Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1065

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Feature

NO PAIN, NO GAIN

T Pain i
T Pain i

At the time of writing, singer/writer/rapper/producer T-Pain stands proudly atop the US pop and R&B charts with both his new, sophomore album `Epiphany` plus its Young Joc-featuring offshoot single `Buy U A Drank`.

A lofty achievement in any artist`s book and almost certainly the first time such a feat has been attained by a native of Florida`s oft-overlooked state capital Tallahassee. Born Faheem Najm 21 years ago, T-Pain`s first foray into the music industry was as one-fifth of local rap quintet Nappy Headz, who enjoyed moderate success in the early Noughties with regional anthems `Robbery` and `F.L.A.

Growing increasingly bored with US urban radio`s increasingly-samey soundscape, however, T-Pain would soon opt to go solo. Having been recording himself in his bedroom since the age of 10, he continued working on his own unique, one-man blend of vocoder-tinged soulful vocals, layered harmonies, strong melodies and sparse-yet-busy, programmed production until local Florida radio exposure eventually attracted the attention of African-born, global-chart-topper Akon, who immediately signed the dreadlocked, modern-day Southern soulster to his Konvict Music imprint. With T-Pain`s 2005 debut album `Rapper Ternt Sanga` having then gone on to spawn two memorable US top 10 singles (`I`m Sprung` and `I`m N Luv`), the current UK release of his US chart-topping sophomore set `Epiphany` meanwhile neatly coincides with his first `B&S interview.

His album title `Epiphany:`
“One of the two dictionary meanings of epiphany is `a sudden moment of insight or revelation`. And to me the title `Epiphany` signifies the moment I realised that, to make the best music I can, I needed to just go in the studio and be myself, and not concentrate so hard on following other people`s formulas.”

Breaking down his new LP musically and lyrically:
“To me it just shows my natural development and growth over the years. I`ve been doing this since I was 10 years old, and all this is a result of me staying on my grind and making sure I was always being true to what I wanted to do. There was no real pre-planning to this album. I wasn`t even writing the songs beforehand! I I`d just go in the booth, and whatever came out came out! I just kinda let it flow naturally. Which meant I was keeping it real and not coming with any made-up lyrics. Because, when you just spit a song off the top of your head, you can`t help but think about your own personal experiences!”

Balancing party joints with deeper message songs:
“Today R&B is pretty much all about `I love you/let`s go to the club/let`s have sex`. To me there`s just not enough awareness in the songs. You know, all the best ministers, pastors and preachers will say `If you really wanna reach somebody and get them to listen to you, then put it on the CD`. So, because music is these days the best way to communicate, I did want to make people aware of things I`ve encountered that are going on out there. Which is why, alongside a club track like `Church`, I`ve got a song like `Suicide` which talks about some of those smaller, everyday risks young people take today. Stuff that they know is dangerous but that they still don`t really pay attention to the consequences of. You know, having unprotected sex, driving drunk, selling drugs… All that is basically suicide; stupid stuff that only has one ending.”

His US chart-topping single `Buy U A Drank:`
“There I`m just reflecting how these days, from my experience, a lotta people meet in bars or clubs, and whole conversations begin with some guy buying a young lady a drink And, with it being the only snap music song I was making for this album, I wanted to make sure I showed respect to the snap King by getting Yung Joc to guest on there!”

Calling his music Hard&B:
“Basically Hard&B stands for `the hard way out`, I`m just letting people know that, though a lotta singers right now aren`t writing or producing their own stuff, I`m making sure I`m taking the hard way out by doing it all myself! `Cause to me that`s more of a challenge and gives you more longevity. I just feel that, if you`re singing a song that`s written by somebody else, then it`s not coming from your heart! It`s coming from their mind not yours, and there`s no way you can naturally put your own personal experiences into the song! So for me Hard&B is definitely the way it should be done!”

His early background in Tallahassee:
“I grew up in a regular everyday black neighbourhood. And, though Tallahassee has got as much talent as anywhere else, the problem is everybody there is just trying to sound like the usual everyday rapper or singer. So the way I got out was by making myself sound different vocally, by writing about different things, and just generally doing something that made me stand out. I mean, the name `T-Pain` actually stands for `Tallahassee Pain`. It basically represents the struggle I went through to make out it outta Tallahassee. It`s saying that Tallahassee pain is a different kinda pain. It`s the pain of a country-boy trying to make it in a place where no-one makes it!”

Getting signed by Akon to his Konvict Music label:
“It all started with a mixtape I`d done where I`d reworked Akon`s song `Locked Up` as `Fucked Up`. Though the mixtape had 25 tracks, the only reason it was moving was because of that one song which I`d also made a video to. But, while that originally caught his attention, Akon only really fell in love with my music after hearing my original stuff. `Cause, while anybody can just take a song and redo it, he really liked the fact that, unlike a lotta R&B people, I wasn`t really paying attention to the radio and saying `Hey, I gotta make a song like the current Number One!`! Because to me that`s ridiculous! It`s not making trends, it`s following trends! And one thing I`m definitely not is trend-follower!”

The album `Epiphany`
is out now through Nappy Boy Productions/Konvict Music.
The single `Church` is released March 3
Words PETE LEWIS

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