When T.I. isn’t at home with his family teaching his kids about secrets and how to treat women, he’s on the road performing or plugging his new book, Power And Beauty. Last week, we saw Tip on the road doing press for the novel that he wrote, and this week, we’re thrilled to tell you that we actually received an excerpt from the book that you can read right here. The description alone is exciting enough: “Set in the dangerous shadows of Atlanta, Georgia, Power & Beauty is a dark, gritty story of sex, violence, hustling, and redemption centered around Paul “Power” Clay and Tanya “Beauty” Long—two kids facing long odds and lethal temptations, yet whose miraculous, unbreakable bond ultimately becomes their salvation.”
Read the excerpt after the jump, and to find out how to purchase it online or to just get more information about the book, click here.
Excerpt from Power and Beauty by Tip “T.I” Harris with David Ritz
“I’ll take care of everything.”
Those were the first words of the first person who showed up at our doorstep the day after the night everything changed.
“Don’t you worry,” said Charles “Slim” Simmons. “I’ll take care of everything. Your mama was my best friend. I treasured her like a precious jewel. She was my heart and her kids ain’t gonna want for nothing—not now, not ever.”
We were in the front room of our small apartment. Beauty was sitting in front of the television, staring at a blank screen. She wasn’t even looking at Slim. It was a hot day, and she was dressed in cutoff jeans and a T-shirt. She wasn’t even looking at me.
I was looking at Slim.
He was about my height—this year I’d shot up to five eleven—and where I was thin and wiry, he was big-boned and thirty pounds too heavy. He had a belly on him. I guess he’d been slim when he was young. At forty-five, he looked his age. He had good hair that he styled in silky waves. I got kinky hair that I cut short to my scalp. His skin was light tan; mine is dark like Mom’s. His eyes were green; mine are brown. He wore an open-collar blue silk shirt, black alligator low-top boots, a fancy Monte Carlo Panama fedora, and a sleek slice of dazzling ice on each wrist. Matching diamond wristbands were his trademarks.
Slim wasn’t a smiling man. He had a serious vibe, a take-care-of business vibe, and before this day, he had never given me a second’s worth of attention.
“Just got back from Cutler Jefferson’s funeral home,” he said. “Cutler’s my friend from grade school. I said, ‘Cutler, give this great lady the send-off she deserves. Lay her out in satin and ermine. Make her even more beautiful in glory than she was in life. Set out your best coffin, the one made in hand-polished mahogany where the hardware is fourteen- karat gold. You dealing with a queen, Cutler. You dealing with royalty. Spare no expense.’ This here tragedy happened in my place. This here accident, where the gas heater blew up and caused this terrible explosion, this thing was something so unbelievable that only God knows why. She didn’t deserve this. You kids know that. You know it better than anyone. Your mama was a sure-enough angel of the Lord. She’s gone, but I’m here, and I’m here to set things right for y’all.”
I didn’t know what to say or do.
Beauty kept looking down. She never did face Slim.
Slim saw Beauty. All men saw Beauty. She was just an inch or two shorter than me, and her long black lustrous hair fell halfway to her waist. Her almond-shaped eyes gave you a dreamy feeling; when she did look at you, it felt like she was writing a poem about you. She was small waisted and slender like a model. Lots of models have small breasts, though. Beauty’s breasts weren’t small. They were perfectly proportioned to her body. They jutted out. They stayed up and out. She never wore a bra because she didn’t need a bra. She had amazing breasts. Her lips were thin and her mouth wide. Her cheekbones turned up to the sky.
Her mama, Isabel Long, had worked alongside my mother in the bookkeeping department at Fine’s Department Store for years. They lived in an apartment right next to ours. Beauty’s daddy was some Japanese dude who knocked up Isabel and wanted nothing more to do with the whole affair. When Isabel died, my mother felt like she had no choice but to adopt the girl, whose name was Tanya. Even as a baby, Tanya was so gorgeous everyone called her Beauty. She and I grew up together. She was just like a sister.
At about the same time eleven-year-old Tanya came to live with us, my daddy, Paul, fell down at his job at the plant. He was just a young man, but a stroke did him in. He was in the hospital for only a week before he died. He was the one who called me Power. I’m Paul Jr., but when I fell in love with the Power Rangers at age three, Daddy renamed me after my favorite toys.
