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DJ Rokz
05-09-06, 04:22 AM
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/met...LVphilant.html

Pal's death devastates rap star
T.I. 'not ever going to be the same'

By SONIA MURRAY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/07/06
Looking down at his best friend, his body riddled with bullets he was sure were meant for him, T.I. said something he knows he shouldn't have.

Not to Philant Johnson. Not to Big Phil, the friend he'd known seemingly forever.

But he did it anyway.

He lied.

"I told him that I had him and it was going to be all right," said the star rapper from Atlanta. "That was what I said. And he said, 'All right.' "

But later that morning at a Cincinnati hospital, Johnson died, the victim of a drive-by shooting following an altercation at a nightclub.

Friday, in his first interview since the incident, it was clear that T.I. (born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.) is struggling with the loss of his longtime friend.

"I'm kind of like watching my life change right before my eyes. I'm figuring out whether or not I even want to keep doing this right now. I don't know," said the entertainer, who is scheduled to speak at Johnson's funeral Monday afternoon at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church in Atlanta.

From nursery school on, as T.I. rose from drug felon to hip-hop superstar, Johnson was there, as friend, confidant, assistant.

T.I.'s fame and success gave both a life they could have hardly imagined as kids in southwest Atlanta. But it couldn't insulate them from the street violence they thought they had left behind.

Just hours before their last, brief exchange early Wednesday morning, Johnson, a hulking man whom many mistook for T.I.'s bodyguard, was standing at the side of the stage, holding his friend's cellphone as he performed. It was one of the many unglamorous responsibilities the 26-year-old Atlantan had as personal assistant to his best friend. But ask anyone who knew Johnson and they'll tell you he loved the job.

"He loved music, always," said his mother, Alicia Brown Cook. "And my son just told me two weeks ago . . . he was like, 'Yeah, Mama, I love my job!' He was somewhere in Cali. Laying on the beach. "

'I lied to him'

The trouble in Cincinnati started at a party for T.I. and fellow Atlanta rapper Yung Joc at a club called the Ritz. The Atlanta group went there following T.I.'s performance at another club called Bogart's.

Unnamed witnesses told The Cincinnati Enquirer that someone onstage at the party threw money into the crowd, apparently while Yung Joc was performing.

"It was supposed to be for the ladies," one witness told the Enquirer. "But it was hitting the guys in the face and they were like, 'We got money, so why are you throwing money at us?' "

As tension escalated, "T.I. tried to play peacemaker," Yung Joc said. "And we thought everything had been settled down."

But witnesses told the Enquirer that several people followed T.I.'s vans as they left the Ritz shortly before 3 a.m.

In the interview Friday, T.I. said he wasn't clear about what started the incident at the club. "That foolishness was worth even discussing," he said. "That's not what matters." But he did offer his recollection of what happened when his group left the club.

As their van headed south on I-75, T.I. said, he was sitting on the back bench on the driver's side. Johnson was in the row in front of him. Their longtime friend Doug Peterson, a manager at T.I.'s Atlanta-based Grand Hustle Records, was seated beside Johnson.

Then came the gunfire. Johnson was hit, and three other people traveling with the Atlanta entourage Janice Gillespie, Ronald Hausley and Elijah Edwards were injured.

T.I. helped put his bloodied friend into another vehicle headed to the hospital.

"That's when I lied to him," he said.

A song with new meaning

Those last moments still troubled the slight, 26-year-old rapper Friday as he nervously darted around his 10,000-square-foot house in south Fulton county.

First he ran down to his home theater to see how two security people were progressing with a system in need of repair. Then he bounded into his bedroom and retrieved a new fax machine and printer, still in the box, and asked a cousin and his aunt to put it together.

All the kinds of things Philant would usually handle.

"Phil was always trying to school me," T.I. recalled. "But I don't really deal with computers much. 'Cause I had him to do it."

A song came on the radio, and in a flash, T.I. disappeared behind a slammed door.

The song? His single "Live in the Sky," a ballad performed with fellow actor-musician Jamie Foxx about friends he's lost "to the grave, to the streets and to the jail cell."

"He can't take it," T.I.'s mother, Violeta Morgan, said to the growing number of relatives who gathered in the living room before going to a vigil for Johnson. "I know him like a book, and I know losing his lifelong friend is tearing him up."

'Always knew each other'

T.I. doesn't remember when he first met Johnson. Their mothers say it was at Trey's Kiddieland in southwest Atlanta.

"It just seems like as long as I can remember he was there," the rapper said. "As long as I can remember, his mama and my mama were partners. His cousin and my uncle were partners. His auntie and my grandmama stayed up the street from one another. And we just always knew each other, and it was cool."

Morgan said that if Johnson wasn't spending the night at her house, her only son, whom they call Tip, was spending the night at his.

"It was around the early parts of high school, eighth and ninth grade, when him and Philant were just really on a little boy-rampage," recalled Cook, Johnson's mother. "Tearing up stuff. Breaking windows. Throwing balls. Being somewhere they had no business. Or running in somebody's yard. Just typical boys."

Inside, they played video games. And Philant, both mothers recalled, was quite proficient at microwaving endless plates of Hot Pockets snacks.

"Ham, sausage, cheese, he liked all of them," Cook said. "He'd have to have two boxes right behind each other. He'd just line them up on a plate and just eat 'em."

In T.I.'s kitchen, another song replaced the sad ballad on V-103. T.I. reappeared, and rummaged in his industrial-sized fridge. He found some leftover chicken wings, grabbed the Texas Pete hot sauce and finally collapsed in the sitting area of his bedroom to talk, one eye on the Braves-Mets game on television.

