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 doesnt 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 youre 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 youve 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 cant 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? Hes nothing, hes a one hit wonder. I just kept doing my thing, and Im 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. Its 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 hes not listening to people saying, Hes 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. Its 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 aint even on some music s**t, anybody could feel like that. Thats 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 dont - 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, Im 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 Im a humble dude. I know I aint the best at what I do, Im not the only one that did it or the only one thats gonna do it. Immediately after that moment, right back to work and back on my grind. It aint 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 didnt look for anything, I just wanted somebody other than Tallahassee to hear my music. I didnt look for nothing, I didnt go in there on some, They gotta give me a million or I gotta get this many videos, I just wanted a deal. I didnt give a f**k what it looked like, I didnt 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 well get all that deal s**t straight.
Now that were re-negotiating Im getting more money now than I could upfront, music is backwards. Good things come to people that wait. I wasnt trying to get the 1.7 or 1.2 [million], I wasnt trying to be like. I got a single popping already, yall gotta give me more money. I didnt care about that - I knew I was gonna get it in the long run from shows, publishing and all that. Just dont 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. Its gonna take a while, I gotta get to the status [to bring you out]. 50 [Cent] couldnt have brought out Banks without him being where he is. If 50 would have brought out Banks any earlier theyd be like, We dont know who you are, how you gonna bring somebody else? They didnt have the patience, its five of them and every one of them got different managers. They dont get along with each other, so Im not trying to bring that negativity into my operation.
AHHA: Do you hear from other people that youre 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 aint 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 didnt start helping me until someone said I was hot. He didnt jump on it until somebody came to him like, Hey you better get Pain or he gonna be gone, his songs about to be the next thing. Thats 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 aint 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, dont look for nobody. Dont be lazy, get on your grind like I did n***a. [People saying] We aint got no money - I didnt have no money! I was running my whole house, I was the generator. We didnt 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 cant tell me you got it hard, you in the house with your whole family with lights on. Do your s**t, dont 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 didnt know I was supposed to give you something for that. Help me help you then, dont ever ask nobody for nothing, because thats 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 dont 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. Aint nobody touching my spot yet. I sold five million ringtones off [of] [Im In Love With A] Stripper [and] Sprung did 1.6. So I have no problem with the digital age right now, Im 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 aint gonna be nothing but the hook. You can pick - if we did Out Of My System, it would be the hook, Bow Wows verse or the bridge. But its usually the hook, and thats what I do so its already there.
AHHA: Are you going to come out and rap again?
T-Pain: Ive been rapping, I put more rapping on this album. I aint the best rapper, but I do what I can. I aint 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: Thats beautiful, the moment when I really realized the TV [exposure] was getting crazy was when I did Telemundo. I dont 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: Im up to my 27th appearance in the last two months. Im supposed to be sleep right now, but nope, I aint got no time for that.
AHHA: Youre on the road real heavy. Are you going out with Akon?
T-Pain: We gotta go separate ways, we cant stay in the same spot because itll be the same thing. Me and him the same person, so it wouldnt even make no sense to be in the same space. Wherever hes at, Im over there right now - because hes me and Im him. Hes over here doing this interview, because he would be saying the same thing, its no use in that.