t.i. and tyra banks, tyra show

November 1, 2008


why they got me sitting like this, he thinks, this shit makes me look short.  goddamn, my face is down at tittie level, what the fuck is that, my face is only as important as her titties?  those titties multi-platinum, huh? they win a grammy, huh?

and the photographer says something about tightening up, getting tight, whatever, and she pulls her arm around him, grab his shoulder, and bitch is strong, for real, scary, big hands like lebron or yao ming or some shit.

but t.i. knows that it’s good that he’s here with her arm around him, it’s good, it’s important, he knows, important for sales to all them moms who need to buy they little teenage girls new albums at target and shit for christmas and wanna make sure he ain’t too “gangsta” but also for other reasons, too, it’s important, he knows.

like, i can talk about this shit when i’m in there, he thinks, those motherfuckers get basic channels, right? so they see this shit now and they’ll remember it, they will, cause what the fuck else they got to remember in there, what the fuck else they got to look at, you know they watching “tyra,” what the fuck they gonna watch all day, like “ellen” or some shit? and so we’ll be sitting around in the yard or the cafeteria or whatever and they’ll be all like, “what, i saw you on tyra back in the day, motherfucker, you hit that shit backstage, right right?”  and i’ll be all like, “naw, motherfucker, she begged me, i didn’t want that shit, bitch is crazy, she got big hands like kobe!” and they all be laughing and smiling and shit and it’ll all be cool, i ain’t gotta worry about it no more, just do the time, cool, smooth and easy, ride it out. (shit, that’s a chorus, put that shit on loop: “smooth and easy, ride it out / smooth and easy, ride it out”). yeah, that’s why this is important, this is some shit i can talk about in there with them, some real conversational shit, he thought, since what the fuck else we gonna talk about?  we gonna talk about me, it’s all gonna be about me, 24-7 for 365 days, maybe less with good behavior which i am gonna have, you dig? goddamn, all that talking…

the photographer is asking him to smile different and he’s trying to move his mouth or turn his eyes or some shit, whatever, who cares, but really he’s thinking about the talking, t.i. is, about all the talking he’s gonna have to do in there because what else is there to do but talk? and like shit, you know some fuckers are gonna give him shit because of who he is, you know that shit’s true.  and he wouldn’t tell anybody about how he’s scared, but shit yeah he’s scared. it’s been so long since he was inside and he don’t even remember that shit, he closed it off, he put it back in his mind and locked the door on that shit, put the chain on it, barbed wire.  and his boys all tell him about what it’s like, everybody, skeet and l-dawg and this security nigga that worked at mannie’s studio with two teardrops, everybody tellin him stories and shit, yeah, he heard lots of stories, but that don’t make you ready, they just stories, they make you about as ready as watching “prison break” or “oz” or that old shit with dirty harry about alcatraz.  he did a little time back in the day but shit, everywhere different, you can’t predict it, you don’t know who in charge, you don’t know who in there, one bad motherfucker can ruin you, can break you, one bad motherfucker can turn shit to hell.  he’s got those memories behind a wall, behind another wall, behind fences.  he thinks of that time with weezy, weezy blowing fire and talking crazy mess about mars, about living on mars and smoking mars crip and what an 808 kick sound like on mars and how booties shake in slow motion on mars, and, shit, t.i. knows as much about what it’s gonna be like when he get in there as he knows about what it’s like living on mars, man.

american gangster, that’s a movie, that ain’t life, man.  those guns he was buying were just for fucking around, he won’t gonna shoot nobody, fuck. he ain’t never shot nobody, those guns were for recreational purposes, for serious.  you get blazed and unload a clip into a watermelon fifty feet across yo backyard?  burn through in like two seconds and see that pink and green vaporize into air, feel the stock shake your chest and you holding strong against it and then you go touch the tore up watermelon, all pink and juicy, and that shit’s warm?  fuck, it’s some beautiful shit, man, it’s birth and death and life and watermelon, all that shit, beautiful. why be rich if you can’t enjoy it?  he loved his machine guns, so what, he wanted a couple more, so what, that don’t mean he’s gonna kill somebody.  shit’s in the constitution, man, what, where’s his rights? second amendment, where you at?  and you got nazi motherfuckers up in the mountains, he saw this shit on the discovery channel, you got these nazi motherfuckers up in the mountains with a fucking army and shit and do the cops raid them, do they prosecute ? hell no.  they can’t take they guns because they know those motherfuckers will shoot back, waco, motherfucker, so they gotta target basically law abiding citizens like him who just wanna make money and make love and maybe sometimes shoot some shit in they backyard, what the fuck, america?

and he knows they’re gonna be talking shit in there, he just knows it, all the damn time.  they be sittin around talking or some shit cause what else you do and maybe he says something stupid, it happens, whatever, he say something stupid and he know some motherfucker’s gonna say, “what you know about that?” and then everybody be laughing but not good laughing, bad laughing, the kind of laughing that makes him wanna do some shit that he can’t do if they big and he shouldn’t do if he wants good behavior.  they do cell check and he gotta step out so the guards can check under the bed and shit and all the boys gonna be going “bring em out, bring em out,” goddamn. laughing and shit.  but what he’s really thinking about is the showers and the soap and the steam all around him and he drop the soap and when he’s picking it up he feel a big hand on his shoulder, strong, holding him, and some big 300 pound motherfucker whisper all hot in his ear, right up in his ear hole, “why you wanna go and do that, love? hey, why you wanna go and do that?”  he don’t even wanna think about that shit but he can’t stop thinking about it, he wakes up sweating in the morning.

