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Singer-songwriter T-Pain revolutionized an entire movement when it comes to autotune. “Bartender,” “I’m Sprung,” “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper),” “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” and “Can’t Believe It” are just a few off his endless catalog of hits.
While most artists can only hope their music has a lifelong impact on the consumer, the Nappy Boy Entertainment founder makes it look effortless. Beyond his own solo records, his feature game is one of the most impressive in the industry. His distinct vocals and coveted range can make any record a smash. T-Pain also boasts two Grammy wins: 2008’s “Good Life” with Kanye West for Best Rap Song and 2010’s “Blame It” with Jamie Foxx for Best R&B Performance by a Duo. His most recent single “Wake Up Dead” featuring Chris Brown reminded fans that he’ll never lose his ear for good music and his ability to create bangers.
REVOLT caught up with T-Pain to discuss new music, his friendship with Chris Brown, his secret to marriage, the epic VERZUZ battle against Lil Jon, and more. Read below!
How’s quarantine life treating you?
It’s life. It’s the best version of it for me right now. Me getting to stay home, that’s awesome. I hate traveling. I hate everything about it. If I could do work from home and everybody’s loving it right now, I can do interviews from home too? I don’t have to drive to L.A. to do a 10-minute interview? Oh, yes!
Congrats on your new single “Wake Up Dead” with Chris Brown.
Thank you, that s**t came out f**king dope. I love it, I’m very excited.
Was that done in the studio you’re in now?
Yup, absolutely. I’ve only had it for two months, so it was definitely in here. Definitely during all this crazy s**t. I kept building on it, sent it to Chris. Chris did it in his crib, which is way doper than mine in my opinion. Chris Brown’s house is out of f**king control, and I’ve only seen it through FaceTime. I’m jealous as hell. We both did it in comfortable environments, that’s what brought these verses out of us.
The record was inspired by Scary Movie 3. What do you like about that movie?
I always thought it’s a great clip. You always have your favorite lines and quotes from these movies. My artist Chayo Nash and I were f**king around in the studio. I was playing beats I was making, the “Wake Up Dead” beat came on. I started f**king around saying, “Wake up dead, wake up dead,” actually making a joke at first. S**t started coming together, we’re like, “Wait a minute.” Dude, I’ma record that s**t!
Is there a deeper meaning behind the record?
It was a deeper meaning behind the record before Chris got on it. The whole thing was about cancel culture, how you can make a mistake one day, then you can wake up and your Twitter just killed you. You don’t exist to anybody anymore. You can be on top of the game, but you f**k around and do something that somebody on Twitter doesn’t like, [and] all of a sudden your whole career’s dead because of one thing you did. You wake up non-existent. You wake up not even a person anymore.
When I say, “I don’t want to be the one to wake up without a heartbeat, trust me you’re gonna love this, stay in your seat” to where you have to try to explain what happened, that’s the “stay in your seat, you’re gonna love this.” “Tell me you’re gonna love me and I’ll admit defeat. It ain’t that deep.” When you break down the lyrics, you can see it’s really about cancel culture. You can wake up dead from one thing the day before.
How many times would you say that happened in your career?
Probably about six so far.
It’s frustrating but I already don’t take people’s feelings into consideration, so it doesn’t do anything for me. I give people three days and they move onto whatever else they’re going to be mad about for a week. It’s not that hard to do. You get canceled for three days, then people are like, “What else are we mad about? We got rid of him. Who else is on the chopping block?” It’s fake anger most of the time.
These are normal f**king things that everybody’s doing and thinking. If you got a bigger platform, they feel you’re not supposed to think and do those things. It’s minute s**t. The fucking cereal thing with Kylie, let her eat her cereal, my n*gga. Everybody who ate cereal dry out the box, you’re mad because she’s pouring it into a bowl now? Now you don’t like her anymore? What the f**k? (laughs)
I feel like in your position, you can’t really ever be canceled. We’re giving you your flowers!
I can be canceled by certain friend groups. There’s a group of seven people who always tweet each other like, “You’re canceled.” If one of their friends still like me after the other six don’t like me, they’re getting kicked out the friend group. I don’t give a s**t about your friend group, that’s not my concern. Is my music still good? Cool. That’s all I give a s**t about. I’m not trying to lose that. There’s thousands of other artists, please go listen to somebody else. I’d rather go do that.
Do you use the block button?
No, I use the mute button. The block button gives people satisfaction. The mute button is when I can get you out of my life without you even f**king knowing. It’s going to annoy you. That’s how you move on. Once you don’t f**k with somebody no more, get them out your life immediately.
How does working with CB now compare to 2007, when you guys created “Kiss Kiss”?
It’s always been the same, love all the way through. He has a beard now, which is weird... Anytime we get together, whether it be face to face, over email, FaceTime, it’s always love. The thing we try to switch up on is make sure that we keep a diverse set of records. Not so much, “Well this worked last time, so let’s do another ‘Kiss Kiss.’” We’ve never said that to each other, “Let’s do ‘Kiss Kiss’ part two!” No, no. We both have so much different kinds of music, let’s keep making music.
