2007 Rewind – T-Pain: Open Bar

Video: Brian Mapp

 

After a recent arrest and rumors of recording and label troubles, controversy seems to be the name of the game for T-Pain these days – but it doesn’t make his success any less sweet. The self proclaimed “rappa-ternt-sanga” has enjoyed multi-platinum ringtone sales for his own songs and his cameos, and is writing songs for everyone from Usher to Britney Spears.

 

We sat down with the Tallahassee native prior to the past couple weeks of drama to get an update on the highs and lows of his whirlwind career. What exactly does it feel like to be on top of the music world when you’re just preparing to release your sophomore album? Rich, of course.

 

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You came out with a couple of really strong songs on [your first] album [Rappa Ternt Sanga], and people were saying things about you being a one hit wonder, or sounding like Roger Troutman. How do you feel that you’ve been able to dispel those rumors over the last couple of years?

 

T-Pain: I just kept doing the same thing, there was no way to re-do or fix the problems that they said I had. I just kept doing it. Not saying I forced it on people, but you can’t hate on the truth forever. I know I had something different, that I was a great performer and that my songs was better than they were saying. I just kept doing the same thing, and not worrying about what people were saying about it [in] the magazines, internet, all the people in the shows that boo people in the crowd. People that was calling Akon saying, “Why did you sign him? He’s nothing, he’s a one hit wonder.” I just kept doing my thing, and I’m still doing my thing.

 

AHHA: All these people have been coming to you for hooks and background vocals in the last few months. Talk about some of the projects that were the most exciting for you to work on.

 

T-Pain: The most exciting is Britney Spears. I just wrote one for her, did three for Usher, two for Chris Brown, three for Charlie Wilson, one for Joe. It’s just all around excitement, having anybody come to you after all the s**t I done been through is exciting. The Plies s**t excited me more than the Chris Brown s**t. Just to have people coming to you after all the hating, to see that people are not listening.

 

To have R. Kelly call me, and he’s not listening to people saying, “He’s not gonna work, because he looks like he does, or his hair is how it is”. To see that they not listening to that, to see Bow Wow calling me [is] exciting in itself. Not even doing music, he could have called me to say “Hey I like your music.” I would have been excited like I wrote him a whole song. It’s just all around excitement, the whole experience right now.

 

AHHA: Does it make you feel good when you hear the fans sing your songs?

 

T-Pain: That feels great, to just hear 10,000 people screaming one of your ideas. I know the dude that be cooking the chicken [Ron Popeil] – when people say “Set it and forget it!” I know he feels good. It ain’t even on some music s**t, anybody could feel like that. That’s just real, anybody wants somebody else to like their idea.

 

AHHA: Are you days that you just wake up like, “I can not believe this is happening?”

 

T-Pain: I don’t – but there was this one night that I was going to this show and I was in my hotel room getting dressed, and when I finished getting dressed I got fresh as hell. I was like “Oh my God, I’m rich as a motherf**ker”. That kind of f**ked me up, because I was actually laughing at myself, because I just realized how many people know who I am and what I came from. That s**t just kind of hit me in that moment, but I’m a humble dude. I know I ain’t the best at what I do, I’m not the only one that did it or the only one that’s gonna do it. Immediately after that moment, right back to work and back on my grind. It ain’t gonna last forever, so get it while you got it.

 

AHHA: When you got your deal with Jive, what were the key points that you looked for [in the deal]. Since then, have you learned anything that you would give advice to people on?

 

T-Pain: I didn’t look for anything, I just wanted somebody other than Tallahassee to hear my music. I didn’t look for nothing, I didn’t go in there on some, “They gotta give me a million” or “I gotta get this many videos”, I just wanted a deal. I didn’t give a f**k what it looked like, I didn’t care about the money or nothing. All I knew was if I got that deal, and that one chance to where somebody would hear me, right on down the line we’ll get all that deal s**t straight.

 

Now that we’re re-negotiating I’m getting more money now than I could upfront, music is backwards. Good things come to people that wait. I wasn’t trying to get the 1.7 or 1.2 [million], I wasn’t trying to be like. “I got a single popping already, y’all gotta give me more money.” I didn’t care about that – I knew I was gonna get it in the long run from shows, publishing and all that. Just don’t rush it, man.

 

AHHA: You talked before about going back to bring out the Nappy Headz. Is that something you still intend on doing?

