Faheem Najm's singing ability was on clear display in the first notes of his breakthrough R&B single "I'm Sprung," yet his recurrent use of Auto-Tune created a widespread ripple effect that left his performing name synonymous with voice modulation. The Tallahassee, Florida native came up as a rapper in a group called Nappy Headz. As a solo artist, he went pro as T-Pain after he recorded "I'm Fucked Up," a personalized take on Akon's "Locked Up." Akon heard it, then signed T-Pain to the Jive/Zomba-supported Konvict Muzik label. The self-produced and self-written "I'm Sprung," T-Pain's proper debut single, was released in August 2005 and went Top Ten pop and R&B/hip-hop. That December, the album Rappa Ternt Sanga arrived, supported by the follow-up single "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)," another Top Ten hit on multiple Billboard charts. The two singles earned RIAA platinum certifications, and the parent full-length eventually went gold, situating T-Pain as a major breakthrough artist of the mid-2000s.
The success wasn't a fluke. During the next several years, as Auto-Tune usage became increasingly common across commercial music -- used more frequently to mask vocal deficiency than as the equivalent of an effect pedal for a guitar -- T-Pain continued to make hits. Through 2012, a period that involved the guest-loaded albums Epiphany, Thr33 Ringz, and rEVOLVEr, he entered the pop Top Ten as a lead artist four additional times, highlighted by the chart-topping "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')." Through assists on songs such as Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss," Kanye West's "Good Life," Jamie Foxx's "Blame It," and Pitbull's "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)," his name was either near or at the top position with even greater frequency. Additionally, "Good Life" and "Blame It" made T-Pain a two-time Grammy Award winner. After the 2014 compilation Happy Hour: The Greatest Hits, T-Pain promised a fifth album titled Stoicville, but by mid-2017, he'd released only singles, including collaborations with Juicy J, Lil Yachty, and Young M.A. That November, through RCA, he released the gleefully hedonistic full-length Oblivion with appearances from Ty Dolla $ign, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, and Wale. ~ Andy Kellman
- Tallahassee, FL
- September 30, 1985