T-Pain is our favorite kind of chameleon. Sure, he’s a famous hip-hop artist, and you definitely know the hits—you’ve danced in the club or at the bar (or, you know, just gotten your freak on) to “Buy U a Drank” and “Bartender”; you’ve probably also gone hard (aka had too much skin contact sauvignon blanc and Neapolitan-ish pizza) to “Go Hard.” There is, however, much more to T-Pain than those bangers. Though he’s an Auto-Tune icon, T-Pain delivered a legendary twist when he pulled a reverse Bob Dylan by going acoustic in his near-mythical Tiny Desk Concert at NPR; he surprised us again with this year’s On Top of the Covers, an album of his interpretations of tunes by Journey, Sam Cooke, Black Sabbath, and more. (Yes, this is real, and yes, we’re still waiting for an edit of the Sopranos finale with T-Pain’s version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” mixed in.) Like, we’re still digesting what was perhaps his greatest (or at least most fun) partnership to date: “I’m On a Boat” with The Lonely Island.
And while T-Pain’s list of collabs and features is basically just a registry of some of hip-hop’s biggest players, he stunned us yet again when he dropped one of his hardest collabs of all: a wing seasoning collection with beloved artisan spice purveyors Spicewalla. We get it—there’s a lot going on in the land of T-Pain, and it’s hard to keep up. T-Pain’s culinary turn isn’t totally out of left field, though: He was a guest on not one but two episodes of the popular spicy food challenge show Hot Ones. Then, of course, there’s his weird cocktail book. Plus, he’s a restaurant owner, admittedly dislikes hot drinks and cold food, and wants to buy you a Frosty at Wendy’s. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that T-Pain’s been out here eating and drinking like a king for years.
Anyway, the wings. I’m not gonna lie: I’ve cooked with all three of the spice blends in the T-Pain Wing Collection, and they are legitimately great. For these *actually* killer flavors—Straight Fire, Sugar Daddy, and The Juice—T-Pain worked with Spicewalla founder and award-winning restaurateur Meherwan Irani to come up with spice blends that honored his favorite culinary flavors. As its name indicates, Straight Fire uses smoked paprika, multiple chile powders, sugar, and cayenne to offer a dry, fairly hot punch, while Sugar Daddy locates sweet but acidic bliss at the intersection of its brown sugar, garlic, red pepper, and honey powder; The Juice—possibly the tastiest of the three—combines brown sugar, pineapple powder, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro for a tropical-tinged, fruity spice that you’ll probably just want to eat straight out of the tin (I did, and would do it again).
Naturally, even after I tried all the spices, many questions remained. Like, could I put the spices on other foods? Does T-Pain prefer ranch or blue cheese on his wings? And why did he cover Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and not something off of Vol. 4? I needed to know the answers to these questions, so I reached out to T-Pain to chat about making the T-Pain Wing Collection, tips for how to tolerate super spicy foods, his favorite Black Sabbath album, and more.
VICE: Hey, T-Pain! How did this collab with Spicewalla come about?
T-Pain: So [Spicewalla founder] Meherwan [Irani] and I actually met on a brand shoot for Kingsford Charcoal back in 2021. It was a content series where I was paired up against a chef and had to try and follow their recipes to see if I could cook as well as them. Ha! We hit it off pretty quickly, and when I tried his spices on set, they were incredible. Ever since that day, we stayed in touch and became good friends. From there, the collab with Spicewalla took off. We brainstormed, experimented, and crafted a collection of signature species that embodied my flavor profile.
All three of these flavors are extremely tasty—I especially love Sugar Daddy. How did you go about creating these blends?
Appreciate that! We did multiple rounds of testing. I told Meherwan the types of flavors I look for in foods, and from there he worked his magic and came up with the blends. We did rounds of cooking at my place to tweak the flavors so that they would come out perfect.
Do you cook a lot when you’re at home? If so, what are your specialties?
Honestly, I'm not home very often! My schedule has been absolutely insane. I can throw it down on the grill though. Anything I can grill, I'm in.
Besides wings, what should people put these spices on?
Everything and anything. Someone was just telling me the other day how they put the Sugar Daddy spice on popped popcorn, so really there are no limits. Can go on steak, salmon, potatoes, or even in a Bloody Mary, if that's your thing.
It seems like you’re pretty serious about spice, and your Hot Ones episodes are amazing. The Straight Fire spice definitely has some bite. Any tips or pairings for that one (besides milk)?
Ha! Thank you, thank you. Straight Fire is definitely going to bring that extra kick to any dish, so you wanna start small and build up your tolerance if you're not used to the heat. It's always good to have some cooling elements on hand. Fresh lime juice, cilantro, or even a touch of honey can help balance out the heat.
With wings, ranch or blue cheese? Or neither?
Either is good by me!
Finally, your “War Pigs” cover is incredible. What’s your favorite Black Sabbath album?
Aw man, thank you so much! That song is really special to me, so I'm glad you enjoyed it. Favorite album would have to be Paranoid.
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