T-Pain: The Pleasure Principle
Double-Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/rapper /producer T-Pain returns to the spotlight with the release of his long-awaited fourth album "rEVOLVEr." Which is in turn currently being pioneered across the world’s airwaves with the slow, hypnotic grooves of it hauntingly catchy offshoot single "5 O’Clock" - which samples globally-successful UK songstress Lily Allen while simultaneously featuring the witty rhymes of US chart-topping rapper Wiz Khalifa.
Born Faheem Rasheed Najm 26 years ago in Florida’s oft-overlooked State capital of Tallahassee, 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 the regional anthems "Robbery" and "F.L.A."
Nevertheless, growing increasingly bored at the time with US urban radio’s increasingly-samey soundscape, a frustrated T-Pain would soon opt to go solo. Following which - having been recording himself in his bedroom since the age of 10 - he would continue 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 would eventually attract the attention of African-born, global-chart-topper Akon. Who immediately signed the dreadlocked, modern-day Southern soulster to his Konvict Muzik imprint - for which his Gold-selling debut album (2005’s "Rappa Ternt Sanga") impressively went on to spawn two memorable US Top 10 singles, "I’m Sprung" and "I’m N Luv (Wit A Stripper)"
It was not however until June 2007 that bona fide chart-topping success would arrive for T-Pain, with the release of his US Number One sophomore LP "Epiphany." Which - boasting two Top Five singles in the chart-topping, Yung Joc-featuring "Buy U A Drank" and Akon-featuring "Bartender" - would in turn precede the Platinum-plus sales of his 2008 US Top Five album "Thr33 Ringz."
… All of which releases have now in total seen T-Pain prestigiously sell in excess of nine million records, while simultaneously selling a further 19 million while appearing as a featured artist - of which two collaborations (with Kanye West on "Good Life" and Jamie Foxx on "Blame In On The Alcohol") have also garnered him two Grammy Awards.
Interestingly, meanwhile, with him having become famous worldwide for his extensive use of the Auto-Tune pitch-correction effect throughout his music (a trend which has been followed on hits by the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and Kanye West), T-Pain’s success outside of music per se has also at the same time extended to him developing one of the most successful mobile apps on the market via the innovative "I Am T-Pain" (which has also now spawned its own toy microphone); endorsing his own signature Oakley glasses; launching a successful cartoon; and even acting alongside rapper Bow Wow in the 2010 movie "Lottery Ticket."
…Cue an affable T-Pain on the line to "Blues & Soul" Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a bright’n’breezy chat about his new single and album; becoming a pioneer of Auto-Tone; plus his struggle to make it out of his musically-overlooked Florida hometown.
The background to his new, Lily Allen-sampling/Wiz Khalifa-featuring single "5 O’Clock"
“I actually first heard Lily Allen’s song "Who’d Have Known" when I was stuck on hold while ringing up an Apple store! At the time I had no idea who was singing it. So after I hung up, I basically went on a mission to find OUT - and, once I’d tracked the song down and discovered it was Lily Allen, I decided to SAMPLE it… Then from there I asked Wiz Khalifa to add a rap, which to me just kinda made the whole thing 10 times BETTER!... So once the track was finished, I contacted Lilly Allen for her approval; she said "yes" and that she liked the way I’d re-interpreted her song - and that’s basically how "5’O’Clock" came ABOUT!”
The reasons why T-Pain decided to title his new, fourth album "rEVOVLEr"
“There’s a lotta people who, when they first find out about T-Pain, judge me before they know what I got goin’ on or what my music is all ABOUT. You know, they look at me like they don’t want to know anything ABOUT me. So the reason I chose "rEVOLVEr" as the title and spelt it the way I have, is basically to show how people can be deceived and misjudge something before they look at it PROPERLY. Like when people hear the word "revolver," they immediately think "violence" - which is what a lotta people think when they first see ME! Whereas when they look more closely at the title and they see the "r"’s are faded out, they’ll realise that in the middle it’s actually saying "EVOLVE." Which in turn sheds a different light on the whole of the album, and makes anyone who’s judged it before they’ve looked at it properly feel like CRAP! Because what it actually represents is how I’ve evolved as an artist and a person between my last album and THIS one.”
His current thoughts about when, back in November 2008, he demanded props from the many other artists who’d jumped on the Auto-Tune trend he’d first pioneered on his first three albums
“Well sometimes, when you think everybody’s a good person and you don’t realise there’s bad people in the world, you start looking for things that you’re never gonna GET. You know, back then I started looking for props, I started looking for respect for making this thing famous - and people just weren’t GIVING it to me! And so - because I don’t think they’re ever GOING to - these days I’ve just stopped LOOKING for it! Which is one reason why, for this new album, I’ve actually switched over from Auto-Tune to my own, new version of it which l’ve called The T-Pain Effect. You know, I’ve basically created my own new product. Because I feel that, if I’m going to be a pioneer of something, I might as well be FAMOUS for it! And basically The T-Pain Effect is kinda like a one-stop shop. In that unlike with Auto-Tune - where you just get Auto-Tune and nothing else - with The T-Pain Effect, in addition to being able to make beats and getting the T-Pain sound, you also get everything I use in my STUDIO! You get my compressor, my EQ, my reverb, my delays, my chords, my distortion... You know, you basically get everything that I use in ONE PACKAGE!”
You can read more from this interview with T-Pain in our printed edition of Blues & Soul (click to buy below) - Interview includes; where it all began for the artist and how he came to be signed to Akon's Konvict label.
T-Pain's album "rEVOLVEr" is out now through Nappy Boy Productions/Konvict Muzik
PHOTOS: DEREK BLANKS
Words PETE LEWIS