Thu, 18 Dec 2008 13:37:15
"There are a bunch of tents and circus freaks waiting on me right now," laughs T-Pain with a smirk. No, hip hop's resident "hit" man didn't join the circus, though no one should put it past him. T-Pain is on his way to rehearsals for his forthcoming arena tour with Lil Wayne, Gym Class Heroes and Keyshia Cole, and he's pulling out all the stops to make it memorable for fans. That's his general mantra though—T-Pain likes to put on a show for everyone. He certainly does on his third and latest solo release, the dangerously infectious, psychedelic Thr33 Ringz. On his way to hang with the freaks, T-Pain took some time to discuss Thr33 Ringz and a whole lot more with ARTISTdirect.com.
Where did the inspiration for the circus concept on Thr33 Ringz come from?
It came from a whole bunch of stuff actually. However, one of the main inspirations was the the fact that I was making music with a lot of people. I was pretty much like the ringleader of the game, just cracking the whip. It was kind of fun, and I felt like I was running things, so I made my own three-ring circus.
You've created your own psychedelic hip hop with this record.
Yeah, pretty much! It's not so much what I intended to do. I wanted to do something for myself—to make my music different from what everybody else is doing. I guess it's catching on.
You collaborate with so many different artists on a regular basis. This aesthetic will make you stand out.
It's true, man. I've seen so many different styles, and I've been around so many different people that it's pretty easy to figure out how to do what they don't.
Photographer Dean Karr [Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Tool] is typically a rock n' roll guy. How was it working with him for your album photos?
That was awesome! I like how deep his photos come out and how saturated everything looks. I really just worked with him on the visuals and had him do the stuff that he does for rock n' roll and alternative artists. It's really another look for rap. When hip hop or R&B artists go to look for a photographer, they look for someone that's done hip hop and R&B albums. I wanted something totally different, so I got Dean Karr.
Did you get to interact with any of the circus animals on the sets?
Yeah, that was pretty scary! [Laughs]
What were the elephants like?
They smelled pretty bad, man. I'm not going to lie.
The skits on Thr33 Ringz all feel connected. Would you ever want to turn them into a short film or anything along those lines?
From what I know, I think we are doing a short film, but it's going to be for the upcoming tour that I'm going on with Lil Wayne, Keyshia Cole and Gym Class Heroes. I think the film is for that alone. If it does get released though, it'll be after the tour. It's something for the stage show, for now.
“Why sit around and try to be clever? Just do it.”
Does the new stage show closely mirror the album's visuals?
Definitely! It's awesome.
Would you ever want to delve into other art forms?
I'd love to get into different kinds of things, once that time comes. There's a time for everything for everybody. I just want to make sure it's my time when it comes. I don't want to go in and start doing it when it's not my turn, and nothing happens to it.
Is it hard to alternate between rapping and singing?
Not at all. It's the same thing. Singing is rapping with melody [Laughs]. You know what I'm saying? It's not hard to alternate at all.
Do you write all of your lyrics out, or is it all freestyle?
I don't write down anything. Everything is off the dome. That's the best way to do it, instead of trying to sit there and make up shit. Just go in there and do it. Why sit around and try to be clever? Just do it.
Do you work in the studio with all of the artists you collaborate with or is it usual digital?
Yeah, I don't like to do the emailing thing. If we can't do it in person, then I'll wait until we can do it that way. I try to be there with the person, so they can tell me what they want, and I can be there for the whole process. If there's any element that they don't like, they can tell me right there, instead of going through emails. That's just way too much. It's easier just being there because you can say, "Dude, don't put that in there. I don't like that."
The album has more of an organic sound, like a rock record.
I tried to add more instruments to it. We brought in a keyboardist, a guitarist, all kinds of drummers and other musicians too. We had a real orchestra and strings. I really tried to get into it this time.
Which collaborations were especially enjoyable for you?
Man, I don't know. They were all equal because I was directing all of them [Laughs]. It didn't make a difference to me. It was pretty much the same thing. I think P. Diddy was the most fun to hang around though.
"Therapy" with Kanye West is hilarious.
Yeah, it works! "Therapy" is awesome, man. It was a pretty weird session to see how Kanye works.
Do you learn a lot from working with so many different people?
I've got so many different techniques to make my stuff sound better and record quicker. I've learned all that, and I've got so many techniques. I mash them all together and see what works and what doesn't. It's good now.
Is it a tradeoff with artists where, if they make a cameo for you, you do a guest spot for them?
That's usually what it is. We don't do it for any money. We just do a trade out. If I told somebody that I was going to charge them one hundred grand for me to get on a song, they'd charge me one hundred grand to appear on my album. So that shit's pretty much free. We're not even exchanging money.
Given the popularity of collaborations and guest spots, is hip hop more of a family now?
It pretty much has to be like that! Everybody's falling down. Everybody's losing it. They're saying the rivalries and the beefs are bringing the money revenues down. We'd rather get paid than be fighting all the time. Everybody's all good on that.
I'm just winging it. I have no idea. We'll figure that out in the middle of the tour [Laughs].