By Sabrina Ford
NEW YORK (Reuters) - It's been a whirlwind month, to say the least, for rapper T.I.
Since being released from custody last month after serving an 11-month stint in jail on weapons charges, the Atlanta-based rapper and actor has put out a new single, begun filming a reality TV series and debuted his first novel. T.I. the rapper is now T.I. the author.
On Tuesday, publisher Harper Collins released T.I's "Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets," an urban-based novel featuring African American characters co-written by frequent celebrity biographer David Ritz.
"I'm proud, ecstatic," T.I. told Reuters about becoming a published author. "I'm always eager to diversify my artistry. It's a great moment."
"Power & Beauty" is a coming of age story of two Atlanta teenagers, raised by the same woman, who are driven into each other's arms amid the grief that follows her death.
When separated, one falls into a life of crime, testing the pair of lovers who never seem to move on from one another.
"Love is the driving force behind so many things, and it inspires so many other emotions," said T.I. of the decision to make a romance central to the story.
The book was completed last year before T.I.'s stint in prison and after more than a year of back-and-forth work with Ritz. T.I. said he and his co-writer did not immediately agree to collaborate after an initial meeting arranged through a mutual record industry friend a few years ago.
"We had extensive conversations. I needed to know he was serious and he needed to know I was capable."
INSPIRED BY SISTER SOULJAH
The rapper said he was inspired to write "Power & Beauty" by Sister Souljah's 1999 novel, "The Coldest Winter Ever," which invigorated the publishing genre known as Street Lit, or Urban Lit, which is fiction often featuring African-American characters from inner cities.
"I wanted to accomplish, or come close to accomplishing, what that book did -- the ability to entertain, inspire and educate at the same time," T.I. said. "I wanted to bridge the gap between people who would only be interested in Urban Lit and those who would not at all be interested in Urban Lit."
T.I. said that writing music and books were "worlds apart," and although he and Ritz have decided to make "Power & Beauty" a series, the rapper hasn't quit his day job.
Last month, he released a new single "I'm Flexin," featuring Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T., and he said he is working on -- but not rushing -- a new album.
"I'm putting it together now. I want to make sure it is the best collection of music and songs that I can possibly have. I don't want to give myself a date until I have something compelling that I want to put out," he said.
T.I. and his family will also star in an upcoming reality TV series, "Family Hustle," on cable TV network Vh1, although T.I. is reluctant to use "reality show" to describe it.
"There's a stigma that comes with the term 'reality show,'" he said. "It diminishes the effort I put into everything." The rapper adamantly promises "no buffoonery" on his show. "It's about family. It's about the balance between personal and professional in my life.
"We're just creating new memories," he said of the time he's spent with family since his release from jail. "That's what life is about -- creating memories and cherishing them. When you look back, that's how you will access the value of your life."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)