If you count all his guest appearances, Lil Wayne is obviously the most in-demand rapper right now. But as far as singers go, believe it or not, T-Pain might be the most requested. He's getting just as many calls as R. Kelly and Akon these days.
"I been getting super calls," Pain said recently in Atlanta. He lists Chris Brown, Usher, Charlie Wilson, Britney Spears, Nick Lachey, Joe, Twista, DJ Unk, Bow Wow, Mya, Sammie and R. Kelly himself (see "T-Pain Comforts More Strippers With R. Kelly, Gets A Holla From Britney's Peeps") as just some of the acts who either want him to sing on, write or produce their records — or all three.
"It's literally 30 artists right now," he said with a golden-grill smile. He says the attention feels good, considering that after the release of his debut single, "I'm Sprung" (off 2005's Rappa Ternt Sanga), some people thought he would be a one-hit wonder. Now he churns out the bangers for himself and his peers.
"I don't concentrate on that," he said when asked if he plays favorites when writing and producing for others. "If people want music, they want their music. I don't go in the studio like, 'I can't give this to such and such because Usher wants it.' I won't go, 'I can't make an Usher record because Chris Brown wants it.' There's no discrimination. I dish it out for everybody. Every time somebody sees me, they'll be like, 'He put his foot in it.' "
If you listen to Pain's current single, "Buy You a Drank," it's clear he was getting his Dr. Frankenstein on while composing it, as he takes from a few other popular records.
"I incorporated so many other songs into 'Buy You a Drank' because I was going through something with my label," he said. "I thought my album was done, and they was like, 'It needs something. You need to go in with Timbaland, with Kanye West,' just all the famous producers. I said, 'I'm doing 100 percent of the album — I got creative control.' I could have said no and put the album out, but I don't know everything. I knew they wanted me to make something trendy. So I basically made the best snap song I could make."
Pain's label, Jive Records, was more than pleased.
"They was like, 'That's what we needed,' " he said. "As I was making [the song], I was doing all the elements of great snap songs — Lil Jon and E-40's 'Snap Yo Fingers,' 'Money in the Bank' by Lil Scrappy. The last ingredient was Yung Joc. I was making myself the R&B snap-song king, and he's the hip-hop snap-song king. We made a fantastic song.
"It ain't that I'm doing something other people are doing — I'm doing something they're doing and doing it better," he added. "My whole album, you ain't gonna be able to get it [understand it] until next year. I'm ahead of my time. That's what people say to me. If more than one person says it, it's gotta be true."
Pain's sophomore set is called Epiphany, and it comes out June 12. His next single features the man who signed him, Akon. Don't be surprised if you hear more references to him buying somebody a drink.
"The new single is 'Bartender,' " he said. "It's basically about how you go in the club, a lot of girls be attractive, but bartender be the best-looking one."