T-Pain used natural talent, Auto-Tune, and cheeky song ideas to become one of the most influential, affable R&B acts of the 2000s. Born Faheem Najm in 1985, T-Pain was raised in Tallahassee, Florida, and was introduced to music when family friend Ben Tankard allowed him to tinker around at the studio. He eventually joined a rap group called Nappy Headz, but caught Akon's attention with "I'm F*cked Up," a cover of the latter's hit "Locked Up." T-Pain signed to Akon's Konvict Muzik in 2003 and smartly transitioned into singing. His 2005 debut, Rappa Ternt Sanga, featured "I'm Sprung" and "I'm n Luv (Wit a Stripper)," songs that caught fire just as much for their inescapable hooks as for their charismatic relatability. T-Pain had proven his skill at tunes that were sexy, funny, and infectious, using a vocoder to add emotion and personality to his melodic voice. He replicated the formula in 2007 with "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" and "Bartender." And before long, the rest of the industry followed suit: Countless artists took inspiration from his vocal innovations, while acts like Kanye West and DJ Khaled enlisted T-Pain personally for what felt like an endless series of hits. He added to his pop-culture cred in 2019, when he won playful TV competition The Masked Singer and released his sixth LP, 1Up. T-Pain's fingerprints are all over contemporary rap and R&B: Vocal enhancements are inescapable, as both rappers and singers use them to add dimension to their music. Just remember who started the trend.
BORNSeptember 30, 1985