I still remember the first time I heard a hip-hop song. My cousin and I sat in the bunk room of my great grandmother’s house on a warm summer morning. We huddled around his classic iPod while sharing his earbuds, and played T-Pain’s 2007 classic, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’).” The Florida rapper’s auto-tuned oohs and ahhs blew my mind, and I feel in love with a new genre of music. My cousin continued to be my main source of new taste in music, introducing me to B.O.B. (before he was a flat-earther) and Lil Wayne, among others.
Now, ten years after the release of “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” the influence of T-Pain’s work is more apparent than ever. The whole trend of mumble hip-hop and auto-tuned rap vocals can be traced to T-Pain’s variety of hits in the late aughts. Songs like “I’m ‘n Luv (wit a Stripper)” and “Bartender” did more for rap than anyone could have guessed in 2008, and Kanye West cites the RnB singer as a key influence in his 2008 project 808s and Heartbreak, which in turn inspired a generation of Drakes and rappers who felt comfortable singing about feelings.
This past Thursday, T-Pain released T-Wayne on his Soundcloud and as a free download for those who signed up for his email list. This collaboration between artists T-Pain and Lil Wayne has been rumored to exist for years. For many, this was their Detox, their Act II, their unattainable project they never thought would see the light of day. T-Pain tweeted the day before the release, “This ain’t for y’all new niggas. These the lost files from ’09 and I’m tired of em just sittin on my hard drive.” And they feel like lost files from his hard drive. Songs are unfinished, with uneven mixing and rough-draft sounding verses.
That’s not to say the album isn’t something to listen to — it definitely is. T-Wayne is a time capsule to the Ringtone Rap era, when songs had titles like “Snap Ya Fangas” and the concept of viral hits were mind-boggling. It feels unfair to judge or review this album with a 2017 mindset, as it wasn’t made for the 2017 audience. Any rap fan should check this album out to understand the workings of two of the most important rappers of the late oughts.
There are good and bad songs on this project, and just because I think we shouldn’t judge it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consume it. The flip of the Oompa-Loompa sample on “Listen To Me” is both complete lunacy and insanely exciting, and the moments where Wayne and T-Pain trade bars are definitely awesome as well. But, as with any Weezy album, there are some questionable bars. “This ain’t no Nintendo rap ’cause I don’t play no games,” is a corny lyric, Wayne.
I love this album, not entirely for its content, but what it stands to show music consumers. Anyone interested in Lil Wayne and T-Pain in their heyday, or any rap listener who wants to know more about the era-ization of rap, should definitely check out this project.