Yesterday, after watching T.I. and Tiny on “Red Table Talk,” I had to take a beat. Honestly, I’ve written about them before and I wondered if it was worth my time and effort to do so again. Not only does Tiny seem hellbent on making their relationship work, the people laud them as some type of relationship goals. Given all that we’ve seen and the things we’ll never know, it’s confusing to watch people fall all over themselves celebrating dysfunction. It was one thing to watch people in The Shade Room comments but an entirely different level of frustration to watch Jada Pinkett Smith, a woman we regard as extremely powerful and intelligent, fall for T.I.’s antics.
Throughout the interview, while it was clear that Jada understood the very real issues in her marriage, there were far too many times when T.I. made light of the pain he’d caused Tiny. It’s no secret that our community really admires the Smith family. And so I decided to write about the problematic nature of the topics broached during that episode of “Red Table Talk” to let other people know that despite the giggles and proclamations of love that the two share, the people, men and women alike, need to know that if they’re going to be watching T.I. and Tiny’s relationship, they should recognize it as a cautionary tale of what not to do.
T.I.’s father dying
There was a lot of small talk before T.I. said anything substantial during their sit down. But one of the more telling parts of the conversation came when he shared that his father’s death and what he said to him close to his passing is what influenced him to marry Tiny.
“Speaking honestly and truthfully since this is safe place, I really did feel that at that point in my life, if I didn’t get married then, I wasn’t going to never get married. My dad died without being married. And the thing he told me before he died was ‘Find somebody to share your life with.’ That’s what it’s all about because she could go out and find fun anywhere. And so could I.”
T.I. understood the value of having a partner in his life. But because he never saw his father in a marriage, it’s clear that he didn’t know how to be a good partner. He speaks about sharing his life with someone but that doesn’t speak to what it means to be a husband and what he would have to do in order to be of support to his partner. It goes beyond supporting them financially. T.I. didn’t and still likely doesn’t know what it means to support a partner emotionally.
Changing your mind and having a voice
What was helpful about this sit down was the fact that we learned the genius of their problems. Beginning with T.I. going to prison. Before that, they had established that he was going to take care of things financially in their relationship. As such, he didn’t want her to work. And though Tiny had the bigger name when they first got together, Tiny took a backseat in order to take care of their children while T.I. pursued his rap dreams. But then he went to prison…repeatedly. And whatever arrangement they made beforehand needed to be revisited once T.I. was no longer there to provide. Tiny not only started working. She found her voice in the process. Honestly, I can understand T.I. feeling like less of a man coming back from prison. Still, he should have been eternally grateful for Tiny taking care of everything while he continued to make immature and irresponsible decisions that affected not only their relationship but their children. Her voice deserved that respect. It was that voice and that revitalized autonomy that saved their family. But it all harkens back to what seems like the central issue in their marriage.
The lack of respect
If T.I. respected Tiny as a person, he would have been able to embrace her voice. Not immediately but eventually. To hear him speak about Tiny’s voice, you can still hear the frustration and even anger as he tries to understand why Tiny changed. At one point in the episode, Jada tells T.I. and Tiny that she and Will faced the same issue with loss of voice, identity and power struggles in their relationship. And I believe her. The difference here though is that it seems, from the outside looking in, that Will has a base level of respect for Jada, as a woman, that T.I. does not have for Tiny. If you watched Will talk about their marriage on his episode of Red Table Talk, he spoke about how Jada had found her stride and was walking in her purpose with the show. Meanwhile, on “The Family Hustle,” and even before, we saw T.I. shut down many of Tiny’s business endeavors, including her show with Toya Wright and initially the tour with Xscape. Tiny said there was a lot she wanted to do musically that T.I. forbade. The question is why? If he was paying bills, what was wrong with allowing Tiny to have something of her own?
In watching the episode, my coworker, Charise Frazier, shared that while Jada looked at T.I. and Tiny and saw love, she saw and heard that their connection was based on trauma. The death of his father is what made him marry Tiny, after calling it off. A fact he “forgot.” They lost a child after that breakup and Tiny said that’s what brought them back together. T.I. said every time they were getting ready to end their relationship, someone died. I don’t have to tell y’all that those deaths might not have been an indication that these two needed to be together.
Needing validation after prison
In a moment where T.I. wasn’t attempting to make light of his character flaws, he mentioned that after leaving prison he was feeling less than. And as a result, he sought fulfillment from other places and eventually other people. It was honest and certainly something anyone can understand. Prison can be a soul-sucking place. What I was waiting for T.I. to say though was what he did to address his need for validation. How did he heal from that? How does he find validation in ways that don’t harm his family and his wife?
Tiny spoke about the comments T.I. made in regards to marriage taking away a man’s masculinity and being a distraction. Tiny said that today he tells her it wasn’t about her. She said he won’t own up to the fact that his comments served as a sign of disrespect to her. I think it was abundantly clear that T.I. was talking about Tiny and their marriage. In fact, he said explicitly that he can be a better friend than husband. As far as I know, Tiny has been his only wife. He spoke about himself specifically.
“I just have a purpose and I don’t always have the time to do the thoughtful, considerate things that a husband should do. Me knowing that about myself–knowing I’m not going to deter myself from my plan. I’m going to move. And whoever move with me, they coming with me. And whoever don’t move, I’ll be back.”
During the Red Table chat, T.I. called himself a philosopher. He feels like he needs to share his thoughts with the world to advance the culture. Sadly, his musings often come at the expense of his family. He’s still seeking that validation. And, if you ask me, in strange ways. No one looks to T.I. for philosophical thought.
Accepting anything in order to have a man
While I would love to blame all of this on T.I., it would do a disservice. Tiny has a role to play in this as well.
“You could have always said whatever it is you wanted to say, even if it led to me saying, ‘You know what this ain’t for me.’ That is the decision and a sacrifice that a woman must be willing to make for that voice. I never told you, you couldn’t say.”
And that’s true. If Tiny wasn’t happy with the way T.I. was running the family, she should have spoken up early and often. Like T.I. said, it really might have caused him to leave her. And that would have been a risk she had to talk. But I get the sense that Tiny was so determined to be with him, she thought she could be quiet in the beginning and say what she wanted once they got married. But a pattern had already been established and the fundamental respect wasn’t there.
Tiny deserves better
That’s what women need to watch in terms of Tiny’s relationship. You can get a man but getting him might come with unnecessary hardship and heartache. And it doesn’t have to be like that. Tiny is beautiful. She’s famous and well-connected. I’m sure that T.I. was far from her only option. Relationships don’t have to be this dysfunctional, this traumatic. Not only could it be better, Tiny deserves it.