It’s been a hot minute since T-Pain was on the cover of DUB, but his unique sound and mold-breaking music is still a hot commodity. In fact, a lot has changed for the R&B/hip-hop sensation in the last couple of years, including his most striking ride, the 1972 Chevy Impala ragtop, which was featured in the September 2007 issue of DUB Magazine.
In case many of you don’t recall, T-Pain’s unique old school was layered in orange candy flake paint, sported chrome accents and featured actual alligator tails stitched into its ultra-smooth leather upholstery. What you see now has been transformed into his “Joker” ride. The story behind its radical transformation, according to T-Pain, is that after he finished some collabo work with DJ Khaled, Khaled bought him another Impala to thank him for the work. “I was, like, ‘Guess it’s time to change the old one,” he says.
He took it to Auto Extremes in Atlanta, GA and transformed it into the green “Joker.” “I was already thinking of changing it, so I said, ‘Let’s f*cken paint this thing, and we might as well change the interior and everything.” In terms of the “Joker” theme, T-Pain mentions that it came from a dream. “I had a green Bentley that looked like that movie back in the ‘80s when the trucks came alive and were evil, and so when I woke up, I was, like, ‘That’s what the Impala needs.’”
Auto Extremes was more than happy to comply with T-Pain’s requests given he’s now a part of the shop and working with them on a new wheel line coming out later this year that’ll be called “RevolveR,” which is also what his upcoming album will be called.
“I go way back with Auto Extremes,” he says. “They’ve done all my cars and it was just something that happened. Nobody asked nobody to be partners and it was just an automatic union. I started bringing them business and they hooked up my rides and then it became a partnership. I thought, ‘Why not team up with these guys so we can both make some money?’” While he’s not exactly involved in the shop’s day-to-day business, he is pretty active in the new wheel line that he considers to be “so dope.”
“We trying to go from the big Donks in Florida to the small Hondas in Japan,” he describes about the type of market he’s reaching for. “We goin’ really hard on this.” While no specifics are available yet, he did mention that the design process is still something he’s working on and that everything will be ready when his RevolveR album drops.
So what can fans expect from Mr. Auto-Tune himself on the upcoming album? “It’s got more of a wide range of music on it since I’m trying to reach more people now,” he explains. “I got me some new audiences now, I don’t just want to be a one-box-sounding T-Pain. I have to do a lot more kinds of music now for everybody to love.” But don’t think he’s totally going to abandon his signature style, which had us all singing along to past hits like “I’m Sprung” and “I’m In Luv (Wit a Stripper).”
“I still got the same T-Pain flow going on for everybody who loves it, but I’ve added some house music, a bit of electro rock stuff, some country-sounding music on there, too. But no matter what, it’ll still have a hip-hop and R&B feel to it.” And of course, expect his signature Auto-Tune voice to make every song a T-Pain classic, something that’s actually caught on throughout the industry since he first jumped on scene with it.
“I’m kind of flattered actually,” he laughs. “I did something good and ran with it, but you’re only as good as you make it. You still have to make good songs though, and that’s not what’s happening with these new tunes that have it. There’s still the possibility of using it wrong.” And who better to know this than T-Pain himself, who actually studied how to use it so that it blends perfectly with his voice without ever over doing it.
“I read up on it and saw how it was made,” he explains. “I talked to the dude that invented it, and I really learned how to work it so that it sounds good. People now just throw it on their voice and wail around some notes, which is disrespectful and pisses me off a whole lot.”
But he won’t get mad if you try it yourself and download his “I am T-Pain” iPhone app that allows you to Auto-Tune your voice, which just happens to be one of the best selling apps since it dropped last year. “I saw that Lil Wayne had a phone app, and I was, like, ‘wow,’ he has one and I want one.” The app is doing so well that he’s going to let it ride until he looks into creating another one.
While he’s taking a reactive approach to his future apps, he’s definitely being proactive about his place and mark in the music industry with his Nappy Boy Entertainment label. Still fairly new, T-Pain is growing it to become different from other cookie-cutter labels that have popped up over the years.
“What’s gonna make it different is the people I’m going to pick,” he says. “When others try to find others, they always look for the ‘new Diddy.’ But we’re looking for the new nothing. I’m looking for the ‘new you never heard this before,’ so there is nothing familiar about what’s going to come out of my label. People try to get what their audience already likes, so you don’t give them any variation.”
Artists that’ll be coming out on T-Pain’s label include Gym Class Hero’s Travis McCoy, Sophia Fresh, Tay Dizm, Young Cash, Once Chance and Shawnna, so be ready to experience some fresh sounds, the T-Pain way.
So far, 2010 is looking to be a big year for T-Pain with so many new changes in his life and career. But one thing still remains the same for one of hip-hop’s finest—his beloved Mini Cooper that he ranted and raved about the last time he was in the magazine. “It’s still my favorite out of all my rides,” he laughs. And he has a pretty impressive garage that varies from a drophead Phantom to a Bentley GTC, Lambos and old schools. “It’s small and easy to drive. I can weave in and out of traffic and haul ass anywhere I go. Nothing beats it…not even my Impala.
Photos: Greg B.