T-Pain just doesn't get enough credit.
Yes, the Rappa Ternt Sanga ran radio from 2005 to 2009. Yes, Teddy Penderassdown set the stage for a new generation of auto-tuned stars like Future, as well as experimenting veterans like Diddy, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and even Britney Spears. Yes, he gave Barack Obama a presidential album; but T-Pain just doesn't get enough credit.
On Wednesday, Pain dropped the auto-tune, paired with a piano player and amazed the Internet with his natural singing voice on the NPR Tiny Desk Concert. It was a soulful voice, a textured voice with hints of homegrown southern gospel, it was a voice that most didn't realize T-Pain had (though he's sung without auto-tune before).
Watching Teddy move through patented Pain tracks like the classic "Buy U a Drank" and the newer "Up Down (Do This All Day)” and "Drankin Patna" was amazing, but for me, a bit sad at the same time.
For the most part, Pain is regarded as the auto-tune guy and in a lot of ways it's how he's marketed himself. It was a great peg, for a guy who didn't quite make it as a rapper like he originally intended. He was clearly an expert writer, though, and had a knack for crafting sweet melodies.
During his run, T-Pain gave us robotic and infectious tunes that many times centered around drinking or strippers, or drinking while watching strippers. There was "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)," "Buy U a Drank" and "Bartender."
Then there were all the features. Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, R. Kelly, Chris Brown, Flo Rida, Jamie Foxx and DJ Khaled all benefited from T-Pain's magic; that was, until fans decided they were over it all, around the time Jay Z dropped his "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)" single in 2009.
"Get back to rap, you T-Paining too much," Hov rapped, clowning MCs who hopped on the trend that Pain popularized in modern music.
Jay's bars were taken mostly as a knock against Pain and put a serious dent in his run. Oddly, other artists like Kanye, Future, Lil Wayne and just about everyone else in music were given a pass. It seems as if Hov's "D.O.A." only affected T-Pain, even if unintentionally.
Still, what if T-Pain never used auto-tune in the first place? What if he came out singing "I'm Sprung" in his natural (and very capable singing) singing voice? Would he have been received the same?
I'd venture to guess, no. There were plenty who used voice-altering effects before T-Pain (like Roger Troutman, Teddy Riley and Akon), but Teddy P used the auto-tune in a new and refreshing way. Each technologically-enhanced hit was exciting, until it wasn't. It was a gift and a curse.
Let's face it, if T-Pain would've came out using his natural signing voice, he wouldn't have reached the same heights, and that's a crime, because boy, can he sing.