In 1808, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe finished Faust, one of the greatest literary works ever written. It is the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil to achieve success and ultimate happiness. This historic tale jumps to mind when I think of T-Pain’s short but highly successful career. In the last two years, T-Pain has gone from relative obscurity to a household name in the entertainment industry. Now, I am not suggesting that T-Pain sold his soul to the devil, but it seems quite a possibility when one considers his meteoric rise to superstardom.
In 2002, at age 18, he was discovered by Akon’s Konvict Music record label. He had released a parody of Akon’s hit song “Locked Up,” re-titled “I’m Fucked Up,” which became an instant sensation in his home state of Florida. Imagine that: turning a hit single about the hardships of prison life into a party song, then getting inked to a big-money deal. Three years later, T-Pain dropped his first commercial album, Rappa Ternt Sanga (“Rapper Turned Singer”), with guest appearances from Mike Jones, Trick Daddy, Styles P, and Akon.
Hit singles “I’m Sprung” and “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)” subsequently became two of the world’s most popular ringtones. I constantly lament the death of hip hop, especially in an era where ringtones are just as commercially important as radio airplay. But still, we must give T-Pain his due: his hooks dominated the ringtone market and facilitated his ascent to the top.
T-Pain dropped his second album, Epiphany, in 2007. The first single, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin),” featuring Yung Joc, was a massive success. This is the time when most people began to take notice of T-Pain. People also took notice of the unusual electronic inflection in his notes, known as the “auto-tune” effect. Although “Buy U a Drank” is now over a year old, it continues to ring out on the stereo systems of bars across the country.
A second drinking song, “Bartender,” featuring Akon, soon followed. Then after that there were a couple of “Fellas: spit your game” tracks, including “I’m a Flirt” and “Kiss, Kiss.” All are legitimately good songs, especially for those in party-mode. The production of his music has been excellent, and his hooks and lyrics have been equally catchy. Furthermore, the “auto tune” effect has not yet become extremely annoying to the general public. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The pinnacle of T-Pain’s career came after collaborating with Kanye West on the mega-hit “Good Life.” The feel-good song of the year won two Grammys and a host of other awards, catapulting T-Pain into the top stratosphere of musicians. Despite the fact that the song is getting a bit overplayed, everyone still throws their hands up in the sky when they hear the chorus.
But T-Pain’s run of success is far from over. T-Pain has continued his dominance of the R & B genre by launching the career of Flo-Rida, whose hit “Low” became another chart-topper. To illustrate the effect of T-Pain on the Cornell community, just look at Johnny O’s, packed every weekend with girls crooning “She got them apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur (with the furrr!)”.
T-Pain has proven himself as a hit-maker. Although his shortened dreadlocks with light brown highlights has yet to catch on as a trend amongst the general public, his music certainly has. I cannot say what the future holds for T-Pain, but he will undoubtedly be around in the music business for quite a while. One concern, however, is the choice of titles for his next two projected hits — “What’s Your Myspace” and “Send Me an E-mail”. The video for “Send Me an E-mail” features Tila Tequila as a flirtatious online communicator tapping on her keyboard and talking into her cell phone. Although the lyrics and subject matter may be devoid of substance, the beat is great. Undoubtedly it will be another club hit one of these days.
So my conclusion? I think the man has too much soul to have sold it to Satan. There are no guarantees, however, except one. T-Pain will be at Cornell this Sunday. Go check him out. It will definitely be a hell of a good time.
T-Pain will be performing on Sunday at Barton Hall at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door for students and $25 general. For more information, go to rso.cornell.edu/ccc/.