The self-proclaimed King of the South is at the mercy of the court.

Hit-making rapper T.I. pleaded guilty Thursday to federal weapons charges in return for a light prison sentence.

Exactly what the sentence will be remains to be seen.

U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. will withhold levying a prison term for a full year. In the interim, T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, must complete between 1,000 and 1,500 hours of community service, which includes talking to kids about the dangers of guns, gangbanging and drugs, and pay a $100,000 fine.

T.I. said he understood the terms of his deal, before he formally pleaded guilty to possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, unlawful possession of machine guns and possession of firearms by a convicted felon., according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta, where the sentencing took place.

"I'd like to thank God for blessing me with a second chance in life and success," he told reporters outside the courthouse.

"I'm looking forward to turning this negative time in my life into a positive," he said. "I know I have a long road of redemption to travel."

Because the rapper has a prior record dating back to 1998, when he was caught selling crack at the age of 17, he is required to serve time under federal law.

The 27-year-old will likely put in less than 12 months in a federal lockup if he adheres to the other terms of his sentence.

Given that he originally faced a maximum of 10 years in the clink and a $250,000 fine for each count, that's not a bad alternative, especially when prosecutors seemed to be playing with a stacked deck. If the case had gone to trial, the feds were given clearance to introduce as evidence the rapper's three previous arrests involving guns.

T.I. was collared by agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Oct. 13, when he attempted to purchase three machine guns and silencers in a shopping center parking lot using his bodyguard as an intermediary.

The arrest took place just hours before and blocks away from his headliner performance at the BET Hip-Hop Awards in his hometown of Atlanta.

He initially pleaded not guilty, he was subsequently released on a $3 million bond on strict conditions, which included home confinement as well as 24-hour electronic monitoring. U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Thursday those conditions will remain in effect until sentencing.

T.I. did get an opportunity to step out a bit last weekend, when he won court approval to attend Easter services with his girlfriend and their children.

The weapons bust clouded what had been a remarkable year for the hip-hop star.

His sixth studio album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., entered the Billboard charts at No. 1 last July. And in the fall, T.I. tried his hand at acting, appearing opposite Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the appropriately titled American Gangster.

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