T.I. was a guest on The Daily Show earlier this week where host Trevor Noah asked the Atlanta rapper a number of questions about his television show, T.I. and Tiny’s: The Family Hustle, and his newest video, “War Zone,” which depicts a role reversal of the races in encounters between police and civilians. During the segment, Noah quizzed Tip about the bold statements portrayed in the visual and the content of most rap songs versus the calls for justice that have begun to emerge in the music.
“I’m a huge hip-hop fan,” Noah said. “And then you get people who say, ‘I hear you guys saying you want justice, I hear hip-hop stars and fans saying that this is not right. But then in hip-hop, people are talking about guns, people are talking about shooting, things like f*ck the police. How is this helping the dialogue?’”
To be fair, Noah himself wasn’t asking the question. He was imitating those who mock the genre for its violent lyrics while also ignoring the artists’ cries for justice. It’s a long-winded method to say “what about black-on-black crime” and finding ways to refrain from holding the police accountable. Noah wanted to know how the trap rapper replies to those questions.
T.I. met that criticism head on with a concise response that should become the de facto way anyone answers this question going forward. “People need to take into consideration that hip-hop, traditionally, has always been a reflection of the environment the artist had to endure before he made it to where he was,” he said. “So if you want to change the content of the music, change the environment of the artist. And he won’t have such negative things to say.”
Tip could not have found a better retort. Noah said when he was originally asked the question he “did not have as eloquent an answer” and the next time someone asks he will “direct them to this video.” Noah is right. What T.I. said was thoughtful, knowledgeable, and left very little room for “accidental” misinterpretation.
For what it’s worth, watching rappers become the voices for the voiceless has been a real treat. There’s still too many who get it wrong but when one of them gets it right, something about that just feels good. T.I. deserves major props for this.