His voice was lower and much, much softer than the confident roar listeners hear on his current million-selling CD, "King."

His white tank top didn't cover the long red scratches across the back of his left shoulder. "It's from the glass," he said quietly, referring to the shattered glass in his van. Then he sucked in a breath through his teeth.

"Man, we kind of thought we didn't have to live like that no more. We thought that was over for us."

Putting trouble behind

Both men had had their share of trouble, Johnson "finding his devilment where he could," as his father, Phillip Anthony Johnson, says coyly, T.I. convicted on drug charges and jailed. But when he was last released from jail in 2004, T.I. says, "I was trying really hard to put trouble behind me."

So was Johnson, friends and relatives say. And both were succeeding.

"I can honestly say in our last conversation, he was like, 'Hannah, I'm so happy,' " recalled Hannah Kang, general manager of Grand Hustle Records. "He and his girl had just bought a house together . He was trying to get settled. Talking about working out. . . . He was happy."

"His daughter was student of the month at school in February," Johnson's aunt, Darlene Johnson Dobbs, said of his 6-year-old, Janae.

T.I., meanwhile, has become a multimedia celebrity a mere four albums into his career. His music currently tops five Billboard charts. His movie debut, "ATL," opened at No. 3 at the box office and earned him some favorable notice from film critics. He has diversified his interests to include an Atlanta construction company and a car customizing business.

And just this past Monday, T.I. and Johnson were engaging in his newfound hobby, golf with basketball legend Michael Jordan.

Two days later, the shooting in Cincinnati happened.

"And I'm not ever going to be the same," T.I. said.

He sucked in his breath again.

"Success isn't measured in money," he said. "It's measured in happiness. Peace. And I ain't at peace right now. And I ain't happy. My partner's gone."

'We were going to laugh'

There was word Friday from T.I.'s record company that he planned to resume touring Tuesday, just a day after burying his friend. But the rapper says he isn't sure.

"I don't know if I'm going to be in New Orleans Tuesday," he said. "It's hard to say. Because there are so many things that Philant would be doing that ain't going to be able to be done now.

At his modest brick home in southwest Atlanta, Johnson's father added, "I always thought when it was all said and done, when they slowed down in five, 10 or 20 years, we were going to sit right down here on this front porch and we was going to go through all the pictures and, you know, see all the famous folks he was with.

"And we were going to laugh. And he was going to tell me about all of the incidents, all of the situations him and Tip and the boys been in. . . . That's what I thought it was going to come to."

Instead, it was T.I. who came to the porch to talk this past week.

"And he said, 'Mr. Johnson, I feel like I'm going to lose a lot of things now. We've already lost Big Phil. But I know I'm going to lose a lot more now."





I dont even know how to express this

ARSENAL_SEMINAL
05-09-06, 04:31 AM
Damn, I Aint A T.I. Fan, But I Feel For'em Thats A Truely Sad Story Man. Life Is Short And You Never Know What Waits Around The Corner. R.I.P.

YT RhYmZ
05-09-06, 05:04 AM
DAMN! this is wayyy shitty...T.I. was one of the best south rappers ive heard of besides Chamillionaire and Stat Quo, if he quits R.I.P. to a career of one of the illest southern rappers...

LoLo
05-09-06, 05:21 AM
wow T.I. shouldnt stop man....

Da Facecard
05-09-06, 10:08 AM
damn i dont want TI to quit rapping hes my favorite rapper out right now

Flint
05-09-06, 10:25 AM
Wow...Really deep info in there. Big props. It's really sad. If he did quit, I'd understand. He's got way too much goin' on right now.

seve3
05-09-06, 10:28 AM
Damn.,..,

Ghost
05-09-06, 10:44 AM
wow T.I. shouldnt stop man....
i hope he doesnt quit

Matt
05-09-06, 12:53 PM
man,this violence needs to stop its getting outta control!

DJ Rokz
05-09-06, 02:54 PM
man,this violence needs to stop its getting outta control!


word^^^

you ccan say 96 and 97 was big but you cann more people hoo hav lost their lives this year to shit like this and it would be more than any uther years combined,and its only half way thru the year,it needs to stop

Libya
05-09-06, 05:14 PM
he won't quit, all of them say the same shit, he will come back and say the game need me, they were they doing bad without me, rapper bullshit, and he's good rapper so how can he quit if he love hiphop

DJC
05-09-06, 06:01 PM
Damn...i hope he doesnt quit cuz that will be fucked up if he does!

g-click
05-09-06, 06:16 PM
I ain't a t.i fan, but man this is sad, his long time friend is dead so he won't be the same anymore

DaIZkidd
05-10-06, 03:20 PM
Big propz homie

Xpress Urself
05-11-06, 01:40 AM
I dont think he gonna quit rappin..he's just talkin outta frustration..
He gonna be iight..KING OF DA SOUTH wont stop..
GOD BLESS DA DEAD.

littlefranky
05-11-06, 02:29 AM
thatsa really long, but from wut i read i feel kinda bad for him, but i wouldnt be mad at all if he quit cuz i never liked him

snowman
05-13-06, 02:51 PM
it's a shame when things like this happends..but t.i's not gonna quit,sooner or later they all come back..

Adam8361
05-13-06, 03:00 PM
he's not my fav rapper... but I woudn't want him to quit over this shit


stop the violence!

F.B.I
05-13-06, 03:22 PM
DAMN! this is wayyy shitty...T.I. was one of the best south rappers ive heard of besides Chamillionaire and Stat Quo, if he quits R.I.P. to a career of one of the illest southern rappers...


WORD MAN:( :cry: