T-Pain: Feels Good

As convoluted as the world of up-and-coming artists can be, there are a few standouts every year who get our attention. T-Pain hit the airwaves with the soothing, bass-heavy track “I’m Sprung”, and swiftly became one of the most talked-about artists in 2005. Hailing from Tallahassee, Florida – thus the name, which is short for Tallahassee Pain – the young rapper/singer/songwriter built his buzz from the streets to the pop scene in a matter of months.

While writing and performing with his rap group Nappy Headz, T-Pain was simultaneously recording his own special brand of songs. His mesh of Southern club sounds, classic soul, and heartfelt lyricism quickly drew people to his solo endeavors. Earlier this year, Tallahassee-based TJ’s DJ’s diligently worked the song “I’m Sprung” to their network of radio and club tastemakers, as T-Pain focused on pumping out new music.

After recording a fun remake of Akon’s “Locked Up” entitled “I’m F**ked Up”, it wasn’t long before Akon himself reached out to T-Pain. Akon signed the budding artist to his Konvict Music label, and distribution of the project was secured through Jive Records. After several weeks of solid play for the “I’m Sprung” single and video, T-Pain is ready to release his debut album, appropriately titled Rappa Ternt Sanga. AllHipHop.com Alternatives took a few moments out of T-Pain’s day in New York to talk about the passionate hustle that has set the pace for his new deal, his new marriage, and his entrepreneurial spirit.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You’ve been doing this for a while – you have a group thing and you have your solo thing. What was the process of building your buzz before the record deal?

T-Pain: It was a lotta local work, basically trying to work it around Tallahassee and spread it across. Then the right people started hearing it, and it blew up from there. Once Akon heard what was going on and he knew about the group, he was basically trying to make the situation to where we could work all that out between me and the group. As I was getting the deal done I was still working locally. Nothing was popping at the time, but I could tell that when something got popping I had to keep working as if nothing was happening at all. Basically it blew up from there, and the grind didn’t stop when I did get signed. I’m still grinding right now.

AHHA: How did your situation with Jive come about?

T-Pain: It was basically a deal between Akon and Jive, I get distributed through Jive and I’m signed to Akon’s label. Jive does marketing, promotion, etcetera.

AHHA: The song ‘I’m Sprung’ has been out for a while, and it was actually spread throughout the Southeast first. The DJ’s helped build a buzz on it, but there were a lot of people who admittedly slept on the song. How does it make you feel to have people come back and say, ‘Wow, I slept and I shouldn’t have’?

T-Pain: It makes me feel good, because I like to prove a point. When people see me they’re probably like, ‘You’re a rapper, we know you’re not singing this song’. Then I perform in front of them and they’re like, ‘Oh, okay you can do a little something.’ So it makes me feel good to show people how everybody’s judged – and to come back with such a strong statement actually feels great.

AHHA: How do you feel about people comparing you to Pretty Ricky?

T-Pain: That feels great, them ni**as blowing up! [laughs] Them my dogs too and we’re all from Florida, so when they made that connection that made me feel good. That just let me know that everybody sees that Florida is doing something and you just gotta check that out.

AHHA: Speaking of the Florida scene, while you have a certain degree of competition, it seems to be very insulated. The scene supports itself and you can actually sell records in Florida and have a name. Tell us a bit about the scene and your thoughts on it.

T-Pain: It’s kinda hard to come from Florida and be accepted by outsiders, but everybody from all of the colleges are outsiders in Florida. So once that word gets around Florida then it’s easier to spread from Florida. If you’re in New York, the word is gonna stay in New York. But if you’re in Florida, that sh*t is gonna get everywhere.

AHHA: How do you deal with the stress of traveling, performing, shooting your video, and staying in the studio with this being relatively new to you from just doing local stuff?

T-Pain: It’s not really stressful. People that say it’s stressful want to sit back and make money. I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it because I want people to hear my music and I wanna get in the studio and make more music. That’s the best part of this whole thing for me. I’m a creative type of person, so I want people to hear my creativity and just get my type of music out there. At first I didn’t think anybody would like my type of music, that’s why I stuck with the rapping thing. When people started letting me know that this might be some new sh*t I just let that flow.

AHHA: There are a lot of people that would say, ‘Wow you’re bringing back that Roger Troutman thing, you’re bringing back that ‘70s kind of electronic vibe to the music.’

T-Pain: They would say that because of the voice, but as far as style of the music it’s brand new sh*t. They say that because of the effect on the voice – but the song, ideas and things of that nature are completely different.

AHHA: Who are your biggest influences in music?

T-Pain: The people I liked were Cee-lo, Andre [from Outkast], Devin The Dude, people like them. Devin The Dude stays getting slept on, that’s my favorite artist of all time. It’s just on some different sh*t, not even saying that I’m the best motherf*cker in the world, but still the people that they’re sleeping on are doing the same things that I’m doing. Devin The Dude raps and sings, Andre raps and sings, Cee-lo raps and sings, and all of them come with some different sh*t, so I’m tryna do that same thing.

AHHA: Let’s talk about the album that you’re working on right now. What would you consider the genre of music that you do and the mixture of music? How do you present it to the public?

T-Pain: I try not to present it to the public, I give it to the public and let them think what they think. I try not to force it like, ‘This is my R&B album, this is my Hip-Hop album.’ I let them decide, that way they let me know which way to go, what they wanna hear – if they accept it or not and should I keep doing this.

AHHA: What kind of production and guest spots can people expect on the album?

T-Pain: I pretty much produced the whole thing. I got Bone Crusher, Styles P, Akon, Chris Brown, Mike Jones, and [Young] Jeezy.

AHHA: There’s a remix of ‘I’m Sprung’ out with Stat Quo and one with Young Jeezy – is one official and the other not?

T-Pain: They’re both official. Whichever one you want to listen to is the one you need to go and get.

AHHA: Do you play instruments?

T-Pain: I’m working on the guitar right now and I diddle on the piano, but I ain’t really no pianist.

AHHA: Do you have plans to bring forth the Nappy Headz?

T-Pain: Definitely, I’m starting up a label Nappy Boy Entertainment. Basically I’m the Nelly of the group right now, they’re the St. Lunatics.

AHHA: What can people expect from you in the next few months?

T-Pain: A lotta features and production, just helping everybody else out. I got a track on Charlie Wilson’s album called ‘You Got Nerve’ featuring Slim Thug, I wrote and produced that. I did something for Trillville, Akon’s first single for his next album, 3LW, Juvenile, and Big Boi from Outkast.

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