First off, I like the album. Let's talk about a few tracks that really caught my attention.
You know what would make for the most compelling conversation, is if you told me about the shit that you didn’t like. Or the shit that you felt was missing, because then I can approach it from the perspective of well this is the explanation to that.
OK, umm I like how you flipped that just now.
We’re gonna talk about all the shit you liked. That’s expected. It’s more challenging to tell me about what you didn’t necessarily like. When you listen to an album for the first time and find the things that you don’t necessarily like and over time, once you understand conceptually what the purpose was, it might work its way [toward you understanding it]. Sort of like how when Kanye dropped 808’s & Heartbreaks. Some muthafucks didn’t grasp it right away.
Yeah, and Yeezus too. I feel like people had to listen to it more after the hype died down to appreciate it.
Exactly. You win [the public] over after that with a consistent approach to your logic and artistry. That’s when you can truly have the makings of a masterpiece.
Well, I will say...
We can talk about the stuff you liked too later on, but we’ll go here first.
Aight, since you gave me the challenge, I’ll keep it 100 and tell you which song didn’t grab me. I gotta say Stay didn’t really catch me like that. Not that I didn’t like it, but of the ones that ... you know when a song makes you make the ugly ‘this is that joint’ face?
You’re a hardcore hip-hop fan, ain’t you? Someone that appreciates the underground? See that song wasn’t for you.
What’s funny is on the very next track "About My Issue" [featuring Victoria Monet & Nipsey Hustle], you brought me back. I’m starting to like Nipsey. I heard him on Stalley’s new album and I wasn’t a big fan of his, but I even tweeted from your event last week ‘between Stalley and T.I., I’ve become a Nipsey fan.’
Man you gotta go catch Nipsey live at a show. He goes off. He’s honestly (at the point) where, before muthafuckas really knew who Kendrick Lamar was and he was burning the road up and you had to get out to a show to really experience it for yourself, that’s where Nip at right now. It’s a couple more people like that, like Problem. He’s right there too. Nip is one of the young guys that’s on the verge of blowing up soon.
So that makes sense as to why you put him on the album. You’ve said recently that you won’t just cosign a young guy. He has to earn it.
He’s got to show me something.
I believe when you said that, you were talking about Young Thug.
Yeah, Thugga is the real deal.
Can you tell us anything he’s saying on "Lifestyle"?
[Laughs] Yes man. Look, my cousin can tell you. It take a young nigga to tell you.
[Ed note: T.I.’s asks his cousin, Javaughn, what Young Thug is saying on "Lifestyle." His cousin immediately laughs when asked for a bar.]
See Also: 8 Non-Hip Hop Professionals Try To Decipher Young Thug's Hook On "Lifestyle"
We all know he says beginning at some point and lifestyle, but that’s all we got.
OK now, listen. If you go back to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, could you understand everything they were saying?
Honestly, to keep it trill, they were one of the first rap groups that I really understood and fucked with. I don’t know how I understood them.
You were young.
I straight could spit everything.
What about Twista?
I wasn’t a big Twista fan till maybe about high school and college, so no. But Bone Thugs, yeah.
What about James Brown?
[Laughs] I don’t know any full James Brown songs off the top of my head, no.
My point is, it’s just certain muthafuckas you just gotta vibe with. Like I can’t understand everything not one of the people I just spit back to you said, but .. ODB for that matter?!
You had to bring it to a New York dude, didn’t you [laughs].
[People are in and out of the lower level at SOB’s, all wanting to big up T.I. for his new album. One of the many who who come over to show love the man who’s the mayor everywhere he goes, was a women seemingly connected to Iggy Azalea. This lead for the obvious segue to the next question.]
Since Iggy was brought up, I have to ask, how’d you get Snoop and Iggy to squash that?
There was no getting him to squash anything. Me and Snoop got our own relationship. I reached out and as soon as I called him, the conversation... I didn’t even have to say nothing. He was like ‘man, I know what you calling for (both laugh). My bad, it went too far.’ And a lot of people still don’t know I’m involved [with Iggy’s work]. I’m not plastered all over Iggy’s everything. Neither am I for B.o.B., neither am I for Travis Scott or Trae tha Truth. My artists exist on their own because they have their own notoriety. They have their own hold on their parts of the game and they got their own lanes. They don’t really need me [for anything] except for guidance. I’m behind the scenes for the most part until they need me to help them sell something.
It could have been that he didn’t even know the connection until it had done already got out there. It could have been, but I don’t know. We didn’t even discuss it. He just said ‘man, I already know what you calling for. Don’t worry about it, it’s over with, it’s good.’ We started talking about something else immediately.
That’s funny you said that because our Editor-in-Chief said in the office while everything was happening, ‘I bet they just laughed it off.’