“Power,” said Slim, “I’m taking you and your sister outta here. I’m taking you to my crib. You gonna live with me.” For the first time, Beauty looked up. She stared straight at Slim. Her eyes looked at him like he was some kind of devil. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to.
“I got six bedrooms and I only use one,” Slim said. “You’ll have your own bedroom and your own bathroom. One of the bedrooms has a canopy bed and a little room right next to it with a vanity table, the kind where women put on their makeup and do all that womanly shit. That’ll be your room, Beauty. You gonna love it. Power, I’m putting you in the room above the garage. It’s like a private apartment, with its own entrance and everything. You’ll come and go as you please. If you wanna bring your bitches up in there, I got no problem. Youngbloods gonna do what they gonna do.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.
“I gotta slide outta here,” said Slim. “I’ll be back later with all the details on the funeral. The funeral will be something no one will ever forget. My man Cutler is going to turn this funeral out. So start packing up your things. I’ll have one of my boys come by with a pickup and take your suitcases over to my place whenever you’re ready. God bless you both. God bless your beautiful mother. I loved that lady, and nothing in this world can stop me from making sure that her kids get every last goddamn thing they need.”
After Slim left, time hung heavy on our heads.
What could we say?
The shock of Moms’s death had caught us up in a terrible grief. The grief was choking us. The fact that we had slept together fucked with our minds. The guilt was choking us. Grief and guilt were all over us; we couldn’t even look at each other.
I was sitting on the couch. Beauty was sitting on a kitchen chair, her back to me. The morning was hot. The TV was off. The windows were open. A neighbor across the way was screaming at his wife so loud we could hear every last word.
“Bitch!” he yelled. “Why do you care if I get home at four a.m.? You ain’t giving up no good pussy anyway!”
“That’s ’cause that sad old dick of yours can’t stay up long enough to please no normal woman. You out there foolin’ with them freaks.”
I got up and closed the windows, muff ling the fight.
Finally Beauty spoke, although she still wouldn’t look at me. “I’m not going to live with him.”
“He’s a grease ball.”
“Moms liked him.”
“Moms liked everyone. She had a generous heart. But she saw through him. That’s why she never married him.”
“He’s a powerful dude,” I said. “He owns half the barbershops in the city. Plus all those car washes and hot-wing joints.”
“He’s a gangsta.”
“Moms was looking to help him. Now he’s looking to help us. That’s all there is to it. What else we gonna do?”
“Just the two of us? And live like a couple?”
“Don’t put it like that, Power. Don’t ever say that. That’s never going to happen again. Ever.”
“I understand, but I’m saying it’s going to look funny.”
“I couldn’t care less how it looks. I know what I want to do and where I want to live—and it’s not with Slim Simmons. I’m not going anywhere near that man.”
Beauty got up, went to her bedroom, and closed the door behind her.
A half hour later, the doorbell rang.
I looked out the window and saw Wanda Washington standing there carrying great platters of food. I opened the door.
“Hey, Power,” she said, “I brought y’all some eats. Should last you a few days. Got all sorts of treats here.”
Wanda walked in the house like she owned it. She went right to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and started putting the food away.
“Where’s Beauty, baby?” she asked.
“In her bedroom.”
She sat down on the couch and motioned for me to sit down next to her. Miss Washington was a heavyset woman. Her cheeks were chubby and her friendly eyes sparkled. Her mouth was fixed into a permanent smile. She was incapable of not smiling. She wore a heavy perfume and a fancy wig that flipped up on the side. She owned Wanda’s Wigs, and she always claimed that she was her own best advertisement. She wore a different wig every day.
“Get Beauty in here,” she said. “I want her sitting with us.”
“Beauty!” I cried. “Miss Washington is here.”
When Beauty walked in, Wanda got up and hugged her.
“Now you sit down here next to me, baby. We gonna pray. We gonna say, Father God, we here to praise you, we here to give you the glory, we here to thank you for this new day that you made, we here to say that we love you with all our hearts, even though our hearts are broken and souls messed up. These children don’t got no mama, Lord, and they hurting. Oh, they hurting real bad. Their hearts are crying, Father God, their hearts are crying worse than they ever cried before. We live in this mean ol’ world, Father, and things happen that we don’t understand. We don’t understand why this wonderful woman, their mama and my friend, Charlotte Clay, gotta be gone so soon. We don’t know why you took her, Lord, and we don’t know why you left her children to fend for themselves. But we trust you, Father God, yes we do. We know you got our backs. We know you got the master plan. We know that everything happens for a reason, even if we can’t understand that reason. And we don’t understand. We’re filled with hurt. Oh, the hurt goes deep. The hurt is all over us. We crying real tears, Father—”
At this point we were all crying. Beauty and I broke down. Wanda spoke through sobs.