the photographer is doing some shit with the lights and this is taking forever, just to shoot some pictures, do they think he’s made of time? and do i look short next to this bitch, though, he thinks.  seriously, why they got me sitting like this, goddamn, get me a stool or some shit, motherfucker! and these sunglasses hurt his head, too, they too tight.  who wears sunglasses like this anyway, on top of they head? fucking dumbass white boys, storch probably wear some shit like this, twinkie motherfucker. why they gotta make him wear these broke ass sunglasses like this?  and now tyra’s all telling him what he needs to do and her breath smell like vaseline, and she’s telling him how to smile, how to make his eyes look and shit, like fucking school or some shit.  and he’s going “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh” and nodding and shit but what he’s thinking is don’t tell me how to smile, i’ll smile how i wanna smile, bitch. i’m a free man, i control my shit, don’t tell me what to do, you ain’t the boss of me.  i’m a free man, he’s thinking, i’m free, man, he’s thinking, right now i am, free.  he don’t say that but he’s sure the fuck thinking it.


he’s really much shorter than i thought he would be, she thought, much shorter, kind of a surprise, really, honestly.  she was thinking this while holding a very subtle but perfectly constructed and communicative smile, mouth downturned, serious cheeks, eyes half focused but hazy, pupils slightly to the left, a number 187 to be exact.  when she was younger, when she had that kind of time, oh the time she had then, she had looked in front of the mirror and tried to number all the different faces she could do, all the expressions, used polaroids and sharpies and made like a catalog of the numbers and memorized it so she should could call them up in a snap when she needed them, instant, efficient, before the photographer even finished reloading.

this t.i. situation registered a 187, for sure. tyra had a true talent for assessing situations, understanding their particulars, processing, and translating her reaction into a certain facial expression which was a perfect reflection of the situation.  this t.i. situation was a 187: sad, but sad in also a hopeful way, wistful, full of wist, almost melancholy, close to dipping into melancholy, but with a grace note of something okay like dreams and hope.  t.i. had to go to jail and that was sad but he was rich and people loved his music, tyra included, whatever you like, and that musical love was hopeful, full of hope.  t.i. was kind of rude and standoffish backstage and he wouldn’t sit with her and talk and he just stayed in his dressing room with his boys and the door closed, which made her sad, but then during the taping he had said a lot of lovely things about young people and inspiration and following your dreams, which she thought might be part fake but she could see the eyes of the girls in the audience, their eyes crying and and believing, and that meant hope, and that was the whole point.  tyra liked giving hope to people, that was the whole point, that was the reason she did the show, to make people hopeful, full of hope, but at the same time she knew had to cut the hope with something else, that just hope wasn’t enough.  there’s that saying that hope floats but tyra thought that wasn’t true, that if you took one of those, you know, rubber rafts and pumped it full of hope it probably wouldn’t stay above water, especially in a storm.  katrina, oh jesus, never forget.  if you think about hope like eating, god she was hungry, if you think about it like eating, you can’t get full on hope, it’s like shrimp, you can just keep eating it and keep wanting more and never get what you really need, which is some bread and corn and iced tea.  damn, she thought, shrimp for dinner, for sure, make the call after this is done.

it reminded her of something barack had said backstage.  she had gone backstage with him, after the show, into the dressing room, and there had been so many people there, well, really, the entourage had probably actually been about the same size as t.i.’s but t.i.’s folks were all big fat boys slumped in chairs, fools seemed like they were sinking into the floor, horrible posture, whereas baracks’ people in their suits and their hustle bustle and their white voices made it seem like there were twice as many, like they were running a country from inside her dressing room, like it was the oval office.  anyway she had gone backstage with him and they were just joking, just making little small talk and jokes, and he was about to leave but one of the line producers, linda, had brought her little two year old backstage and wanted to take her picture with barack which was really not appropriate and tyra had tried to establish strict boundaries between staff and guests and when she showed up in the doorway tyra had shot her a look that was a smile with her mouth but her eyes as hard and sharp as japanese knives (#36).  but linda had come in with her little girl and the little girl was wearing the most adorable little outfit, this onesie covered in red feathers or faux-feathers or something, so she looked like a bird, tyra had made a note to find out the company so they could do a giveaway.  she had walked the girl up to barack and said oh mr obama, a picture with my daughter please and of course he said yes and barack grabbed the little girl and lofted her up into the air, against that starchy white shirt, and everybody was watching and linda had her little point and shoot ready and he said, “hope…is a thing with feathers,” and he smiled that smile, that big, white teeth smile, a number 1 in tyra’s book, a perfect number 1, and linda’s camera flashed and everybody had laughed and groaned and said he was corny.

and now charles is shifting the lights which she knows he is not doing because of a lighting problem, this is a TV studio, for god’s sakes, this is the tyra show, they don’t have lighting problems, and he tells her with this look out of the corner of the eye that t.i. isn’t giving him what he needs, she loves charles for that, they can communicate without speaking, they’re almost telegenic that way.  she curves around a little to look at t.i. and his face looks like he’s getting his driver’s license photo, it looks like he’s just coming to the solution of a hard math problem, it looks like he’s watching a tv show that is not very entertaining.  in any case, it is not the right kind of expression, it is not the right kind of smile, it’s not what he needs and she needs and the audience needs.  and so tyra tries very nicely to give him some advice about things he can do with his face, small things, she’s good at giving advice, and he’s saying “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh,” and pretending to shift his expression but he’s not listening and really it’s just a damn shame, is all tyra can think, what a waste.  because tyra knows that faces and smiles can make hope and dreams come true, they can make hearts move and votes cast and laws pass, they can make people feel things they didn’t even know they knew how to feel, but they can only do this if you get the faces right, only if they’re perfect, only if they’re just so.  otherwise you just look like a damn fool; short, too.


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