The Inquisition: T-Pain

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T-Pain / Photo by Zach Wolfe
WRITTEN BY
John Sellers

In 2005, Faheem Najm (a.k.a. T-Pain) descended on the scene armed with a quavering robo-tenor, audacious top hats, and an endless supply of lyrics about strippers. Millions of ringtones and dozens of rump-shaking collaborations later, the Tallahassee, Florida native has released his third AutoTune-assisted album, which he's dubbed Thr33 Ringz (Konvict/Jive) despite a fear of clowns: "If there's a clown and I don't really know him and I don't know what he looks like behind that fuckin' face paint? I'm terrified!" Flashing a $30,000 diamond-studded grill, T-Pain spoke to us at a Manhattan Mexican restaurant over a mound of free chips..clsQuestion { color:#e31937; font-weight: bold; font-size: 11; font-family: helvetica; } -->

Cher just called. She wants her sound back.
A lot of people say that. The funny thing is, I've never heard that song.

Come on-everyone has heard "Believe"!
I mean, I've never heard the real song. Like, I've heard it on commercials.

By popularizing AutoTune, you've essentially made it okay for pop stars to be terrible singers. How do you feel about that?
[Laughs] It's weird. I was getting laughed at for using it at first, and then it turned into this whole epidemic. The same people who were laughing at me and saying it wasn't going to work are using it now.

Who criticized you?
I've heard stories that Snoop was a naysayer. But it mostly was just record companies. They'd say, "I guess you can't sing." Or, "It's a gimmick. Gimmicks never work." Just a lot of downplaying me. And now all these record companies got their artists using it.

You should know-you've appeared on more than 30 other artists' records. Have you actually met all of your collaborators?
It's kind of their request. I go in, I meet the people, I chill with them. And then I make a song that fits their personality. I don't give people old songs, like a lot of writers and producers. All my hooks fit the person.

Do you ever say no?
If you come off the street and say, "Yo, Pain-I got music! I want to work with you, man!" it's like, "No, thanks." But I don't turn [legitimate artists] down, because I was always turned down myself. I know exactly what that feels like.

When can we expect your collaboration with the Shins, then?
I'm so ready. I took one of their hooks and made it a song. It's something they did for [Adult Swim's] Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! called "I'm Never Going to Wipe My Butt." It's so great.

Wow. So how much have you spent on other people's beverages since "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" came out?
I think I've spent well over $50 grand, just on $6 drinks. Sometimes I'll tell the whole bar, like, "Every drink is on me." It's common courtesy. [Pauses] Well, it's not that common. But it's definitely a courtesy.

"I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)"-true story?
Yeah, when I was 15. My brother was doin' her. One night I caught her alone and was like, "Hey, I heard you like my brother." And then I just swindled her out of the deal there.

What do you mean?
You know, she's a stripper! I said, "Let's do it. Right here." And I did her in the party. It was awesome!

Was that your first time? No. Well, that was the first stripper. I've had a lot of sexual experience in my life. A whole lot. I lost my virginity when I was ten. That helped me out a lot.

Ten? Had you even gone through puberty yet?
No. Not at all. My girlfriend lived across the street from our middle school, and her dad didn't get home until five. So, of course, I'm going to go over there. I had a lot of older brothers, and they had pornos, so I kinda knew what I was doing already.

A-ha. So what ever happened to that first stripper?
I saw her once at one of my shows. She was like, "Hey, I remember you. We did it at a party!"

Was she everything you remembered?
Uh, no. She'd had a couple kids and uh...no. It was weird. And I was married by then, so...

Speaking of which, what does your wife think of that song?
She's cool with it, actually. She's the best wife on earth. She goes to strip clubs with me! I give her a wad of money and she fuckin' slaps girls on the ass with the money. Y'know what I'm sayin'?

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