So, yesterday was a sad day that hip hop has seen too many times. T.I. reported to an Arkansas prison to serve 11 months for his probation violation. I pray that yesterday is the last time hip hop has to acknowledge what seems to be an annual holiday.

A lot of people may be doubting T.I.’s sincerity at becoming a redeemed man, but in my opinion, his music speaks for itself. I became a fan of Da Kang because of the emotion behind his music. Whether he’s smack talking, inspiring folks, or exposing his heart, you can’t doubt that his words and emotions are genuine. Yeah, we all screw, but those screw ups should never belittle the good that we have done, are doing, or will do.

So in honor of Tiny’s man, Da Kang, here are my top 11 T.I. joints. They’ve made me laugh, they’ve made me cry, and they’ve made me think…but most importantly, they’ve inspired me.

Let the countdown begin (pun intended).


#11: “Grand Royal”—I love a confident, smack talker…and that’s exactly what T.I. proved himself to be on this track from his first album, I’m Serious. I mean really, who claims to be “The King of the South” on their first album?!?!? Rather he was delusional or speaking things into existence, their few that would argue T.I.’s place as southern royalty today. He said it best in this track: “If the legends of the south ain’t complaining, like Outkast and Goodie Mob, what the hell do I care what you saying?”

Side note: If you can handle profane language, the explicit version is much more amusing.

#10: “Motivation”—You’ve heard it a million times. Make your haters your motivators! But when T.I. said it sounded so much more gangsta. At the end of the day it’s 95% of what’s in you and 5% of the crap you catch from bystanders that motivates you to become greatness that God put in you. Don’t let the bystanders hold you down. They should always push you up.

“If God’s with me who can be against me sucker? Can make me suffer, just make me tougher!”

#9: “I’m Illy”—Sometimes when it looks like the entire world is against you, you have to remind yourself that you are the ish! Let the smack talking commence.

“Never been screwed in the game, I’m celibate!”

#8: Be Better Than Me”—Why do we expect perfection from the individuals we admire? Sometimes when you’re placed on a pedestal you just have to tell them “don’t be like me. Be better than me.” I know I do it all of the time.

“The federal government will have your tail sitting still for a long time. They’ll hide you. Your hair will get longer than Methuselah.”

#7: Be Easy”—When I heard this song, I knew I would soon have to share T.I. with the world. This is when a star was born. Even in the midst of telling the world just how great he was, he simultaneously advise the hot heads to take a deep breath and “be easy.”

“Flow so insane, lyrics sick and deranged. Now you can’t mention my city unless you mention my name: T-I-P-I-M-P, I’m the man.”

#6: “I Can’t Be Your Man”—T.I.’s a pretty funny guy. This track proves it. But behind the humor, there’s a lot of truth in this song. Ladies, listen when a man’s talking. He’ll tell you why the relationships not going the way you want it to.

“Shawty, I don’t mind helping, but show some initiative. Ain’t brought nothing to the table but hard times and heartache. Do something! Get on your Grind for goodness sake…I don’t cheat because I ain’t no good. I cheat cause you ain’t no good.”

#5:What Happened?”—There’s nothing more classic than a good vs. evil storyline (even if it does have a hood twist to it). T.I. established himself as a storyteller as he narrates his adventures of “bust[ing] hell wide open” with Pac and Biggie by his side. J The lyrics are a little harsh, but I’m always a fan of kicking satan’s butt!

“Give me a click of angels and some bullet proof wings, Lucifer’s finna get pistol whipped.”

#4: “Get Back Up”—I hate there was ever a reason for TIP to write this song, but the message is still pretty real. I already told you how I feel about this song. Check it out here.

#3: “Still Ain’t Forgave Myself”—Writing has always been purifying for me. Sometimes you just have to sit with yourself and let all the thoughts, emotions, and crap inside of you out. You’ll like the person you are better once you do. And you just might find some freedom and forgiveness in there as well.

“Knew there was more to life than selling blow and chopper busting, but what’s the good in knowing better if I ain’t tell ‘em nothing.”

#2:I Still Love You”—There’s nothing harder than dealing with the pain that you’ve caused another person. It takes a big person to publicly apologize and say, “despite how you feel about me, I still love you.” I pray that I can be a big person like that one day soon.

“But I ain’t ashamed of you. I’m more ashamed of me. It’s not at all your fault; you’d be better off blamin’ me. But now I realize where the problem lies. Forgive me baby girl, I apologize, and I still love you.”

#1: Praying for Help”—If I told you this song inspired my teaching philosophy, you would probably think I was crazy…but it did! And I have a team of kids who will tell you T.I. and I were right. Our hoods need help. Are you willing?

“Cause I’m trying to inspire the folks you wanna condemn cause they sell dope. Well, man, show ‘em the ropes. Be a father or a football coach. A role model or a symbol of hope. Take another approach instead of testifying against em in court, handcuffing em and closing the door, so they can be worse than before. Can’t you see they only do what they know. Then you wonder why they don’t care no more.”