Rapper brings legal issues to reality TV

Rapper T.I. is turning his legal woes into an MTV docu series.

Cabler will follow the hip-hop star as he performs more than 1,000 of community service before beginning to serve his one-year prison sentence next spring. Ish Entertainment is behind the untitled series, which has scored a six-episode order from MTV.

Cameras already chronicled T.I.’s release from house arrest, and shooting will start in earnest this summer, leading up to his return to jail in early 2009. MTV plans to air the show some time soon after that.

T.I. — real name Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. — has had several brushes with the law, and he was arrested in October just hours before he was to be honored at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. The rapper, who had already been convicted for selling crack cocaine in the late 1990s, was charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.

The Grammy winner, nicknamed “the King of the South” for his Atlanta-influenced rhymes, was facing more than four years in jail when he managed to secure the plea deal (which also included a $100,000 fine). Idea for the show was hatched around the same time.

“We began the conversations in the middle of deliberations over what would happen to him,” said Ish’s Michael Hirschorn, who’s exec producing with partner Stella Stolper. “The original idea for the show had him staging a series of interventions in each episode with people in danger. But when we visited him under house arrest, it felt much bigger and more powerful than we anticipated.”

The show features T.I. as he speaks to groups about his troubles.

“Hopefully the mistakes I’ve made will be a lesson to today’s youth and they won’t go down that same path,” T.I. said.

Show will also document the release this fall of the rapper’s new album, “Paper Trail,” much of which was inspired by his travails over the past year, and the birth of his child.

Producers said the show didn’t require the blessing of the Atlanta courts but will accommodate the parameters of T.I.’s probation. Rapper has a curfew of 1 a.m. when he’s working on a project and 11 p.m. at all other times.

T.I.’s last two CDs, “King” and “T.I. vs. T.I.P.,” both bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart; he also scored the biggest first-week sales for an Atlantic label artist in the 15 years since Soundscan started monitoring album purchases. Beyond hip-hop, T.I. has appeared as an actor in the films “ATL” and “American Gangster.” He also runs a clothing line and co-founded the record label Grand Hustle with Jason Geter.

T.I. and Geter are exec producing the nonscripted series along with Category 5 Entertainment’s Brian Sher.

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