What was T-Pain like back then?
Drunk, a lot of drunk (laughs). All the time. As soon as Chris Brown turned 21, he still didn’t drink yet. That was weird. I used to always try to put Chris on to different liquors. I was always turnt up. I don’t remember the first half of my career.
Did you both anticipate your music careers would take off the way it did?
Not at all. Well, Chris probably did. He’s light skin, so that’s how they think all the time (laughs). Me, I’m like, “Somebody like one of my songs. All I had was “I’m Sprung” at the time. I thought, “Dude, hopefully I got a second one they like.” “I’m In Love With A Stripper” came, then “Buy U A Drink,” all these other things. Me and Chris kept shelling out hits together. We signed on the same day, we got sent to the same video for our first video to be in. It was mind-blowing to see how far things would go up. To see even after me taking a break, I could still come back and chill with Chris after he’s been hit after hit after hit. He’s still bringing smashes out. I could still be a fellow musician and still be accepted in this, it makes our friendship all the better.
Your debut song “I’m Sprung” was dedicated to your wife, who you married in 2003. What’s your secret to staying married, especially in the industry?
I don’t make any decisions. “Pain, what you want to eat?” Nothing, I’m not even hungry. But, if you’re hungry, I’m hungry as s**t. “Where you want to go? You want to go to the club?” I don’t even like clubs anymore, but if you want to go... I make sure she’s comfortable. She knows what she wants in life. She’s not just an artist’s wife, she has her own identity. Anything she wants to do, that’s what it is.
That’s why I don’t force her face on Instagram, I don’t try to show her off to everybody. That’s not for y’all. “Babe, put this $2,000 dress on even though we’re chillin’ in the house. Make sure everybody sees it. You post it on yours, I’ll repost it. Let everybody know we’re a dope couple.” We know we’re good. We know what we got over here, that’s a big part of it. To not seek validation for our marriage and our relationship from outside sources, that’s a huge f**king thing.
What was the highlight of the Verzuz battle with Lil Jon?
The fact that Lil Jon’s not an angry person, I knew it was going to be fun. It was fun. Me and Lil Jon both know what we do, we both got hits. We’re both super important to the industry, so it wasn’t an “I’m better than you” thing. It’s “look how great we are.” That’s more important than saying who won. Who had this many hits? Bro, look at all the s**t we did. It was a celebration.
What did it mean to be one of the few artists who’s well-respected enough to participate in these battles?
It feels great man because first I was commanding and looking for it. When it comes naturally, you can sit back and do your thing naturally, and people still come out the woodwork, and tell you how great you are, how inspirational you are, and how important you are to the game. That feels a lot better than, “Yo, ya’ll n**gas give me my respect! I’m the first one to do this.” When you do that, you’re fishing for everything and some of it may not be genuine. If I’m chillin’, being humble and people still doing it, that means it’s been real.
Do you feel songwriters are finally getting enough credit?
Verzuz is doing that a lot now. Verzuz is making people pay attention to who did what, making people go back and look at credits. When we had those physical booklets that came with CDs and you could see writers and producers, it was definitely a better time. People actually knew who they’re dissing or why they’re dissing somebody. It’s actually easier to look up now, but it’s easier to ignore. It’s a weird time right now.
How do you view the current use of autotune?
It’s good right now, we’re at a healthy amount of it. At one point, it was so flooded and out of control to where even cartoons were using it. It’s gone down some because it started being overused. Now, not only [are] the right amount of people using it, but the right people [are] using it. People figured out that some of y’all don’t sound right. You’d be better off without it, leave it alone. Those people have let it go. The people who actually sound dope with it are using it.
Talk about your new single “Bingo” with Rich The Kid.
Shout out to Jetsonmade. It’s a dope summer song. I was trying to wait until it was time for people to get back outside to enjoy parties, but no better time like the present. Might as well drop it. One of them summer things I came up with, [I] had to go get Rich The Kid. Rich The Kid did his thing. It’s going to be another one of them hits.
What made you want Rich on the record?
I’ve been liking Rich The Kid for a while. I like his style. I like how he puts his verses together in order to come up with his own cohesive thing. Whenever he comes on the song, it’s his part of the song. You can play my part of “Bingo” in the club, then later on you can play Rich’s part of “Bingo” in the club. People won’t even know it’s the same song. He makes it his own and I wanted something different. I didn’t want this song to sound the same all the way through, I’ve been noticing that about a lot of music lately. Same rhythms, same melodies. Rich The Kid was a good way to break it up.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Don’t use Frank’s RedHot and wipe your eyes, ever. Precious Stones the album coming. I’m done with that, we’re waiting on times to get better. A lot of Nappy Boy artists coming. We’re dropping Chayo Nash first, Young Cash, JAOH, Piao. A1 from “Love And Hip Hop,” we got him on the label. We run it up. Nappy Boy Gaming is about to jump off, Nappy Boy Drifting. Get ready for Nappy Boy everything.