Two things I’ve wanted to do this week are test out the spotify feature on tumblr and talk about T-Pain.
Between the release of Rapper Turnt Sanga in 2005 and his probably career-killing collaboration with “comedy” duo The Lonely Island in 2009, a Floridian in his early twenties called Faheem Rasheed Najm, better known as T-Pain, released or was featured on dozens of singles, a large proportion of which became successful hits. When I was 19, it seemed like every big hit song featured T-Pain. Radio rap, like a lot of pop music, has a tendency to grab onto a certain style and then drive that style into the ground, killing its appeal with oversaturation (sorry Lex Lugar). In 07-08, that sound was T-Pain. We can try to lie to ourselves and say it was autotune, as if anyone beside music nerds on the internet & a young Aubrey Graham ever cared about 808s & Heartbrakes. But those are lies. Jay-Z should have called that song “DOTP” because we all know that’s what he really meant. T-Pain’s like The Clash, the only autotune rapper-turnt-sanga that ever mattered.
It’s Pluto that has me thinking about T-Pain lately. And while I don’t buy that Future is suddenly a pop star (catchy melodies aren’t the same as pop), he is certainly blending the tuneful choruses that T-Pain perfected a few years ago with a more updated, Bricksquad Era take on Atlanta rap. Both artists use autotune and a passionate delivery style to create high-stakes drama out of lyrics that tend to be mundane (T-Pain) or nonsense (Future). To my ears, most of Pluto sounds like a really great T-Pain single but harder, noisier, messier, obsessed with space and on way harder drugs (it makes me wish I still did molly). Other parts of it remind me of autotuned Lil Wayne a bit, the way he pushes his voice into rasps and shouts, gurgling under the autotune, but Wayne got that shit from T-Pain anyway and we all know. There’s only one bum track, and it’s a funny novelty single so I don’t really care (TONY MONTANA). It’s addictive to me in a way that no album has been since I heard Colours by Nadia Oh last year. Lately, I’ve been going to class really regularly and this is because I look forward to the twenty-minute walk — it’s just another opportunity to listen to Pluto. That being said, listening to Future has made me really appreciate the Golden Age of T-Pain. Future has great melodies and a deeply endearing personality, but he could learn a thing or two from Pain’s impeccable pop sensibilities. T-Pain’s hooks are clear, simple, and always memorable. Most of the time, they are the best part of the song (unless there is a also a T-Pain bridge).
All of this is just to say: T-Pain was really great! Remember “Shawty Snappin” and it how it referenced the dance-driven post-Dem Franchise Boyz state of mainstream rap music? Remember how T-Pain almost made Plies likable with his delicate chorus on “Shawty”? Remember how he was on one of the best R. Kelly songs ever? How he says “Wiscansin” in “Can’t Believe It?” Remember when he talks about his grandmamma calling him baby on “Good Life”? He invented “boots with the fur”! He was involved not one but multiple legitimately good songs with Chris Fucking Brown. In college, I ran the kegs at big house parties and I considered “Bartender” to be a personal anthem of sorts.
Anyway, I compiled a little 20-track spotify playlist of the best T-Pain singles from 06-08. T-Pain has had a few good songs since then (“Hey Baby Drop It To The Floor” and “Take Your Shirt Off” come to mind), but things haven’t really been the same since Wayne went to jail and The Lonely Island made T-Pain a rapper-turnt-viral-vid, so I stuck to classic pre-boat T-Pain only.
[edit: the spotify thing totally works and it’s really kewl, sry friends in Aus and Canada, i luv yall too but spotify doesn’t]
Being down at FSU when I was serendipitious like a motherfucker. T-Pain, Tay Dizm, J Lyriq and their group the Nappy Headz (even though they broke up, word to Nook Dog) used to post up in front of this spot called The Moon on Wednesday (the all-Negro night, which was funny since it doubled as a country bar on Fridays…sigh) and dance and pass out CD’s. I remember them getting said CD’s getting thrown back in their faces.