Triumph. T-Pain was once synonymous with triumph. When you witness remarkable victories recur with the consistency of rainfall in April or hurricanes in September they cease to be miracles―Teddy Pain dominated music single by single, one hit begetting another until his radio reign felt normalized, something with the potential to be everlasting. When the rappa ternt sanga began singing in lush Auto-Tune about being sprung, buying women drinks, adoring bartenders and loving strippers, the world fell head over heels for his new artistic approach.
Lil Wayne had ties to Tallahassee’s King Midas, both stars saw a rise in acclaim around 2005 and were running rampant up the mainstream ladder with a passion for dominance. Their paths crossed often, frequent collaborators in DJ Khaled’s league of recycled rap features. A kinship was born, and as their names grew enormous their connection grew closer. When T-Pain’s buzz was skyscraper-high and even before Tha Carter III turned the New Orleans martian into a world-renowned rock star, the two were teasing a joint album―T-Wayne.
Fans still nursing abandonment scars left behind by the never-fulfilled promise of Wayne's collaborative album-to-be with Juelz Santana I Can’t Feel My Face should have been skeptical, but despite a history of disappointment even the wisest Weezy enthusiast couldn’t resist believing in the possibility. Thus began the waiting, rumors, leaks, waiting, a collaboration and more waiting. Before the world knew it, and before we were prepared for it, T-Pain had ceased being immortal, and his triumphant reign came to a hollow end. Even Wayne began to see more downs than ups, and the idea of T-Wayne was quietly buried.
Suddenly, seven years later, by the power invested in T-Pain, the album has been brought back to life and allowed entrance into our ears.
The references are dated, the beats are dated, even Wayne’s Auto-Tune vocals sound pulled from The Drought Is Over Part 4 mixtape. The world has aged but T-Wayne hasn’t―the long-awaited album is frozen in time. There’s a pleasant nostalgia the album offers for listeners who wish to be magically transported back to 2010.
Their chemistry is clearest during the slower, R&B-leaning records―”DAMN DAMN DAMN” and “Waist Of A Wasp” are cut from the same great cloth as “Studio Love (Remix)” and “Can’t Believe It”―but no song on the album has quite the undeniable star power of “Snap Ya Fangas.” This is the tyrant T-Pain, who was able to turn the most simplistic phrases and melodic delivery into irresistible anthems. Seven years ago, “Snap Ya Fangas” would have conquered clubs and been a chart-topping monster, but time has moved forward and today the glow of a potential hit is depressingly dim.
T-Wayne is a stark reminder that not all music is timeless, there are songs enveloped in the present. Rewinding just seven years would have put this project on the tip of every tongue, truly a Watch The Throne-caliber event. While it’s good to revisit the past, the release of this album came far too late to have any impact. The duo has been gone so long that a less-than-stellar T-Wayne was able to reach one-hit wonder status during their hiatus. While the short EP is enjoyable, especially for those who can remember a time when it would have been one of the biggest albums of the year, T-Wayne is another hip-hop project that was denied a chance to truly prosper.
A day before the release of T-Wayne, a viral picture of Young Dro circulated around Twitter as an example of a male romper. Silly yet saddening, there was a time when Dro was much bigger than a trending topic to laugh at on Twitter. Another Bankhead-bred rapper from Atlanta who came up through the underground mixtape scene and signed under T.I., Dro caught a wave with the infectious “Shoulder Lean” single that became a hugely successful ringtone and delivered a strong debut album with Best Thang Smokin’.
2006 was the year Young Dro arrived. There was a vibrant, colorful quality to his lyricism without losing his street edge, a pristine Southern swagger in his delivery, and the Ralph Lauren infatuation was brilliant branding.
