NEW YORK — Both UniverSoul and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey can fold up their tents, cage their tigers, shave their bearded ladies and tell their clowns to wash the paint from their happy little faces. They've been upstaged: T-Pain has the flyest circus in town.
On Thursday night, the new king of hip-hop and R&B guest hooks brought his Southern sideshow swagger to Manhattan, unveiling his third LP, Thr33 Ringz.
Popcorn and hot dogs were served while a big-top announcer urged everyone to "step right up" outside the venue, Swing 46. A colorfully dressed midget greeted patrons at the door, and a few feet from the open bar, cotton candy was served. Before Pain made his entrance, Lil Jon arrived looking as joyful as ever, now that his long-labored label problems were solved with a new deal several days back (a "content partnership" deal with the Orchard).
But on to the star attraction: Pain arrived and hugged the King of Crunk while making light of the fact that they looked alike, with their dreads and Oakley sunglasses. The head of Jive Records, Barry Weiss, took the stage to introduce one of the new cornerstones of his label.
"We're gonna f--- people up with this album. We're gonna shift the paragon. ... October 28, muthaf---ers!" he proudly predicted of the album's release.
Teddy P. (not to be confused with his baby-blue, six-and-half-foot mascot, Teddy Penderazdoun) later grabbed the mic and joked, "All the people that don't drink that's leavin' early, to hell with y'all."
As the album began to play, a skit commenced: two disgruntled funnymen griping about the job. "Two clowns that work for my circus that have never worked for a more f---ed-up circus than mine," T-Pain explained.
"I'm bringing new elephants, new tigers, new tat men, new strong men," he said later. "I'm bringing color."
The LP's first actual song was "Ringleader Man," which he performed a portion of on the BET Awards. Shortly after was "Therapy," a record that re-teams Pain and his "Good Life" co-star Kanye West. The song is about "all the crazy b----s that just don't have no sense," he told the crowd. He gave an example of meeting a stripper at her place of business. The girl was so nutty, he offered her $20 to shut up.
"This ain't the way I wanted it to end, but I gotta go," he sings on the track. "You still gotta your sh-- together, girl/ Shawty, you ain't gotta be scared of me/ All we need is therapy."
Kanye brings satire and current events to the song, making a naughty Obama reference by saying that the girl he rhymes about wanted to "[emasculate him] like Jesse Jackson."
"You too much pressure, dog," he adds. "You about to raise my cholesterol."
"Freeze" features Chris Brown and basically tells the ladies that if they can dance like Pain and his teenage buddy, they have a great chance of getting with the guys. Pain made a sexual reference while describing the record that elicited gasps from some crowd members.
"Chopped and Screwed" has a cameo from Ludacris. It's about going messed-up in the head after somebody breaks up with you. 'Cris does bring his patented lightheartedness, though: "Have you praising the lord like, 'Thank you! Thank you! I really wanna thank you!"
"Karaoke" takes aim at all the rappers and singers who have started using the Auto-Tune effect on their voices since Pain gave it its resurgence. DJ Khaled comes on to cheer him on: "Y'all a bunch of karaoke-f----in' n---as," The Miami DJ yells. Pain actually raps most of the record.
Pain wrote and produced the entire LP, and he's still recording. Most of the tracks are around the mid-tempo range and play nicely to Teddy's mastery of vocal melody. The video for the first single, "Can't Believe It," also debuted at the party. It's a colorful, imaginative buffet of eye candy that focuses on performances and special effects. Lil Wayne co-stars.
Thr33 Ringz drops this fall. Prior to releasing it, T-Pain is putting out a mixtape called Pr33 Ringz.