After finishing a sentence for weapons charges earlier this year, T.I. was poised to have the comeback of the fall.
The multiplatinum rapper starred in the nation's No. 1 movie, recently married his longtime girlfriend, taped a music special for VH1 and was wrapping up a new album. But after an arrest Wednesday in California, there are questions about whether he's returning to the music charts – or prison.
The Grammy-winning hitmaker, who is on three years of probation, was taken into custody with wife Tameka "Tiny" Cottle on suspicion of possessing methamphetamines after police pulled over their Maybach in West Hollywood. They were released on $10,000 bail early Thursday.
While charges have yet to be filed, the case has the potential to put one of music's top names in behind bars yet again.
"We're not making any observations at this time," said Ed Garland, a defense attorney for T.I. "This is an unfortunate occurrence, and we do not know what the outcome will be."
His music label, Atlantic Records, also said it "would be premature to speculate about the current situation given that there is an ongoing investigation of this matter."
Known as the "King of the South," T.I is a top name in hip-hop, and pop. Born as Clifford Harris, he sold millions of albums since his debut and racked up hits like "Whatever You Like" and "U Don't Know Me." He also had top collaborations with artists including Rihanna, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake.
But his celebrated career was put in jeopardy in 2007 when he was caught trying to buy semiautomatic weapons on the way to a BET Awards show. The Atlanta rapper, who has served time for drug and other offenses, pleaded guilty to weapons charges and served seven months in an Arkansas prison and three months in a halfway house in Georgia.
He was ordered not to commit another federal, state or local crime while on supervised release, or to illegally possess a controlled substance. He was also told to take at least three drug tests after his release and to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program.
T.I. didn't appear to need government intervention to stay out of trouble. The rapper talked of a new, positive start: He spoke to kids about the dangers of drugs and guns, and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young was one of his supporters. As he prepared for his most recent sentence, the rapper starred in the MTV reality show, "T.I.'s Road to Redemption: 45 Days to Go."
"Right now, it's all about moving forward and just acknowledging the blessing that are here today. ... Just moving past the regrets of yesterday – the things that could've been done better," T.I. told The Associated Press in July.
After his release, he wasted little time returning to the spotlight. He released new music and was one of the stars of "Takers," a shoot-'em-up about an armored truck robbery that goes bad. He is working on an album, which was slated to come out this year, and last month, he taped a VH1 "Storytellers" performance.
T.I. also married Cottle, the former singer for the 1990s R&B group Xscape; she has found new fame as the star of the BET reality show "Tiny & Toya."
Cottle took to her Twitter on Thursday, thanking fans for support and prayers. "We love u guys:) going 2bed now! So glad 2b n a nice clean bed," she wrote.
A representative for VH1 said it was too early to determine how his arrest might affect the upcoming special. A representative for "Takers" did not immediately return a request for comment.
T.I.'s probation officer has asked him to return to Atlanta, said Don Samuel, one of T.I.'s attorneys. He said it was unclear when T.I. would return to his hometown.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates, Atlanta's top federal law enforcement official, said she would not speculate on what could happen to Harris. "The probation office is in the process of determining what happened and will make a recommendation regarding Mr. Harris when they have all the facts," she said.
His probation officer can recommend that the terms of the rapper's probation be changed, such as to require that he take more drug counseling classes and undergo more frequent drug tests. Or the officer could ask the judge to revoke the rapper's probation, which was set to end in 2013. That could lead to a prison sentence.
The decision would be made by U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr., who presided over the original case.
Dwight Thomas, another T.I. lawyer, also stressed it was too early to determine the impact of the arrest. "We don't have a full grasp of the facts circumstances. We don't know the violation," he said. "I will remain optimistic until this matter is favorably resolved."
Young, who is an ordained minister, married Harris and Cottle last month in Miami. He said T.I. has made "marvelous progress" and that he is a good father and partner.
He also was skeptical about the charges against the rapper and the circumstances of the arrest.
"I assume that you're innocent until you're proven guilty," Young told The AP in a telephone interview. "If he was driving and smoking marijuana, that is absolutely stupid. But why was he pulled over in the first place? Because he had a Maybach? Because he was black? Because they know who he is and resent his success?"
Young said his advice to Harris has been focused on violence, not drug use.
"We never talked about drugs," Young said, but added: "Maybe I should have."
Associated Press writers Errin Haines, Greg Bluestein and Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Atlanta contributed to this report.