But see now, you got to think about 13. 13 is a special age because that’s when you start riding your bike and you gain a little sense of independence for yourself, you dig what I’m saying? Now “24’s” came out in 2003. So what would be your relationship to that record? What do you remember about the timing of when you were 10? How old are you now?
I’m 27. I still feel like everyone was reeling from 9/11 in 2003. I don’t remember a ton outside of that. I was in 5th grade. I definitely didn’t know about “24’s.”
So you’re 27 years old, man. A lot of people who come up to me are late 20s, early 30s, and they be like, “Yo, bro, I grew up listening to you.” I’m like, “Damn, bro, you seem a little old to say you grew up listening to me.” And then I do the math in my head like, “Goddamn, I guess they did.” But that’s a reward to have my art help somebody through their life and get them through their tough days.
There are kids in Atlanta growing up now who never really had T.I. as a superstar. It’s not the same obviously, but you can be a different voice for them than the earlier generation.
I think that that’s dope to even be here, to be sought after or looked at for guidance and perspective. I like to be that person that people look to for counseling. It reminds me of the role and the position that my father played in his life. I always saw people coming to him, asking him for meetings.
The title of the new album alludes to you as a returning legend. Do you ever feel like you lost your status as one of the greatest to do it out of Atlanta?
No, I don’t think I lost my status. I think the realization of that has faded some as time goes on. And like you said, the generation of people who understand that about me, they still understand that, they have full awareness of it. But they done got mature enough to not be running around talking about it. So the word don’t travel. The people who tweeting and Tik Toking and doing all that shit, those are the ones who have to have that understanding, who have to gain that understanding for it to move around and travel for real.
That awareness can’t be had without examples being set. So the examples that I set, at least the ones that are the most prominent and the most visible, happened a while ago. Everything has to be renewed. Your driver’s license, your passport, and your status in the game has to be renewed. Even though I have that legendary status, I have that past tense legendary status for the things that I did in the street and in music. But for a present-day understanding, there has to be a present-day example being set. That’s why I feel like this project is so important.
You actively embrace younger Atlanta MCs like Thugger and Lil Baby. What is it you see in these younger artists from Atlanta that makes you so excited to work with them?
Man, more than anything, I see individuality. They’re not scared to be themselves. With Thug, to know him personally and then see his persona, that shit is wild. There are always three versions of ourselves. There’s how we see ourselves, how the world sees us, and who we really are. So for Thug, I know him as who he really is. And then I know how the world sees him. I ain’t never asked him how he sees himself. But I think how he really is and how the world sees him, those motherfuckers are astronomically different [laughs]. Even when people are extra critical of him over whatever decisions he makes, he ignores them and that comes from knowing who you are. You got to have a strong sense of self to operate this way.