He’s going to prison for collecting heavy artillery, but rapper T.I. marched in Harlem Monday with his sights aimed at stopping gun violence.
The Grammy-winning artist joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a rally honoring the memory of 13-year-old Christopher Owen and 17-year-old Cory Squires, both recently gunned down.
T.I., who is set to begin a year-long federal prison stint next week for possession of illegal firearms, urged city teens not follow in his footsteps.
“I carried guns and swung dope as a 13-year-old,” the 28-year-old Atlanta-born entertainer said. “I had my best friend taken away from me through guns. I was so hurt from the loss of his life, I didn’t take notice to the knowledge that I still had mine.”
Since pleading guilty in March to federal charges of illegally possessing machine guns and silencers, T.I.’s new motto has been “Bury Da Beef.”
His anti-crime advocacy is featured in the MTV reality series “T.I.’s Road to Redemption.”
To complete the 1,000 hours of community service tacked onto his sentence, T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, has toured the U.S. speaking to thousands of young people about the dangers of drugs and gangs.
“What else could somebody do to be a bigger credit to their community than to not take the easy way out,” Sharpton said of the steps T.I. has taken to straighten out his life.
T.I., Sharpton, rapper Ja Rule and community activists marched to the spot on W. 141st St. where Squires was shot dead in a May 3 street fight.
A father of six, T.I. implored kids to think before pulling a gun to settle differences, saying, “you’re not just killing a man, you’re killing a family.”
The “Paper Trail” rapper was busted in October 2007 when he gave his bodyguard $12,000 to buy machine guns and silencers from arms dealers who turned out to be undercover federal agents.
A prior 1998 felony conviction for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute made it illegal for T.I. to own any kind of fire arm.
While he originally faced a maximum of 20 years in prison, prosecutors agreed to a reduced sentence of a year and a day after T.I. expressed remorse and a desire to be an anti-violence advocate.
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