“We crying and we trying, Lord. We trying to pick ourselves up and look life right in the eye. Life without these children’s mama. Life without my friend Charlotte. We doing our best, Lord. We know we can’t lose our minds. We can’t hide from life. Life goes on, yes it do. We got things to do, Father God. This boy Power, Lord, he’s a brilliant student. He plays basketball on the school team and he’s a star. Keep him strong. Keep him righteous. And sister Beauty, she’s a special child, a special young woman. She can sew, Lord. She can sew like a woman who’s been sewing her whole life. She makes her own designs and she sews them herself. You gave her talent, Father, so let that talent blossom. Let these children prosper. Let them find the strength to go on. They got to go on. Got to keep bringing it. Your will is for us to spread your love. To love each other like you love us. Psalms says, Weeping may endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning.’ Bring us that joy. Even in the midst of pain, let us feel your joy. You are our joy, our bright morning star, our shining prince of peace, our all in all. Bring us peace, Father God. In the name of your precious son, Jesus, bring us what we need to run this race. Amen.”
“Amen,” I echoed.
“Amen,” Beauty whispered.
“Now let’s eat,” said Wanda, getting up from the couch and heading for the kitchen. “I’m heating up a lasagna that’s gonna hurt your mouth. You ain’t never tasted nothing like it.”
Moms loved Wanda, and of course, we couldn’t help but love her too. Moms was a humble woman of few words. She dressed tastefully. Wanda’s taste was different. She wore too-tight pantsuits, like the green-and-purple getup she wore today that didn’t hide any of her fat. She didn’t care. Moms loved that Wanda didn’t care. She liked women like Wanda who, unlike herself, weren’t at all conservative and quiet. She got a kick out of Wanda. Moms always said that Wanda, like Beauty’s blood mother, Isabel, was a friend she could count on.
“Count on me to get y’all through this,” said Wanda while serving us big portions of her meaty lasagna. “And count on Slim.”
“He was here this morning,” I said.
“I know he was. He told me that he was coming. I told him it was too soon, but you can’t tell Slim nothing.”
“He wants us to move into his house,” I said.
“Well, I think that’s mighty generous of him. That’s like when he bought me my wig store.”
“I didn’t know that it was Slim who bought it,” said Beauty.
“He owns it. I work for him. But I make him a pretty penny, so he leaves me alone to run it as I please. He’s a rough man, Slim is, but he’s not a bad man. He’s got good in him, and I know damn well he wants to take good care of y’all.”
“I’m not going,” Beauty flatly declared.
“I can sure enough understand how you feel, sweetheart. Leaving this place is not going to be easy.”
“It’s not going to happen,” Beauty reiterated.
“Charlotte always said, ‘That Beauty’s got a mind of her own.
That child has her own ideas about things.’ She respected that about you, Beauty. You a strong young woman. You got that streak of fire running through you. I got that same streak of fire running through me. And I tell you, girl, that ain’t no bad thing. We need that streak of fire.”
Beauty didn’t respond.
“But in this day and age, we also need help. You gonna need a lot of help. Now Slim, he got him this house up in Cascade Heights. It’s a big beautiful house, yes it is. With lots of room and lots of privacy. He can go about doing his business, and y’all can go about doing yours.”
“I don’t trust him,” said Beauty.
“You don’t got to, baby. I got my eye on that man at all times. I know him well. Hell, I talk to him practically every day. I see how he do. I know he’s an operator. He can operate for good, and he can operate for bad. Right now, when it comes to y’all, he’s operating for good. Besides, Beauty, I ain’t letting you out of my sight. I want you with me at Wanda’s Wigs. Summer’s just begun and I’m gonna have you working down there every day. I wanna teach you the wig business, baby. You’re a natural.”
With that, Wanda went over and gave Beauty a great big hug. Beauty tried to fight back a smile, but she couldn’t. No one could resist Wanda.