Dro was the perfect successor to T.I.’s throne, but somewhere between the fallout with Young L.A. and T.I.’s multiple incarcerations, Dro’s sophomore album fell into limbo. He produced mixtapes and had a few hot singles, but ultimately failed to capitalize on a temporary shot at big-time success. Seven years after his debut, his follow-up album, High Times, was finally released to minimal fanfare. Over the last few years, Dro has increased his consistency and released far more music but hasn’t caught the stellar wave that he once rode. Windows don't stay open forever, anticipation isn't a shadow that will forever follow your every move.
Young Dro isn’t the lone rapper who fell from common consciousness by being out of sight, though. Papoose is another perfect example. I became familiar with the Brooklyn emcee after the viral “Alphabetical Slaughter” sometime in early 2006. We no longer live in an age where a freestyle on Hot 97 can help your career explode, but back then, it was a major look for Pap. Teaming up with the notable DJ Kay Slay and hustling the mixtape circuit kept his name buzzing, “Alphabetical Slaughter” continued to impress those who watched, and the impressive feature on Busta’s “Touch It” remix solidified the fact Pap was going to be big. 2006 was the year it all paid off, the year he received a $1.5 million record deal from Jive.
With a budget that Regis Philbin would admire and major label backing, Papoose was set to be next lyrical emcee to flourish, the next New York rapper to fly once his debut album, Nacerima Dream, was released. Labels are an artist's dream but can quickly become their biggest nightmare. Kay Slay blames an A&R from hell that caused the riff between artist and label, a situation that led to a separation a year after the official signing. Again, seven years would go by before Nacerima Dream would be released, and while reviews deemed the album lyrically sharp, many highlighted the outdated sound as the project's downfall. Pap is happily married to Remy Ma, starring on reality television, and likely isn’t looking back on what once was. But, I wonder, if Nacerima Dream had been given a fair shot and released in the winter of 2007 like originally announced, where would Papoose be now?
Saigon is one rapper I’ve always played the “what if” game with and one of the first rappers I recall being knighted as one of hip-hop's "saviors." His lyricism was excellent, and he was a storyteller who had a heart that pumped the blood of an age that wasn’t represented in rap’s mainstream. Saigon was the answer to all the snap moves and Superman dances, someone bearing the weight of being real hip-hop back to the forefront. He had Just Blaze, Jay Z and a sphere of blogs rooting for his prosperity. Sai was on television, at the peak success of HBO’s Entourage he guest starred as a starving rap artist. This was before not having an album was a norm—Saigon appeared to be in the perfect position to bust doors down. But delays caused The Greatest Story Never Told to be pushed back numerous times from 2005 through 2010. By the time of its release, hip-hop had moved on to other hopeful prospects and newer saviors. Patience is smothered in the bosom of time, every year takes another swipe at the possibility of people caring, and not every artist has the cult-like Frank and Carti base that allows for extended desire without some kind of meal upon the plate.
One of my favorite songs of 2016 is Mickey Factz’ “The Achievement,” the final record on his long-awaited debut album, The Achievement: circa ‘82. Hearing an emcee I believed would go the distance reminiscing on his career made me realize detours, roadblocks and derailments happen every day. Mickey is still gifted, his prowess as a sharpshooter lyricist is apparent throughout the album, one he'd been proclaiming would be coming since 2009. Instead of going with the music of the past, he cleaned it up, made it for the present, and slightly altered the title. It wasn't the big project that it was once expected to be, but hearing “The Achievement” is proof he isn’t stuck on what didn’t happen, rather finding glory in all that did.
Waiting is an artistic curse, but it's still a blessing for fans to eventually get what we've waited for. T-Wayne wasn’t released at what would have been the height of its acclaim but it did finally reach our ears. I'm thankful that T-Pain gave us a gift from the past, proof of how far hip-hop has progressed since their glowing heyday. Who knows, maybe there’s still hope for I Can’t Feel My Face, Detox,J. Cole and Kendrick's collab album and—if the Gods are truly giving out blessings—XV's The Kid With The Green Backpack.
A boy can only hope.
By Yoh, aka Yoh-Wayne, aka @Yoh31