Yeah, we didn’t even talk about it. There was no extreme, extensive, elaborate convo. It was like ‘wassup big dog?’ and he was like ‘on the strength of us, that’s dead. Don’t even worry about it, it’ll never happen again.’ And the whole recording, apologizing came from him. That was out the goodness and the kindness of his heart. We didn’t discuss that, I didn’t ask that, he just did that on his own. That had nothing to do with me.
That seems like a real Uncle Snoop move.
I didn’t make him, ask him, request it of him. It was none of that. That was just an OG really being the OG.
SEE ALSO: Snoop Dogg Apologizes To T.I., Ends ‘Beef’ With Iggy Azalea
[Just then T.I.’s cousin comes back to show us texts messages from another family member, Shad the God, with the lyrics to Young Thug’s "Lifestyle"]
You got it! You know what he’s saying now?
Ahh man, that’s cheating but aight.
[Shows me the phone] This is my cousin who put me up on Thug, him and my little patna’ Pee Wee, so whenever we have trouble understanding what Thug is saying, we refer to Shad Da God, who has a song out called Pesos Queso featuring Young Thug. You should check it out. Anyway, he’s saying:
Came straight from the bottom to the top
this is my lifestyle
Did a lot of shit just to live this here lifestyle
At the top of the mountain
puffin on clouds
and niggas still beginning
Niggas living life like a beginner
and this just the beginning
(Laughs) Aight, so we got T.I. on record spittin the lyrics.There are a few tracks on Paperwork I want you to speak on and tell us what inspired them.
Let’s start with "G Shit"
Man "G Shit", we just really how I felt at the time, everything that came out, and this was made a minute ago because remember I’ve been working on this album for a minute. "G Shit" was recored back when Wale, Drake and J. Cole (were dropping). It was a lot of prepatory music out at the time. I wanted to find a way to speak to both crowds. I wanted to do sonically what was current, but speak to the demo of the people that I know have the ear that I have. So I think "G Shit" was the prefect blend of that.
What about "About The Money"?
"About The Money" was really spontaneous. My cousins came through the studio with Thugga after they left the club. I was in the studio working and we did that shit in like 30 minutes.
Let's get into "New National Anthem", which is my favorite track on the album.
Thank you, man. Victoria Monet and Tammy Brown came and gave me the record with the hook on it. It was during a very tense period because of Trayvon Martin and other things that didn’t get as much exposure but were just as significant. By the time I got around to recording it, we were getting the verdict. It kind of fueled some emotions of ‘man, we’ve been talking about this for so long. From [NWA's] "Fuck the Police," to [Flava Flav's] "9-1-1 is a Joke." It’s been in the news from Rodney King and we’ve been going through the same shit, speaking to a deaf ear saying this is a problem.
I felt like neither side is listening to each other. And the other side, I’m sitting in the middle, so I can understand when the other side is saying ‘hey look, we’re not finna keep on saying sorry for that old shit.’ But we have to both start a new. We’ve got to let some shit go, they’ve got to acknowledge the shit and be willing to repair some shit that needs it in order to be able to move forward in a positive light. I felt like that was the only way to speak to both sides without it being interruptive.
What about the title track, "Paperwork"?
Man, "Paperwork" started first as the album title. Then I had a structure of a hook in mind. I got to the studio with Pharrell and we talked for about 10 to 15 minutes. He went and zoned out. What Pharrell does is he’ll come in the studio, we’ll talk over the phone a little before we get there and then bounce thoughts off of each other. He’ll go to the board and pause for a while in silence and then he’ll just come back like ‘aight bruh, I got it.’ Then in about 15 minutes, he put that shit together and I was like this needs to be a story.
That’s the one I know the best [Laughs,).
I felt like this album, and no pun intended to Pharrell, but I felt like it sounded a lot more happy than we're used to from you.
You mean to tell me you didn’t feel the pain on "Light Em Up"?
It’s not that I didn’t. It’s just that the overall theme or feeling of the album was different. I’m used to a more gritty T.I. I felt like maybe with Pharrell on the album, the tone of it was a little more upbeat sonically.
It was definitely more creative. It ventured out into creative spaces of artistry that maybe T.I. had not been challenged to go before. I don’t think that makes it more happy. To me, I look at it as a shinny, gold pistol [Both laugh.]. That muthafucka is shinning, it’s gold, but it’ll burn ya ass up though if things go wrong.
I mean, you’re also a different place now in life right?
I think during the recording period of this album, I ventured into some very dark places as well. Like when Doe B died, the night Pharrell and I made "Paperwork," Doe B died. Then the next day I recored "Light Em Up." That was a very dark, sad place. So I don’t look at it as happy, but if you look at it from the color it is a more diverse, well rounded project.