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A refresher course for T.I. from the Hip-Hop Guide to Being on Probation

September 2, 2010 |  4:54 pm




Dear T.I.,

Like many of your fans, I was saddened to hear that you had been booked on drug possession charges Wednesday night. Not least because you had just finished serving seven months in prison (and three in a halfway house) for having attempted to buy a cache of machine guns and silencers in 2007. And any parole violation -- let alone alleged drug possession -- would probably send you away again, potentially for a long time.

Although getting pinched is seldom “convenient” for anyone, your arrest couldn’t come at a more high-stakes moment in your career. It arrives on the heels of your heist movie “Takers” grabbing the top spot at the box office last weekend and in the lead-up to the release of your frequently pushed-back (and inopportunely named) new album, “King Uncaged.”

But considering the circumstances of your arrest, it occurs to me that you may have screwed up in more ways than one: You seemingly violated much of rap’s received wisdom regarding hip-hop superstars on probation.

If we have learned anything from DMX’s last several cycles through the penal system, it’s that there are certain rules governing the behavior of people like you -- performers whose wealth, personal charisma and high profile make them bigger-than-usual targets for police scrutiny. Put another way: WWSDD (What Would Snoop Dogg Do)? The guy smokes more trees than any other three rappers combined, but he certainly would not have been “caught slippin’ ” (as they say on the street), as sheriff's deputies say you were.

In that light, it is perhaps worth refreshing certain rules of the unofficial Hip-Hop Guide to Being on Probation:

• Don’t smoke weed in public. Rappers stay in pricey hotels, ride around in bulletproof cars with tinted windows and get ushered into clubs’ VIP sections for a reason: so they can pursue lifestyle choices that law enforcement agents might view askance, and do so with utter impunity. Case in point: Deputies on the scene reportedly took note because they “smelled marijuana” coming from your vehicle. And where were you? In a $600,000 Mercedes Maybach. On Sunset Boulevard. Not even on a side street? Not good. If you're going to blaze up, it probably would be a better idea to do it at the hotel instead. Or at the very least, keep the windows rolled up so those wafts don’t reach cop nostrils.

• If you are going to smoke weed in public, don’t do it in West Hollywood. Yes, T.I., you probably picked the worst part of town in which to get arrested. Look, California’s openness toward weed is extremely tolerant by American standards. And in the last decade, Los Angeles became a fabled land where marijuana dispensaries could set up shop without fear of bust. But this ain’t Amsterdam. Worse, West Hollywood made a concerted effort to close down many pot shops earlier this year and police in that part of town are on high alert for Sparksy and Dutch on WeHo streets.

Give your stash to the “weed holder.” At a certain station of success, a rapper becomes entitled to one major perk. He keeps at least one member of his entourage on payroll for a dedicated responsibility: to hold the rapper’s contraband and take the fall for the MC in the event of a bust. A “weed holder,” as this type of individual is known, would come in handy for a guy like you whose professional bona fides as an actor are still a work in progress -– despite the No. 1 movie hits “American Gangster” and “Takers.”

Sure, T.I., “streets is watching.” But so, apparently, was Five-O. Now your status as a free man has been imperiled.

In a recent conversation with Times staffer Amy Kaufman, you admitted a certain capricious world view -- especially vis-a-vis music -- that does not quite make up for violating rules set down in the Hip-Hop Guide to Being on Probation. But it gives some indication of how you see yourself.

“Man, I just do what strikes me,” you said. “I do what appeals to my interests. I do the music first. Music, verse and then go from there.”

So how’s that working out for you?

-- Chris Lee

Photo of T.I. by Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

in which to get arrested.