This may sound like a dramatic proclamation, but we didn’t appreciate T-Pain enough during his prime.
Two GRAMMY awards, three Gold-certified albums and a countless number of hits might lead you to think otherwise, but as far as genuinely appreciating and acknowledging his contributions to hip-hop and pop music, T-Pain doesn't get the respect he deserves.
From 2006 to 2009, T-Pain was commonly regarded as the driving force behind the music industry's infatuation with Auto-Tune, which despite JAY-Z's best attempts to dead the practice before the decade's end, has only strengthened over time. Undeterred by the cries that his favorite studio plug-in was ruining music as we knew it, T-Pain continued to make new music, but people simply stopped listening. Teddy's 2011 album Revolver, his last as an artist signed to RCA, was the lowest-selling release of his career and its long-delayed follow-up, Stoicville: The Phoenix, has been sitting on the back burner for four years.
In spite of these pitfalls, however, T-Pain's contributions to the evolution of hip-hop’s sound, for better or worse, should not be taken lightly.
Hit “shuffle” on hip-hop’s charting contributions over the last ten years and you’re likely to find a not-so-subtle nod to the soundscapes that Teddy Penderazdoun was concocting to soundtrack my adolescence. And yet, in the six (!) years since Pain’s last full-length offering (outside of his criminally slept-on 2015 mixtape The Iron Way), a surprising few of us have turned around at any point and said, “wait, where the fuck did T-Pain go?”
From everything I've recently seen and heard, though, the answer seems to be, “plotting a beastly comeback,” and it couldn’t be happening at a better time.
In fact, Pain delivered that answer himself last week in the form of a relentless banger entitled “Thanx,” which itself addresses the lack of proper respect his sonic contributions have received in his sort-of absence.
Restating Dr. Dre’s “The Watcher” boss-up, “I started this shit, this the thanks I get?” T-Pain opens "Thanx" by calling out everyone. Not only does the track slam, it serves as a sobering reminder that T-Pain hasn’t just been chilling by the pool and phoning in the occasional hook these past few years—he’s been cooking.
“Thanx” also tip-toes around the idea that anyone and everyone—from Young Thug to Future to Fetty Wap—could soon be called upon to answer for their sins. Even the single art shows Pain pensively looking over his GRAMMYs and various other awards as if to ask, “How are y’all gonna act like I didn’t provide the entire foundation of your sound?”
Now, to be fair, T-Pain has far from disappeared off the face of the earth. The aforementioned The Iron Way was a solid mixtape packed with bangers, and the rare moments when Teddy has resurfaced alongside newer talent have been nothing short of phenomenal.
His contributions to “Finish Line/Drown” off Chance The Rapper’s GRAMMY-winning Coloring Book sounded completely at home next to the Chicago native's sunny take on modern hip-hop, and the so-bad-it-was-good “Dan Bilzerian” with Lil Yachty showed that Pain is still one of the cool kids, never taking himself too seriously but able to show off his always-charming sense of humor without coming across as corny.
T-Pain’s ability to slide right back into today’s sound is not all that surprising when you consider most of these youngsters are simply offering a fresh take on the Auto-Tuned brilliance he had popularized over a decade prior to their moment in the spotlight.
Yesterday (April 6), T-Pain followed up “Thanx” by putting his own spin on Atlanta-bred viral sensation SahBabii’s “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick,” yet another shining reminder that Pain never really left, he was just waiting for the culture to catch up.
From his punishing new T-Mix's of cutting-edge hits to hard-hitting singles—and even sweetly addictive, mature ballads—it’s clear that time has taken nothing from T-Pain in regards to talent, and today's Auto-Tuned spectrum is ripe for a resurgence from the man that built its foundation.
If Pain is indeed making good on the release of his forever-in-the-works Stoicville, it’s time for the new generation to bow down, kiss the ring and give thanks. After all, he started this shit.