Justin Bieber has a new mentor. His name is T.I.
Arriving in the teen star’s life at an undeniably critical point, the Atlanta rapper has picked up where former Will mentor Smith left off.
For Bieber, this is a good thing.
Smith — a 45-year-old Hollywood veteran of ‘message movies,’ a seemingly Hallmark Card family life, a declared interest in Scientology while insisting he isn’t a member, is doubtless a great, cheerleading ‘Uncle’ figure — but for where Bieber is right now, T.I. is probably a less cozy, more relatable ‘fit.’
The Atlanta rapper, 33, effectively reformed his life after a seven-year probation term for violating Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act in 1998; a 2007 arrest on charges of buying illegal machine guns which led to a one year and one day prison term, house arrest and a fine in 2009; then a 2010 arrest on drugs possession charges (later dropped), violation of probation and associating with a felon.
While in prison T.I. penned his debut novel Power & Beauty and throughout intermittent pre-jail spells topped Billboard’s 200 chart with his 2008 album No Matter What. In 2011 he was nominated for two Grammy awards, one Soul Train Music award and three BET awards. His rehabilitated approach to life continues – and in the circles he moves in – he is viewed as a peacemaker who knows of what he speaks.
To Bieber, who may be finding it difficult to articulate the sickening stomach fear-crunch he is likely feeling about his current legal woes and the hate he’s receiving, T.I. represents living proof he might make it to the other side of the bleakest time in his career and life to date.
The 19-year-old is facing far less serious charges than T.I.’s previous. But obsessed media coverage and scrutiny he attracts, amid an intense disconnect with his former image means — in real terms — the perceptual stakes are about the same.
Bieber is battling four criminal charges. A trio stemming from an alleged DUI in Miami, and an assault charge in Canada over an alleged attack on a Toronto limo driver in December. In addition, a house-egging vandalism case – in which he is a suspect – is reportedly coming down the pipe from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office this week per charges or not.
So, a lot going on for a teenager who has been taking prescription medication for anxiety, and whose clear need for understanding and compassion is being ignored in a pageclick-fueled paparazzi economy and repellent pursuit of penis images.
During his Arsenio appearance on Wednesday, T.I. – who has been hanging out in Atlanta with Bieber – talked about the advice he is giving the young singer.
“Justin is going through a moment right now in his life where all of us — as adults — have had that transitional period where we’ve had to, you know I guess, evolve from adolescent into manhood,” he said.
To Arsenio’s interjection of, “And he’s doing it in the limelight,” T.I. agreed, adding:
“In the limelight and in the eyes of the public, and all of the entrapments that come with being a celebrity (sic). It was hard enough for me to become a man with $100,000. A $100 million? I could imagine the mistakes that could be made.”
Echoing words Huffington Post previously reported the House of Lies star shared with his children to explain his time in prison and what he learned, Tip shared a typical conversation with Justin,
“When I speak to him he listens with an open ear and I just tell him, ‘Everybody’s had that moment where they had to look at themselves in the mirror and say, man, something’s got to change.'”
He added, “It’s not the environment all the time, sometimes it’s me. And he understands. And I just told him, ‘You got to pick and choose your times and moments when you can do what you want to do and do what you have to do.'”
Yes, T.I. – packing experienced emotional steel and about as far away from Smith and shiny Hollywood as it’s possible to get – might just be exactly what Bieber needs as he enters; the quickening.