The story behind T.I.’s rap name is an interesting one. He’s on record as saying the letters “T” and “I” mean “absolutely nothing” to him and over the past few years fans have struggled over whether to call him by the name they know him as or Tip, his childhood nickname.
Well, during a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Tip cleared the air by letting people know how the name T.I. came to be.
“Well, I believe that early on in my career, when I was kind of asked or it was suggested that I should change my name, you know, it was very difficult to find something else to call myself short notice just for the purpose of rap,” he explained. “Because my music was just an extension of me, so to have to create another label or name for myself was very difficult and I wasn’t very successful at it.”
Unsure of what to do, LaFace executive Kawan Prather suggested he change his name. “After so long of no forward progress, [Prather] said, ‘You know man, why don’t we just try T.I.?’ and I was like, ‘Wh-wh-what the hell is a T.I.?!’”
During a 2015 interview with Esquire, Tip explained a similar scenario. “[The record label] strongly suggested that I change my name, but I had nothing to change my name to,” he said. “I’d never been called anything else. I felt like, since it’s just a suggestion, maybe if I come up with nothing then, you know, things’ll stay as they are. Much to my dismay, I found out that that suggestion was more ... ultimatum-ish.”
Tip is happy with how things have turned out, though. Since urging his fans to call him by his longtime nickname, it’s about 50/50 on who calls him Tip versus T.I. “Now, I think just as many people know me as Tip as T.I.,” he said. “So, I guess I wanted to have people call me my actual name.”
Read the full Huffington Post interview here.
(Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for History/Roots)