T.I. is setting the bar high for his post-prison album, King Uncaged, comparing it to Tupac's 1996 classic All Eyez on Me, which was released months after 'Pac got out of prison. "This is the most significant return from incarceration that the game has had since then," T.I. says. "Just given the enormous success of that project, everyone's expecting the same results. I just want to meet the expectations, if not surpass them."
The Atlanta MC says he didn't get much work done while serving 10 months in Federal penitentiary in Arkansas on weapons charges ("I didn't have a lot of time by myself just to think," he says), but he got cracking on the day he was released to a halfway house in January, recording the defiant single, "I'm Back." He's been on a creative tear since, recording more than 60 songs for the album, due out in August, working with the producers who have crafted his biggest hits, including Jim Jonsin, who made the beat for Paper Trail Number One hit "Whatever You Like," Danja ("No Matter What"), and DJ Toomp ("What You Know").
"Some songs talk about my time in prison — how I was affected by that, the way I've grown from that, things I see now that I may have not seen then," says T.I. "Sometimes I talk about love, some songs I talk about life, some songs I talk about me being the shit on every level."
No songs will talk about T.I. carrying a gun. "Regardless of what may happen, what circumstances may present themselves, how extreme they may be, I will not be the one carrying firearms," says the MC, who was arrested in 2007 for trying to buy a small arsenal of weapons, including machine guns. He has said he was buying guns in a misguided attempt to protect himself after his best friend Philant Johnson was killed.
T.I. considers the new album the last chapter in a trilogy that began with 2007's T.I. vs. T.I.P. and continued with Paper Trail, which was the eighth best-selling album of 2008. "If it was a film, the opening act would be the night that Phil got shot, and all the emotions and the sentiments that led to T.I. Vs. T.I.P.," he says. "From there, the schizophrenia of it all led to an unfortunate chain of events that left me incarcerated with federal weapons charges, which inspired Paper Trail, and now, people are waiting to hear the end of the story."