T.I. says ‘Us or Else’


Jimmieka Mills

Photo Credit: Jimmieka Mills March 18, AUSTIN, Texas SXSW T.I. and Sway Calloway discuss ‘Us or Else’ at SXSW.

Jimmieka Mills, Editor-in-Chief

AUSTIN, Texas — Multi-platinum recording artist Tip “T.I.” Harris spoke to attendees at SXSW in a discussion with Sway Calloway, host of syndicated radio program The Wake Up Show, about the recent release of his album ‘Us or Else: Letter to the System.’  The album, a far cry from ‘Trap Muzik’ hits like ‘Rubber Band Man’ and ‘24’s’, contains tracks that have been described as politically charged.

Calloway recited lyrics to one of the songs featured on the December 2016 release titled ‘I Believe’ “Like the stop and frisk mass incarceration that perpetuation of recidivism that means they create a system that is hard to break that’s why many of us are still behind bars today. That’s a diabolical plan,” said Calloway.

“But its strategic!” The rapper was quick to point out. He went on to explain his views, “It’s by design this isn’t something that just haphazardly happened. This ain’t just bad luck. This was set-up and structured to be this way from the time when the slaves were freed the 13th amendment says that slavery is abolished unless imprisoned. That says, ‘okay how can we get them back enslaved? Let’s create the laws where the laws count against them and just try to direct them into the prison system and if we direct them into the prison system then we get them and we even get to let our corporations use them to have next to free labor to make our commodities profit margins higher that’s privatized prisons. That incentivizes the militarization of the police force to go not to solve problems but to create problems to build cases to increase incarceration to add to the profit margins of these large corporations. The war on drugs, the crack law, the three strikes law, all that s–t was written to keep n—–s in prison.”

The rapper believes the effects of poverty has a part to play in the prison systems overwhelmingly poor and black inmates.

“For us because we grew up in it we found ways to operate within it and make it out even if we bumped our heads or broke our arm we still made it out alive to the other side. It’s kind of like an internship. For a lot of us, this is how we learned to operate business, how we learned profit loss structures, this was our lesson in entrprenurialship. There are some very resourceful hustlers out there. No one would have told us the things we learned in the dope game. No one would have told us those strategic moves and how to create alliances to bring your profit margins up and your expenses down. Get it from here at a better price, do certain things to it to make it better. There’s so many things that you don’t know you are incoherently learning and operating a real business it just happens to be an illegal substance. Nobody would have taught us that if it wasn’t for the dope game, so because of that, instead of going out and trying to beg someone to teach me something they probably don’t want me to know but I can’t really afford the formal education so I’m going to go out here and take these risks and take these chances and learn it this way. Even if I get caught and go to jail for five or six years I can still use what I applied. A lot of cats once they get to be 35 or 40 and they might have went to prison a couple times but all in all the resources they got from their wrong doings versus the penalty they paid they’re like ‘man I’d rather do five, six years in jail come back home and my family is straight than to live a life of poverty, I’ll take that.’ There is no way of waiting for them to get in school they don’t really have those types of options. Ain’t no daddy their momma is on welfare they’ve grown up in the projects on section 8 their whole life. You can say, educate yourself but the school’s that they are made to go to have sub-standardized education systems. When I found out that the standardized tests in third grade, in Georgia and I’m not sure if it’s still like this but I know it was in 2004, the standardized test for third graders, the percentage of kids who failed that test is how they knew how many prisoners they would have. Which tells you educate them less you increase your prison population. If those are the type of diabolical schemes that are being played against you, how can you get anywhere without being as dirty as the plan is that is against you?”

T.I. has had his own struggles with law enforcement and incarceration that have been heavily documented and publicized. These struggles give him a unique credibility when speaking on the true effects of not only the  issues within law enforcement and the black community and issues within the prison system that currently exist, but also, what it will take to educate the youth in order to stop the perpetual cycle.

“It starts with guidance and leadership and our presence in their lives early on because all the cats that I know from when I was young up until now the cats that’s out there doing dirt, they didn’t avoid an opportunity to go do dirt, they doing dirt because there are no opportunities. They would much rather be doing something positive. We have to instill some form of principles and standards and integrity within them so that once they get to be of age, they can determine what is acceptable and not acceptable for them to be doing in their lives.”

The artist was motivated to create “Us or Else’ after the series of deaths of unarmed black citizens at the hands of police including Sandra Bland and Philando Castile and our current political climate.

“A lot of these white cops out here and patrolling these black neighborhoods they are scared even of the kids. Not that he was a cop but George Zimmerman was scared of that little boy (Trayvon Martin) because he couldn’t beat him. So once the little boy got the best of him there was nothing else to do but ‘I’m gone shoot him’. Anytime you’re operating out of fear especially when you’ve been sworn to protect and serve and protect the community you’re putting yourself, the community the force and the integrity of our law enforcement, you’re putting it all in jeopardy just because of your individual fears.”

T.I. has not limited the delivery of his political opinion to song. The rapper recently took to Instagram and unleashed a profanity filled Instagram post response to Donald Trump’s IG comments against friend and fellow musician Snoop Dogg. Trump was reacting to scenes in Snoop’s new video “Lavender” in which the star depicted shooting the sitting U.S. president.


When asked by moderator Sway Calloway if the rapper’s goal was to get a response from Trump the rapper stated,

“No. To be honest with you, I know he ain’t nowhere sitting and looking at my Instagram posts, it’s not really about him. I’m speaking to him but I more so want the message to reach the people that follow him. That’s who I want to reach, I want to talk to them. Him (Trump) he’s too far gone. He’s rich, he outta there but the one’s that follow him, they don’t have nothin’! So for you to think that you guys are going to, under this “leadership” if you can call it that, that you gone just ostracize all of our hero’s and people who have shown people like me the way. I don’t care what they do, they gone stand behind theirs come hell or high water whoever it is. They have someone who they say he possibly compromised the entire countries secrets with Russia, I’m talking treason here and aint nobody focused on that, they protected him. It didn’t matter what he did they protected him because he was one of them so that’s how I’m gone be for mine.”