After hearing about the man, who was contemplating jumping off the V103 radio station building, the rapper decided he needed to stop listening and do something.
"People were trying to talk to him and tell him to get down," the rapper, 30, whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., tells PEOPLE in a phone interview from the set of his new music video. "Something in my heart just said, 'You need to help.' At that point, I started calling people at the radio station."
But the radio station said the man was unresponsive to their pleas not to jump – so T.I. drove himself to the scene.
"I went down there and talked to a police officer and he sent me to the negotiator," the rapper says. "They told him I was there and he started responding a little bit."
"I told him, 'It's not that bad' and [said] that I was there for him and [that] 'there is nothing that you can't get through as long as you are willing to put the time and energy into it,' " he says, adding, "'but first thing is first. You're going to have to come on down here and holler at me.' "
A Heart to Heart
Negotiators showed the man T.I.'s message, which he videotaped, and about 20 minutes later, he says, the man came down – while T.I. was waiting for him by the elevator for a "heart to heart."
Says the rapper: "The first thing I said to him was, 'Man, what's up? What's wrong?' "
"He just shook his head and took a deep breath and said, 'Everything.' He was kind of depressed and kind of just worn out by life," T.I. says. "His demeanor to me seemed like a guy who just can't catch a break."
Giving the man some advice, T.I. remembers telling him, "It's never as bad as it seems – and it could always be better."
The rapper also tried to temper his hopeful message with reality.
"'I'm gonna come check you out and see if there is anything else I can do to help,' " T.I. remembers telling him. "'But I'm not saying I'm going to snap my fingers and life is going to be perfect from here on out.' "
While T.I. says he's never contemplated suicide, he can relate to falling on hard times, noting that life was difficult after his wife Tameka Cottle and he were arrested for drug possession last month.
"These past six weeks . . . I've been feeling tired and weak," he says. "But I'm not ready to give up. I'm ready to defeat it and move on."
As for his rescue efforts, "It wasn't heroism," he says. "It was just me listening to my spirit. I have a very hard time taking any credit for it. It was God's work. I just showed up."