Singer-songwriters Akon and T-Pain are often grouped together in a mentor-protege relationship because of their connection through Akon's Konvict Music imprint. Truthfully, the unspoken teacher is Cher. And by the late '00s, T-Pain the student had clearly bested her.

The Florida-native Faheem Rasheed Najm adopted the stage name "Tallahassee Pain" or "T-Pain" for his bluesy rap career. He performed with the group Nappy Headz in the early '00s, but left the group to pursue R&B and pop. Via Akon, T-Pain released his debut solo album, Rappa Ternt Sanga, in 2005. The album was a bass-heavy, club-oriented affair marked by extensive use of the Auto-Tune pitch-correcting effect and stripper-friendly ballads like "I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)" and "I'm Sprung." Unlike most artists who had been using Auto-Tune for its original purpose -- as a pitch-correction device -- T-Pain used the effect as an aesthetic style, much like how Cher had done so in her 1998 hit, "Believe."

His 2007 follow-up, Epiphany, closely followed the blueprint of its predecessor. Perhaps the most notable difference was that T-Pain shifted his base of operations from the strip club to the club club ["Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')"]. T-Pain's aesthetic found traction across the hip-hop and R&B map as he was asked to contribute his neo-Auto-Tune revival to numerous tracks, including songs by R. Kelly, DJ Khaled, Chris Brown, and Kanye West.


As the '00s came to a close, other artists made explicit use of auto-tune. At this point, the widespread use of the effect could be attributed principally to T-Pain. In the midst of this, T-Pain released his third album, Thr33 Ringz, in 2008 and continued to appear on a string of popular singles. In 2009 an iPhone app called "I Am T-Pain" featuring an Auto-Tuner was released. His next album, rEVOLVEr, is expected to be released in 2010. The appearance of his trademark vocal process is guaranteed.  ~Dan Nishimoto


Photo Credit: Chris Owyoung/

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