Thales Leites speaks on his training methods, Anderson Silva, Gracie, GSP and more…
Taking off the talkbox right after a North American tour, the singer, songwriter, producer, record mogul and all-around great T-Pain discusses road life, food and drink, Zapp and Roger, and the state of his industry.
By Stephen Drummond
How many languages do you speak? Uh … one? (laughs) One-and-a-half – I’m learning Spanish. I suck at it so bad.
Is there going to be a Spanish remix? Not at all. A couple words in there like “fuego” – that’s
the only one I know right now.
Your previous album Epiphany had more of a message, with songs like “Suicide” to help the kids, something they definitely needed. But this time around, on Thr33 Ringz, it’s more about clubs and partying. Yes, because that’s what I’ve been doing lately. It’s just more fun on this album. I don’t want to get too serious with it and have people think I’m getting old. It’s just that time to get in the clubs – not even in the clubs,
but to just have fun. You should get up and dance or something, even if you’re at work.
How live does it get on the road? Not that live – unless my wife is there. Then it gets live. Real live.
Now that everybody has ripped off your sound you’re saying that people should kick back to you? Nah, they ain’t gotta kick back, they just gotta show recognition. You got Lil’ Wayne saying the reason he’s
doing it is because of me; you’ve got Kanye saying the same, that he’s getting it all from T-Pain. These are two
of the greatest, so if some peon can’t say that and acts like he’s coming up with something new, what does
that make you look like. Two geniuses are saying it and you’re not? That’s low, and it makes a fool out of you.
So you love Roger Troutman and his sound with Zapp? I wouldn’t say he’s a major influence, because that’s
the only effect I found that made me different. Roger used the actual vocoder, and that’s one of the hardest
instruments to use, because you gotta stick this tube in your mouth. And then, you gotta not spit in the tube
– because then you can get electrocuted and, shit, I don’t do that. I can’t deal with that.
Long live T-Pain. Yeah. (laughs)
What do you think is the state of the music business these days? It’s T-Pain right now far as I can see. I don’t really see anything else happening. Just a whole bunch of Auto-Tune, everywhere you look.
How do you label your music, then? It’s not hip-hop. It’s not R&B. What is it? Hard R&B. I’ve got my own genre.
So it’s just you in that genre? Well, there are a couple others in there now: Wayne’s in there, Kanye’s in there, Diddy’s in there now, actually. Timbaland slipped on over there. Nelly wants to come.
Akon helped make you a big success by signing you to a deal. But then Akon worked with Kardinal Offishall on “Dangerous”, which was a massive tune. But why do you think Kardinal’s album failed to sell after that? I have no idea. I don’t think there was any promotion on Akon’s side. Nobody knew about it. Akon is so busy – something I’m experiencing now with my own label. It’s hard to be both a CEO and one of the biggest artists in the world at the same time.
How do you get people to notice an artist you’re trying to sell? I’ve got street teams, promotions, TV commercials, radio commercials. Akon never took me on tour with him – but I take all my artists on tour with me,
because even if the audience doesn’t know them by name, they will know they’re associated with T-Pain.
The game is all about association. Let them do one song on your tour. Let them stand by you for a
minute-and-a-half so people can take pictures of y’all together. Those pictures will then get on the internet
and people will make that identification. If I bring out an R&B artist people will go crazy – especially
if he’s not using Auto-Tune.
Who are the artists on your Nappy Boy Digital label? We got Tae Dizm, whose single “Beam Me Up” features
Rick Ross and me. We got Young Cash’s single “Let’s Make a Movie” and Sophia Fresh’s single “What It Is”
These artists are being launched online and I take every opportunity to get them to come up on stage
with me. Do it for your artists, man.
What is your sneaker game like? I’m all New Balance. People feel like they’re regular guy kicks, but I got them because of the NB – which stands for Nappy Boy.
What role has your image played? Nothing. I don’t think I have an image to uphold. I’m just
me. Nothing about me is a gimmick. A lot of people think the jewelry is a gimmick, but you gotta be iced-out all the time – this is the stuff I’ve always wanted. Just like how I’ve always wanted a shotgun from a particular spot in Tallahassee. When I got money I went and bought the shotgun. I wanted a certain kind of car from a certain person. When I got money I called him and said, “You’re gonna give me that car right now.” Michael Jackson never had a childhood and that’s why he chills and hangs out with kids. Me, I got rich, and can do things I never did for myself beforehand.
So what is the retirement dream? The dream is to take my kids as far as they can go. But I ain’t trying to retire – if I’ve gotta keep working for the kids to live good, then that’s what it is.
You’ve had a lot of success but also seem to be on the record talking about people calling you corny
and disrespecting you. I’m not Mr. Gangster, I don’t talk about selling dope, and that’s why people call me corny – because I don’t smoke weed. I ask people why they smoke, though, and the answer is always “I don’t know.” I know a lot of people can’t do stuff unless they are high, I get that – like suffering from glaucoma, I get that. But do I have to be someone I’m not in order to be cool to you? In that case, I’m not trying to be cool.
What is your favourite drink? NUVO. It’s pink, though. But then you mix it with Hennessy and it’s all manly, and you drink it. So, it’s great.
And what is your favourite food? Whatever I can fit in between interviews.
T-Pain tells a joke: A man walks into a doctor’s office and says, “Doc, my breath is kicking, it smells real bad, I don’t know what’s going on.” The doctor runs some tests, come back and tells him, “You either gotta stop biting your nails or stop scratching your ass.”
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