Originally published in The Music Network – December, 2011
T-Pain’s fourth album RevolveR has been an elusive beast.
Work started on the record in 2009 under the working title of UBER and was reportedly complete and ready for release last year. The perennially auto-tuned T-Pain at first claimed in interviews to have stalled the release of the record until global album sales increased, then shelved it again after four consecutive singles failed to perform well – none of which made the album’s final tracklisting. His final gambit was to claim he wouldn’t release the album until his Twitter account reached a million followers. Now, with a worldwide December 6 release date locked in – and a Twitter account sitting more than 300,000 followers shy of the requisite million – it seems the truth behind the delay is a lot more pedestrian.
“It really just took me a long time to make it. I mean that was a slow process,” he laughs down the phone from Florida. “There were a lot of things going on, I was touring, there just wasn’t a lot of time for me to get into the studio. There were a lot of people too, that was the most people I’ve had involved in one of my albums. It always takes longer when you’ve got other people involved.”
Despite his early success – T-Pain’s 2005 debut record was recorded solely on GarageBand and sold an impressive half a million copies, while each subsequent album has hit #1 on the Billboard Chart – it’s clear he regards this latest album as his finest work to date, casually dismissing his debut record (“Honestly, now that I really know what I’m doing – for me, that album kinda sucks.”) while claiming his others were compromised by lack of studio time.
“It’s just better music [on RevolveR]. I mean, everytime I finish a new album I go back and listen to the previous one and it’s definitely better; it sounds better, there’s more music, I show more of my musical side and I’m just getting better. All the songs on this album came out exactly how I heard them before I made them. The other albums they were kinda rushed, and I didn’t take my time and make it sound like I wanted, I just kinda got it close enough.”
Perhaps this time around T-Pain took cues from perfectionist Kanye West, with whom he recorded the track The Good Life in 2008 and which netted him his first Grammy Award. The recording process was fiercely at odds with T-Pain’s quickfire pace – he claims he can often “churn out a good five songs in a night,” completely finished – taking five weeks to complete a single track, while hurtling through many different variations.
“Kanye, he’s… Kanye. He works all the time. I mean don’t ask me why, but withThe Good Life he just kept changing stuff, changing the beat until by the time we did the video, I had never heard it,” he laughs. “I mean, it was a totally different song when we did the video then what I’d heard in the studio. I was ready to go, I came to do the video, I was ready to get in front of the camera, then they said ‘roll playback’ and I said ‘wait, I don’t even know what song this is. I can’t do the video ‘cos I have no idea what the song is. This isn’t what we recorded, I mean I’ve got to listen to this a whole bunch of times before we do the video.’ That was brand new to me.”
Another brand new experience was his comedy track with The Lonely Island,I’m On A Boat, which he admitted he almost turned down when approached by the trio. “It’s one of my most famous songs,” he laughs. “So I’m definitely glad I did it.” The accompanying video clip may look like a decadent boat party off the coast of Miami, but the truth was far less glamorous.
“It was super cold out there, it was windy, it was freezing, they brought the helicopter in to do the overhead shot and oh man, the helicopter was making all the water come up onto the boat,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what was going on. I was just freezing all the time.”
Fast forward to 2012, and T-Pain will be enjoying more temperate climates – literally and metaphorically – with a simultaneous worldwide release and a world tour, which he lets slip will include an Australian leg.
“I’m going worldwide with this one. That’s why the album’s dropping on the same day,” he explains. “I’ve never had an album released on the same day worldwide, so this time I have big plans. I’m going to travel the world, and make sure I get this album to everyone that wants to get it. I’m going to do a whole tour in Australia. It’ll be around the same time as Supafest. There is a possibility that I am going to headline for Supafest but I don’t even know, it’s just a possibility right now.”
Life seems good for T-Pain at the moment. After publicly deriding those who had copied his auto-tune heavy style in 2008 and being the subject of Jay-Z’s infamous diss-track D.O.A (Death Of Autotune), it seems he is now at peace with the flood of imitators that occupy the charts.
“I feel great about it now. I’m just glad I do something good enough for people to want to do. I mean, if they want to copy it, then that’s awesome, if you wanna label me as an awesome person and do what I do, then feel free.” This shift in attitude may be less than altruistic though.
“Now I’m making money off of it,” he continues. “I’ve got the I Am T Pain Mic, the I Am T-Pain App, The T-Pain Effect. I’m making money off it now, so feel free everybody!”