, 2006), on Young Dro's "Shoulder Lean" (Number 10, 2006), and alongside every rapper in the known universe on DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over" (Number 28, 2007).
His most substantial year was 2006, when King (Number One), T.I.'s most critically acclaimed set, spun off the ubiquitous "What You Know" (Number Three, 2006), as well as "Why You Wanna" (Number 29, 2006) and "Top Back" (Number 29, 2007). The less celebrated T.I. Vs. T.I.P. (Number One, 2007), garnered airplay for "Big Things Poppin' (Do It)" (Number Nine, 2007), "You Know What It Is," featuring Wyclef Jean (Number 34, 2007), and "Hurt," featuring Busta Rhymes (Number 89 R&B). In 2006 T.I. also ramped up his acting career, beginning with a role in ATL. The following year he starred in Ridley Scott's American Gangster.
But just as T.I. was becoming associated with Hollywood glamour and more mainstream stardom, a spate of legal issues put a temporary halt on his success (the rapper has said his alter ego T.I.P. represents his grimier, more trouble-prone street persona). Since being released from prison for a 1998 drug charge, T.I. has racked up an array of probation violations ranging from assault to driving with a suspended license. Most significantly, he was taken into custody by federal authorities the night of 2007's BET Awards and slapped with a litany of gun possession charges. After successfully arguing for house arrest while awaiting trial, T.I. pleaded guilty and agreed to serve one year in prison and complete 1,000 hours of community service talking to kids about the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence. While confined to his home, T.I. released a handful of YouTube videos and completed the majority of the writing for his sixth full-length album, Paper Trail.