T-Pain’s fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn’t the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers “Deep” well — but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing. He was celebrated as an innovator, and he happily took his talents where he was invited, which was everywhere.
But somewhere along the way, somebody got it twisted. “People felt like I was using it to sound good,” says T-Pain, in an interview that will air on All Things Considered. “But I was just using it to sound different.”
He just turned 30, but T-Pain has already done enough to drop a greatest hits album next week. We asked him if he’d grace the Tiny Desk without any embellishment or effects to show what’s really made his career: his voice, and those songs.–FRANNIE KELLEY
“Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
“Up Down (Do This All Day)”
Producers: Frannie Kelley, Maggie Starbard; Editor: Maggie Starbard; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Colin Marshall, Maggie Starbard; Production Assistant: Susan Hale Thomas; photo by Maggie Starbard/NPR