The Tallahassee native born Faheem Najm came up as a rapper in a group called Nappy Headz. As a solo artist, he went pro as T-Pain after he recorded "I'm Fucked Up," a personalized take on Akon's "Locked Up." Akon heard it and signed T-Pain to the Jive/Zomba-supported Konvict Muzik label. The self-produced and self-written "I'm Sprung," T-Pain's proper debut single, was released in August 2005 and went Top Ten pop and R&B/hip-hop. That December, the album Rappa Ternt Sanga arrived, supported by the follow-up single "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)," another Top Ten hit on multiple Billboard charts. The two singles earned RIAA platinum certifications, and the parent full-length eventually went gold, situating T-Pain as a major breakthrough artist of the mid-2000s.
The success wasn't a fluke. During the next several years, as Auto-Tune usage became increasingly common in commercial music -- used more frequently to mask vocal deficiency than as the equivalent of an effect pedal for a guitar -- T-Pain continued to make hits. Through 2012, a period that involved the guest-loaded albums Epiphany, Thr33 Ringz, and the RCA-supported rEVOLVEr, he entered the pop Top Ten as a lead artist four additional times, highlighted by the chart-topping "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')." Through assists on songs such as Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss," Kanye West's "Good Life," Jamie Foxx's "Blame It," and Pitbull's "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)," his name was either near or at the top position with even greater frequency. Additionally, "Good Life" and "Blame It" made T-Pain a two-time Grammy Award winner. The former took Best Rap Song, and the latter won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
T-Pain's lasting commercial appeal was reaffirmed in 2014 with Happy Hour: The Greatest Hits, an anthology containing all five of his platinum singles as a lead artist. "Up Down (Do This All Day)," a new inclusion released to promote the set, became the singer's sixth headlining single to go platinum. A fifth LP provisionally entitled Stoicville was in the works, but by mid-2017, T-Pain had released only singles, including collaborations with Juicy J, Lil Yachty, and Young M.A. That November, however, he issued Oblivion, a gleefully hedonistic album -- his last one for RCA -- with singles featuring Blac Youngsta and Tiffany Evans.
Subsequently signed with the independent Cinematic Music Group, he quickly returned the next year with Everything Must Go, Vol. 1 and Everything Must Go, Vol. 2, his first commercially available mixtapes. After he was revealed to be the winner of the first season of Fox's The Masked Singer, T-Pain offered his sixth proper full-length, 2019's 1Up, which fared better on the Billboard 200 than Oblivion. Later that year, Tory Lanez sampled "I'm Sprung" for "Jerry Sprunger," a number 44 pop hit crediting T-Pain as a featured artist. In 2020, RCA compiled The Lost Remixes, and T-Pain continued issuing singles such as "Wake Up Dead," another collaboration with Chris Brown. ~ Andy Kellman & Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi
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