Q&A With T-Pain, Performing at AAA on Sunday

Many of today's hip-hop personalities and R&B royalty would have fans believe they've got the genuine Midas touch, but few in recent years can truly back that claim up. The Tallahassee-born T-Pain, however, is one of these chosen few. It's no wonder Akon snatched him up for his own imprint, Konvict Muzik, upon hearing his rendition of the impresario's single, "Locked Up," back in 2005. 

Since then Pain has put singles on the Top 40 almost faster than Billboard can get to print, thanks to a trademark style that's got nthing to do with vocals run through Auto-Tune. Okay, maybe it's got a little bit to do with that.  But it's his boisterous hooks dripping with laid-back swagger, and an easy, Southern drawl that have consistently produced gold, both on his own tracks and on collaborations with the likes of Chris Brown, Kanye West, Lil' Wayne and Flo Rida, among others.

After the jump, read New TImes' full Q&A with T-Pain, who performs this Sunday at the AAA as part of the I Am Music Tour.

-- Christopher Lopez

T-Pain performs with Lil Wayne, Gym Class Heroes, Keyshia Cole, and Keri Hilson. Sunday, December 14. American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $36.75 to 76.75, www.ticketmaster.com, www.livenation.com.

Seems like every song you appear on goes Top 40. What's the secret?

Just to do it [laughs].  That's what I feel like.  I don't know that there's a secret.  Have yourself a good sense of melody, and put the words together, and if it comes out to be a hit or a good song at all, you got yourself something.

No matter who the track belongs to, your style is immediately recognizable.  How do you describe it?

Wow, um, natural, really.  The tone of it is the least relevant part.  It's more the topic of the song.  You've got to be able to just relate to it.  Most people hear what it's about and where it's going, because it can be a great sounding voice or it can be an Auto-Tune, it can be anything, but if it's a sucky song it's a sucky song.

So when you sit down to write, how do you go about it?

I don't sit down and write at all, that's all bullshit.  There you have it [laughs].  There's no use taking your time and writing something.  If you gotta go and sit down and make up some clever way to say shit, there's no use doing it.  It's all fake, you know what I'm saying?  You're thinking too hard. 

If you got it in you, you got it in you.  All you need is a topic for a song and you can talk about it.  Don't try to make it all clever and find different ways to say it and all that crap.  Just make it real.  Whatever comes to the top of your head about that topic is how you feel about it.  There it is.

Tell us about your new album, Thr33 Ringz, which just released in November.   What's the concept?

The whole concept was, I was doing so many features, and pretty much just running the game like a ringleader of a circus. And also, just comparing the industry to a circus, it's like the same thing, you know? You got lots of acts in a circus and we just needed a ringleader in the industry. I'm him.

And there's a limited edition version with 3 bonus songs?

There's actually lots of editions around the world; a different edition for Japan, a different edition for the U.K., the limited edition with the three extra tracks ... just making sure everyone gets what they need.

You've got collaborations on Thr33 Ringz with some of the hottest artists out right now. Which one was your favorite?

Um, Diddy. Just being with him in the studio, that was awesome.

That's on "Change," also featuring Akon and Mary J. Blige, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. That was just mad fun, 'cuz I was making that song while he was in the studio. I got Akon and Mary J. on it later. But just being around Diddy was real fun.  He was just a great guy, you know.

You also have a track featuring Kanye, called "Therapy".  How did that come about?

I already had the song and I had a rap verse on it, and then Kanye heard it and he was like, "I gotta put a verse on that." And then he did that and the song came out to be like five minutes and 20 seconds or something like that, so I just cut and kept his rap on it. But that's how it happened; he heard it, he loved, he got on it.

You and Lil Wayne have been working together a lot lately.  How'd you two link up?

We started doing a lot of the same cities at the same time, in terms of shows. And one day he came on my bus -- and he didn't know I had a studio on my bus -- so once he saw that, we started recording there on the bus. 

Then I was living in Miami for a while, and he was living in Miami, and we'd just show up at the studio not knowing if each other was gonna be there. We just started recording more and more, and became more and more friends, and got closer and closer.

You've got a recording studio on your tour bus?

Yeah, I've got a custom car shop in Atlanta. You know, so we just pretty much did this bus like a car, but put a studio in the back. Everything, with walls and everything. It's not like a table with a bunch of studio equipment sitting on top of it. You'll forget it's a bus walking into it.

And you're going be performing in the AAA on December 14th along with Lil Wayne, Keyshia Cole and Gym Class Heroes.  For the fans that haven't gotten a chance to catch you live, what can they expect?

You know what? I can't even say, because I'm on my way right now to the first rehearsal of this tour. So I don't know what anything looks like, or what songs we're gonna be doing.  [Laughs] I don't even know anything yet. But I promise I'm gonna bring some energy beneath the belt. Just a lot of energy and a lot of fun.

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