By William McCray Sutherlin
Faheem Rasheed Najm, better known as T-Pain, has been making music since he was 10 years old. Turning his bedroom into a make-shift studio using only a keyboard, beat machine, and a 4-track recorder.
In 2004, T-Pain joined the rap group Nappy Headz and recorded “I’m Fucked Up,” covering Akon’s single “Locked Up”. Akon heard the track and immediately signed him to Konvict Muzik. After being discovered, T-Pain switched his focus from rapping to singing. During this time he released his appropriately titled debut album, Rappa Ternt Sanga. The album climbed to number thirty-three on the Billboard 200, as well as being coined “Gold” by the RIAA, reeling in more than 500,000 album sales.
Not too long after this release, “I’m Sprung” and “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)” featuring Mike Jones both saw a brief rise to the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Many of the songs that brought T-Pain to prominence were about partying at night clubs and pretty women, but what tied them all together was his unique use of Auto-Tune, a studio effect that caught on very quickly in the realm of popular music.
He received a ton of backlash for these techniques, some saying that his only talent is masking his own mediocre voice with technology.
In 2009, Jaz-Z released the hit single, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” which inspired chants like “Fuck T-Pain!” during live performances.
During that same year, Christina Aguilera was seen wearing an “Auto Tune is for Pussies” t-shirt. Comedy rap group The Lonely Island featured T-Pain on their song, “I’m on a Boat,” which was later nominated for a Grammy.
After several years of a downward spiral with music, T-Pain decided to take some time off.
“I don’t think I was making the music that I was supposed to, you know what I’m saying?” he explained.
“It was just kind of making music because I had to make music because I don’t know how to do anything else. Like, I feel like I should be doing something right now but I don’t know. I just kind of blabbed out whatever came out of my damn mouth in the booth, and it just wasn’t right.”
Recently, T-Pain has come back to making music, releasing the familiar sounding single “Up Down (Do This All Day)” to positive reviews.
“I think I’m just happier,” he said citing his recent return.
“Once you get in that depressive state I was in… I basically just had to get happy, man. I had to free up some space in my mind and get rid of some things that were holding me back and get rid of the things that were putting me in that state of mind. Once I did that, man, I’m the happiest person in the world—the music’s happier, party music started happening, and there it is. It kind of just came together.”