By Dalia Colon
Times Staff Writer
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, collaborating 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 ring tones. Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin') and Bartender were bestsellers.
But T-Pain, also known as Faheem Najm, claims we still haven't met the real him. That will come on his third studio album, Thr33 Ringz, which drops Tuesday.
"I'm just doing what I want to do instead of what I think people want me to do," he said.
T-Pain called the St. Petersburg Times 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.
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 and you don't know nothing about 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. . . . Like, if you're from Tampa, and if they know you're from Tampa, you can't make a West Coast song. Even if you do make a great West Coast song, nobody's going to like it because all they know is Tampa from 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 (stuff) 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 ring tone?
Man, wow. Chopped N Skrewed (featuring Ludacris) is probably going to be the biggest one.
What makes a good ring tone?
Reality in the song. Like when I did I'm N Luv (wit a Stripper), that sold the most ring tones because everybody knows a stripper. It's all about reality in the song.
Dalia Colon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.