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Father, astute businessman, fashion icon, King of the South, future Hollywood A-Lister, and hip-hop standard bearer. With all these titles, no wonder Atlanta, GA native Clifford Harris needs two monikers to tell his whole story. And with the release of the year's most anticipated rap album, T.I. vs. TIP, we get both sides of one of contemporary music's most compelling characters.
In reality, for those who really know him, T.I. has been called Tip way longer than he has by the stage name the world is familiar with. Tip is the name he's had since he was a child. It wasn't until later in life, when he signed his first record deal with Arista Records, that he had to drop the 'P' and switch to T.I. - because the label was also home to the more established MC at the time, Q-Tip, from the legendary rap group A Tribe Called Quest.
Since his 2001 debut LP, I'm Serious, T.I. has become one of the rare hip-hop artists who can not only say that his fan base and his record sales have increased with each new release, but that the critical accolades have continued to flow as well. His hard work and consistency was finally recognized earlier this year with the most high-profile nods of praise in his career so far - a pair of Grammy Awards.
If you ask the thought-provoking MC if he's satisfied with his success, he'll tell you it's not enough. Yes, he is grateful for all the support, but he still feels he has way more to offer and is far from being content. T.I. vs. TIP is his most eclectic project to date and finds the rap icon at the apex of lyrical skill. The album is broken into three parts. Songs by Tip open up the opus, then records by T.I. take center stage. Towards the end, the listener has a front row seat to one of the great epic sparring matches ever, as both T.I. and Tip are featured together. Along the way, both T.I. and TIP enlist such friends as Eminem, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Justin Timberlake, Timberland, Ciara, and Wyclef as tag team partners.
The first single, "Big Things Poppin," is a Mannie Fresh production - a brash anthem that trumpets Tip's triumphs and puts everything inconsequential to rest.
Tip's turn at acting was so well received, he became one of the most admired young stars in Hollywood and for his follow-up role, he was chosen to appear alongside Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington. The two will be featured as uncle and nephew in the upcoming "American Gangster," slated to hit theaters in November.
Besides being an artist in the recording studio and on the silver screen, T.I. has several businesses off the ground, including his record label Grand Hustle - home to such artists as the Mixtape King, DJ Drama, Big Kuntry, and the platinum-certified Yung Dro - and his clothing line created with his manager Jason Jeter, AKOO (A King of Oneself).
"I'm not stopping," Tip states. "Yes, I've come very far from where I was on my first album, but I consider this just a small measure of success. I'm always going to continue to strive to be the best."
And whether he goes by T.I. or Tip, he already has quite a story to tell.