 

T-Pain: I was doing that at first, but now the Nappy Headz themselves have fallen apart. Some of them cut off their hair, I took too long for the other half. I went to Tallahassee and gave them money out of my pocket, five grand a piece just to be like, “Hold on, wait for me please. It’s gonna take a while, I gotta get to the status [to bring you out].” 50 [Cent] couldn’t have brought out Banks without him being where he is. If 50 would have brought out Banks any earlier they’d be like, “We don’t know who you are, how you gonna bring somebody else?” They didn’t have the patience, it’s five of them and every one of them got different managers. They don’t get along with each other, so I’m not trying to bring that negativity into my operation.

 

AHHA: Do you hear from other people that you’re not doing enough to reach out and help them out?

 

T-Pain: I hear that from a lot of people, but I never looked at anybody to help me because I had to do it myself to begin with. It was just hard, I ain’t never looked for nobody to help me. When I say that to some people, they be like “What about TJ Chapman?” I got love for TJ, TJ helped me a lot, but in all reality he didn’t start helping me until someone said I was hot. He didn’t jump on it until somebody came to him like, “Hey you better get Pain or he gonna be gone, his song’s about to be the next thing.” That’s the business, I understand that and he deserves something for that, but I never looked for anybody to help me.

 

AHHA: Does it offend you when people say “T-Pain you ain’t helping anybody”?

 

T-Pain: Hell naw, because if they follow the steps I did they can do it their damn self. [laughs] Do it yourself, don’t look for nobody. Don’t be lazy, get on your grind like I did n***a. [People saying] “We aint got no money” – I didn’t have no money! I was running my whole house, I was the generator. We didn’t have no power in my house, n***a; we was broke. It was me and my daddy, I grew up in a house full of everybody [with] my moms, sisters and brothers, then all of a sudden it was just me and my daddy in the house with no lights. You can’t tell me you got it hard, you in the house with your whole family with lights on. Do your s**t, don’t stop the grind, because you see somebody else can help you.

 

If I help somebody then I ask them, “What you gonna give me for helping you?” they look at me like, “Hmm, I didn’t know I was supposed to give you something for that”. Help me help you then, don’t ever ask nobody for nothing, because that’s just ridiculous. Then you gonna owe somebody something and you gonna be in debt as soon as you get in the game.

 

AHHA: What did you put into this new album that may be the same or different than the first album?

 

T-Pain: I did 100% of this album, 100% of the production and writing. A lot of people don’t figure that out until late. A lot of people think Akon produced my album, no he did not. [laughs] But I got Akon on the album, Shawnna, and Cee-Lo for my third single called “Church.” Baby Cham, Carmenetta Fisher. I got my artist Tek Diz and J Lyric, Yung Joc.

 

AHHA: What does the ringtone and digital age mean to you right now?

 

T-Pain: It means a lot to me [laughs] – let me tell you. Ain’t nobody touching my spot yet. I sold five million ringtones off [of] “[I’m In Love With A] Stripper” [and] “Sprung” did 1.6. So I have no problem with the digital age right now, I’m feeling good about that.

 

AHHA: How much of a piece do you get off of songs that you co-wrote or that you appear on?

 

T-Pain: It can be up to 75%, it gets up there. You gotta think about it, if I do a hook for somebody and that turns into a ringtone [then] that ain’t gonna be nothing but the hook. You can pick – if we did “Out Of My System,” it would be the hook, Bow Wow’s verse or the bridge. But it’s usually the hook, and that’s what I do so it’s already there.

 

AHHA: Are you going to come out and rap again?

 

T-Pain: I’ve been rapping, I put more rapping on this album. I ain’t the best rapper, but I do what I can. I ain’t gonna win no prizes or go into no freestyle battle on 106 & Park.

 

AHHA: How has it been for you being received by people just being you?

 

T-Pain: That’s beautiful, the moment when I really realized the TV [exposure] was getting crazy was when I did Telemundo. I don’t speak nothing of Spanish and they had me on the Spanish channel, [laughs] doing interviews. They had translators and all – that kind of hit me in a special way.

 

AHHA: What do you have going on outside of your album?

 

T-Pain: I’m up to my 27th appearance in the last two months. I’m supposed to be sleep right now, but nope, I ain’t got no time for that.

 

AHHA: You’re on the road real heavy. Are you going out with Akon?

 

T-Pain: We gotta go separate ways, we can’t stay in the same spot because it’ll be the same thing. Me and him the same person, so it wouldn’t even make no sense to be in the same space. Wherever he’s at, I’m over there right now – because he’s me and I’m him. He’s over here doing this interview, because he would be saying the same thing, it’s no use in that.

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