by Andria Lisle
Sunday night, 27-year old rapper T.I. was onstage at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, performing for 16,000 fans at an event dubbed "T.I.'s Goodbye Bash."
Sometime before noon today, T.I. will shed the sunglasses and the designer wear, and, as plain ol' Clifford Harris Jr., check into the low-security Federal Correction Institution in Forrest City, Arkansas.
The journey from headlining rap star, actor (ATL, American Gangster) and one-time Justin Timberlake collaborator to jail has been documented in T.I.'s Road To Redemption, a reality show which began airing on MTV in February.
Let's review just how that rocky road led from a spot on Forbes magazine's roster of the world's richest rappers to the federal pen:
1998: In his hometown of Atlanta, Harris is arrested in possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, a felony drug charge. He receives 7 years probation.
December 2001: Harris is arrested in Atlanta and charged with giving a fake name and carrying a concealed 9mm pistol.
November 2002: Harris is arrested in Henry County, Georgia, and charged (and later convicted) for carrying a 10mm pistol.
2003: Harris is arrested for assaulting a female sheriff's deputy at University Mall in Tampa, Florida. Soon after, he's arrested in Georgia for driving on a suspended license, and completes 75 hours of community service for that charge. In December, an arrest warrant is issued for Harris, ordering a revocation of his probation.
January 2004: MTV reports that T.I. is sentenced to 3 years in prison for parole violation. He serves approximately 8 months.
December 2004: During the execution of a search warrant at T.I.'s home in Fulton County, Georgia, officers find a firearm with an attached silencer, large amounts of ammunition, and photos of Harris holding weapons.
March 2005: A mix tape feud between T.I. and Lil Flip escalates to an all-out physical battle, as documented by Rap Basement.
May 2006: After a performance in Cincinnati, T.I. and his entourage are the victims of a shootout on I-75, which results in the death of his friend/bodyguard Pliant Johnson. Soon after, Harris appears in court on charges that he threatened a man outside a strip club. Those charges are dropped, but Harris is detained on an outstanding probation violation that dates back to the 2003 Tampa incident. He is released on bail, but ordered to surrender to authorities in Florida one week later.
June 2007: During a luncheon in Hollywood, T.I. allegedly punches Chaka Zulu, Ludicris' manager, in the face.
October 2007: Shortly before he's due to perform at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, T.I. gives his bodyguard $12K to buy machine guns and silencers. Unbeknownst to him, his bodyguard is an informant — and Harris is the target of an ATF sting. Three more firearms are found in Harris' vehicle and six more at his home, as documented in this Department of Justice press release . Harris posts a $3 million bond — $2 million in cash — and agrees to remain under house arrest until his trial.
November 2007: The U.S. Attorney's office announces plans to introduce evidence of three occasions when Harris unlawfully possessed guns, ammunition, and a silencer, “all after having been convicted of a felony offense,” the Associated Press reports.
September 2008: According to NME, the court rules in favor of Harris in a child support case filed by Lashon Dixon, the mother of two of his children. His monthly payments are increased from $2,000 to $3,000.
November 2008: At the Dirty Awards, a feud with Shawty Lo, documented in T.I.'s "No Matter What," erupts into a physical fight. The same month, Harris testifies in the murder trial of Pliant Johnson.
February 2009: Tameka Cottle, mother of two of T.I's five children, and pregnant with his sixth, enters the hospital and ultimately gives birth to a stillborn baby.
March 2009: According to CNN, Harris is sentenced on his October 2007 weapons charges. He's placed on house arrest, given 1,500 hours of community service and hit with a $100,300 fine.
Admittedly, T.I.'s situation is complicated. He expresses what seems to be genuine remorse. He's also, in the last year, mentored at-risk students at 58 schools, 12 Boys & Girls Clubs, nine churches, and many other nonprofit organizations, according to court documents. Former Atlanta mayor and current U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young is on his side, as are U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias and Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.
Go here to read my 2006 interview with T.I. for more.