Dennis Van Tine / Retna Ltd. 1 / 5
Dennis Van Tine / Retna Ltd. 1 / 5

By Rebecca Silverstein

Even time behind bars can't keep T.I. down! The rapper/actor, who was in prison for gun charges, made his triumphant return to the stage this week as the debut artist in AXE Music's "One Night Only" concert series. And that's just the start of Tip's return to the spotlight: His new movie, "Takers," hits theaters Aug. 27, and he also has a new album, "King Uncaged," waiting in the wings. Wonderwall caught up with T.I. backstage at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and chatted about everything from mentoring troubled celebs like Lindsay Lohan to judging "American Idol."

Your secret show for the AXE Music "One Night Only" concert series was the first time you performed since prison. Were you nervous to take the stage?

T.I.: You're only nervous when you're not prepared. I could do that in my sleep, so I wasn't nervous, I was anxious. It came in the form of adrenaline.

You've really flourished post-prison. Would you ever mentor another celeb, like Lindsay Lohan, to help them get back on his or her feet?

T.I.: To be honest, if they came in, asked me for my help and I had experience in whatever area they asked me for my help in, I don't think there's nobody that could ask me sincerely to help them and I won't help. But I ain't gonna volunteer my services and information. If they want to pick my brain, I'm always here.

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Your new movie "Takers" comes out soon, and a recent survey named you one of the top rappers-turned-actors. What other rappers-turned-actors do you love?

T.I.: Will Smith. That's an easy one! Will Smith, Ice Cube, Tupac [Shakur].

You actually beat out Tupac and Cube.

T.I.: Word? Outstanding! I mean, no offense Cube, I love you. I just appreciate even being considered to be among the elite in anything.

Would you ever want to make an action movie with Will?

T.I.: Absolutely! I would love to. I don't think I'd be too convincing holding a gun though.

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A lot of musicians have been considered to be a judge on "American Idol." Would you ever do it?

T.I.: Speaking honestly and truthfully, I support whatever decisions made by those who feel like that's the best move for them to make. It ain't really for me to say. I don't have a lot of information about "American Idol." I'm not a huge fan, but if they're driven to do it, I think they deserve the opportunity -- they deserve a shot.

Would you allow contestants on the show to sing your songs?

T.I.: As long as I'm not there in person, because then you're being embarrassed for somebody; [it] makes you put your head down. As long as I'm not there in person, I don't have a problem with it.

The VMAs are coming up. Got any plans? Maybe you could jump on stage and grab the mic …

T.I.: No! You know, I'm never gonna speak bad [about Kanye West], but you know, I ain't gonna get out there like that. Me myself personally. If I'm not invited, I'm not coming.

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