If you thought T-Pain was going anywhere after “D.O.A.,” think again. The Grammy Award-winning singer/rapper is not only coming back with a new album, Revolver, but he’s also hard at work on his new animated special, Freaknik: The Musical. Loosely based on the Historically Black Collegiate Universities Spring Break tradition, Freaknik will debut as part of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim this Sunday (March 7th).
Although too young to experience the actual Freaknik, T-Pain recalls the energy that surrounded the Black College Spring Break event and wanted to convey it through the animated series in hopes to give the new generation a glimpse of the type of atmosphere that the experience gave. “I really just wanted to capture that whole scene,” T-Pain says. “By the time I was old enough to go, it was shut down but I remember the rush all the older dudes got and I want to re-create that. What you are going to see is my imagination at work.”
Hip-hop heavyweights like Snoop Dogg, Big Boi, Rick Ross and Cee-Lo were more than willing to assist with making Pain’s Freaknik vision come to life. In addition, comedic actors Charlie Murphy and Christopher “Kid” Reid, singer Kelis and funk legend Bootsy Collins also lent their voices to the project. “Not to blow my own horn,” Pain says, “But they signed on because of who I am.” Although his name drew attention, T-Pain did reveal that it only went so far. “Of course [some of them] asked for me to be on some hooks in exchange,” he laughs.
With all of the musical talent scheduled to appear in the series, it was almost a given that there’d be a booty shaking soundtrack. “We are actually about seven songs away from completing the soundtrack,” T-Pain says. “The soundtrack is going to feature not only the artists that appear in the special, but also a variety of other artists, as well.”
Even Lil Wayne took the opportunity to hop on the soundtrack before heading in to do his one-year bid. “I’m really grateful to the heavyweights,” Pain says. “But I’m also trying to get Waka Flocka [Flame] to do [a song] and other artists that aren’t big in the game yet, because I love to help people get on.”
Even though T-Pain agrees that the energy that surrounded the iconic annual event is unsurpassable, he states that the actual Freaknik should in no way be reignited. “I don’t think that it would be a good idea because times have changed,” he explains. “We have faster cars, faster women, more sexual positions and more things that can go wrong these days and I don’t think police want those problems.”
In addition to his upcoming animated series, T-Pain recently signed former DTP artist Shawnna and Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy, to his Nappy Boy roster, which includes a bevy of other artists. Even though he has the capability to sign more acts, T-Pain wants to avoid making the same mistakes his mentor and Konvict mogul Akon made.
“I’m content with working on putting out the artists I have,” he says. “Right now I have so much on my plate, I don’t think that I could handle promoting another album. That’s what happened to Akon, he signed all these people, not realizing that when one [artist] was pushed back, so were artist No. 2 and No. 3 and no one would be able to come out. I like working with a small roster, because I want everyone to have their chance to shine.”
Even in the midst of promoting his artists, the Freaknik cartoon and Nappy Boy All Stars, Vol. 1 mixtape, T-Pain is just as focused on the release of his third solo album, Revolver. “The first single is called ‘Reverse Cowgirl’,” he confirms. “A lot of people compare it to ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine, but that wasn’t my intention. I actually created it with my favorite [sexual] position in mind.”
Despite being blamed for singlehandedly destroying hip-hop by one of the game’s biggest stars, Pain is not letting what naysayers affect his hustle and flow. “As long as the message I’m trying to bring gets to the ones who truly want to hear it, I’m happy,” he says confidently. “The funny thing is, I can’t believe XXL is doing this interview with me because you guys are rough on me! [Laughs]. I have Google Alerts on my name, so everything that anyone writes about me pops up. And y’all are rough, boy, but it’s okay because I do my music for people who understand me and where I’m coming from. I just make my haters my motivators to keep me going.”
“It doesn’t matter what I do, people are always going to find something wrong with it,” he continues. “If I sing live in concert and play the piano, it’s not me according to haters, so I’m just going to continue to do what I do best and that is make great music.”
When asked if this “great music” will continue to include the Auto-Tune, T-Pain replies, “Yes, yes and yes again, with a check mark smiley face and anything else people want to add for confirmation. That is what I do and it’s not going anywhere, and if it does that would be a decision I chose to make, not because people talked about me but because I am trying something new.” —Tiffany Hamilton