T-Pain is one of the finest singers and songwriters of our generation. This is an objective reality, and one that too many people fail to acknowledge. Perhaps it is T-Pain himself who obscured his own talents—in his heyday he was known as the Prometheus who stole Auto-Tune from the gods so that the masses might sing well, albeit robotically. Much like Prometheus was rewarded for his troubles by being chained to a rock and having his liver eaten out by an eagle every single day, T-Pain made Auto-Tune ubiquitous, appeared on countless pop hits, made an ill-advised decision to wear top hats in public, and slowly fell into ridicule and obscurity.
But what people didn't realize while they were busy turning him into a punchline is that T-Pain has more in common with funk and soul legends like Roger Troutman and George Clinton than his contemporaries—he never took himself too seriously, and always used technology as a means to an end (good, fun songs), rather than the end itself. In the past few years, history seems to be vindicating T-Pain. His robot vocals, clever lyrics, and playful sense of the absurd has set the template for much of modern hip-hop, and his hybridization of singing and rapping predicted such artists as Kid Ink and TY Dolla $ign. Meanwhile, T-Pain's incessant wearing of top-hats back in the day was nothing more than a pre-Twitter Pharrell hat, showing the understanding that branding was just as important to a musician's career as their talents. These days, T-Pain is staging a largely successful comeback, on his own terms: he has three legitimate hits with "Up Down," "Drankin' Patna," and E-40's "Red Cup." Not to mention, he's Noisey's new advice columnist.
Recently, T-Pain went to NPR of all places, where he performed as part of the famed Tiny Desk Concert series, singing sans Auto-Tune, accompanied only by a pianist, to run through "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')," "Up Down," and "Drankin' Patna," reworking each song into warm soul rather than icy party-rap. If, for some reason, you still think T-Pain isn't a talented singer and generally worthwhile human, prepare to be amazed.