Slammer time

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As convicted felons go, T.I. has had a pretty jovial experience.

The charismatic Atlanta rapper has a history of run-ins with the law, but by October 2007, when he had become one of the biggest stars in the world and was set to headline the BET Hip-Hop Awards, he no longer seemed to need the street hijinks that put him behind bars before.

But it's not so easy to leave behind the streets, and as T.I. explained on his song "Ready For Whatever," the rapper believed certain aggrieved parties were plotting to end his life. He had good reason to freak out - his lifelong friend Philant Johnson was gunned down before his eyes in 2006.

So T.I. bought some machine guns.

Convicted felons can't purchase firearms, so when a snitch delivered the rapper into the cops' hands, the rapper traded his rubber bands for handcuffs and gritted his teeth for another trip to the slammer.

T.I. was under house arrest until February, when a judge sentenced him to one year in prison. But that term was pushed back until this March to allow him to complete 1,000 hours of community service.

That window has also allowed him to enjoy his greatest success yet as a recording artist. His 2008 album, Paper Trail, debuted at No. 1, spawned the massive singles "Whatever You Like" and "Live Your Life" and snagged a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album.

All the while, T.I. has been making the rounds on the talk show circuit, where hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Chelsea Handler laugh, wink and make light of his legal troubles. He will perform twice at the Grammys next week. And he's fitting in gigs like Friday's stop in Columbus.

As the man nicknamed "Tip" prepares to serve his time, let's look back at some other musicians who ran afoul of Johnny Law at the peak of their success. (The likes of Gary Glitter, Phil Spector and Boy George don't count - their alleged crimes came years after their heyday. And there's no reason to sully the name of acquitted stars like Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly.)

Chuck Berry: The original rock 'n' roll star was charged under the Mann Act, which forbids transportation of minors across state lines for illicit purposes. He invited a young Mexican waitress from Arizona to work at his nightclub in St. Louis. In 1961, after the girl was arrested for prostitution, Berry was charged and ended up with a three-year prison sentence. He served almost two of them before being released on his birthday in 1963.

Johnny Cash: In 1965, the Man in Black was apprehended by U.S. Customs officials in El Paso after allegedly purchasing hundreds of pep pills and tranquilizers in Juarez, Mexico. He was arrested again in Lafayette, Georgia, but got off both times with a fine and a slap on the wrist.

Jim Morrison: The Lizard King was charged with a felony count of lewd and lascivious behavior and three misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure, open profanity and drunkenness after a 1969 performance in Miami. The indecent exposure and profanity charges stuck, and Morrison was fined $500 and sentenced to 60 days hard labor. His case remained under appeal at the time of his death in 1971.

Ol' Dirty Bastard: Wu-Tang's wild man was convicted of several offenses in the 11 years between Wu's debut 36 Chambers and his 2004 death. Besides convictions for second-degree assault and home invasion, Dirty famously was charged with shoplifting a $50 pair of sneakers when he had more than $500 cash on him. Perhaps his most outrageous incident came in 2000, when he escaped from a drug treatment facility and lived as a fugitive for a month. After he was caught signing autographs outside a Philadelphia McDonald's, he was sentenced to two to four years in prison and was behind bars until 2003.

What: T.I.

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30

Where: Veterans Memorial, Franklinton