Turn on your radio, and there it is again. That vocoder-enhanced sound that's part hip-hop singer, part robot.
The voice of T-Pain.
The Tallahassee native is music's omnipresent wing man, collabbing with stars on hit after hit: Low with Flo Rida, Kiss Kiss with Chris Brown, Good Life with Kanye West, Got Money with Lil' Wayne ...
And T-Pain's electronically altered voice is prime fodder for ringtones. Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin') and Bartender were bestsellers.
But T-Pain, a.k.a. Faheem Najm, claims we still haven't met the real him. That will come on his third studio album, Thr33 Ringz, which drops Nov. 11. "I'm just doing what I want to do instead of what I think people want me to do," he said.
Mr. Pain, one of the headliners of this year's Wild 98.7 Last Damn Show 10, called tbt* from Atlanta, where he was busy playing a "bunch of video games."
What's a song you've done because you thought it was what the public wanted?
Buy U a Drank was actually one of those. 'Cause on the last album, I didn't have one of those songs, and my label wouldn't let me put out my album unless I put a snap song on it. ... That was just the popular kind of song at the time to do, and they all was like, "Your album's missing something. The album's missing something. We're not letting you put it out." I'm like, "Yo, you want me to do a snap song or what?"
Which song on Thr33 Ringz has the most Tallahassee flavor to it?
I wouldn't say I have a lot of Tallahassee flavor on this. My main thing is now, I don't want people to even think about where I'm from. Like when you hear the new OutKast music, if you're just getting into OutKast ... you would have no idea where they're from. I don't even want people to think about me being from Florida.
That kind of hurts. We're a Florida paper, and we claim you.
I understand that. But you know how when you come out with a Tampa Tony song or you come with a Low Loww (by local rapper Strizzo) — something like that? You're restricted to Tampa. When people know that that's where you're from, that's all they expect of you. ... So I'm trying to just broaden my appeal. Just make sure that I get — not so much as permission, but I get accepted for doing world music. I'm trying to do Indian music. Some Bollywood-type s--- in my music. And if I get restricted to Tallahassee, then that wouldn't be accepted.
On your new album, which song do you think will be the biggest-selling ringtone?
Man, wow. Chopped N Skrewed (featuring Ludacris) is probably going to be the biggest one.
What makes a good ringtone?
Reality in the song. Like when I did I'm N Luv (wit a Stripper), that sold the most ringtones because everybody knows a stripper. It's all about reality in the song. Chopped N Skrewed is kind of a song about gettin' dissed, so it's going to be more people gettin' dissed. You're going to be ignoring more people
Right. Just letting it go to voicemail. What's your ringtone?
Silver and Gold (from Thr33 Ringz).
With whom are you most excited about sharing the stage at Last Damn Show 10?
E-40. He pretty much jumped on my career. Good guy right there.
What do you remember about your performance at Last Damn Show three years ago?
I remember being extra-drunk.
What's your drink of choice?
At the time it was Moet. I was Moet-crazy. Now it's Patron.