T-Pain’s fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn’t the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers “Deep” well — but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing. He was celebrated as an innovator, and he happily took his talents where he was invited, which was everywhere.
But somewhere along the way, somebody got it twisted. “People felt like I was using it to sound good,” says T-Pain, in an interview that will air on All Things Considered. “But I was just using it to sound different.”
What may surprise some people is that T-Pain can actually sing and didn’t turn to auto-tune simply as a way to disguise sub-par vocals. As part of NPR’s Music Tiny Desk Concert series, he strips away advanced production techniques and gimmicks in favor of a more subdued performance. The result…something most people probably wouldn’t expect.