Q&A with T-Pain, Lord of the Party

Ahead of his Friday performance at Roseland, the Grammy-winning R&B star talks about strip clubs, homophobia, the endurance of Auto-tune, and why he hates hoppy beer.

By Marty Patail July 31, 2014

T-Pain gets a lot of grief. 

For a man who has over 50 hit singles, two Grammys, and 300 million YouTube views, the R&B superstar simply can't escape the dour judgement of critics who delight in hanging the grim state of pop music around his neck. For some, it's his (over)use of the pitch-correcting software called Auto-Tune. For others, it's his lyrical obsession with strippers and exotic sex positions. And for others still, one suspects, it's that they simply don't like R&B.

Either way, every new hit T-Pain single invites lamentations about the "death of music."

All this wailing and gnashing of teeth misses the point, of course, which is that music can be fun. (Remember?) And if T-Pain is anything, he's fun. 

On Friday, August 1, T-Pain plays the Roseland before kicking off his 17-city "Drankin Patna" tour later this month. Natually, we asked him the burning questions. 

Portland is a legendary strip club town. Did you know we have the highest number of strip clubs per capita in the US?
I did not know that. That is insane. I may have to do a little tour around the city. (Laughs). I knew about the bars, but I didn’t know anything about the strip clubs. That is good information.

They’re literally everywhere.
Aww man. Well, I’m not bringing my wife then. (Laughs). It’s gonna be great. My wife did want to come [to Portland], because of the bars she saw on the Food Network. But I didn’t know about the strip clubs. I may have to take a separate trip. Thanks, man. 

Do you ever get tired of strip clubs?
I don’t get tired of strip clubs, I get tired of strippers. They tend to get real comfortable and annoying sometimes. And some of them like to talk a lot. That’s not what we’re there for. 

What makes a bad strip club?
A bad strip club, there’s nowhere to sit at. There’s no secluded place where I can pretty much do what I want to. The strippers have bad attitudes, for some reason. The morale in the place is bad. You can just tell everybody’s all sad and shit, and they’re trying to figure out what to do with their life. You can just tell. I’ve been to a few where I’m like, “We need to get the hell out of here before I get depressed. This is just a bunch of girls trying to make their parents mad.”

But the number one thing that makes strip clubs terrible is no nudity. That’s not a strip club. That’s a club with f••king go-go dancers. That’s the number one thing. If they can’t get nude, then c’mon on, man.

What are the laws like in Florida?
Oh, it’s nothing in Florida: you can close at 7 in the morning, drink the whole time. North Carolina has been the worst place. You can’t get bottles at the table. They don’t take credit cards so you gotta have cash. So you have to go to the ATM, and I just got a new credit card, so I could only get out $800 at a time. I had to go to the ATM like 40 f••king times. They charge you $18 every time you do it. Jesus Christ. It’s stuff like that. (Laughs)

What do you say to the people who say Auto-Tune is dead?
If they’re not doing what I’m doing, and they don’t have the revenue that I have, then I don’t think they can say what’s dead and what’s not. Someone should tell the Grammy academy. Someone should tell the BET awards. Someone should tell the Teen Choice awards. I’m still winning awards, and that’s weird if Auto-Tune is dead. (laughs)

Do you ever feel like it’s limiting?
It’s not limiting at all. I’m one of the few people that don’t use it live. A lot of people that use it on their music have to use it live. I sing live, and I let people know that I can still sing without it. I make sure that I have at least two songs on every album without Auto-Tune. Those songs are always real serious, and real heartfelt, so of course they get skipped over. People only listen to the singles and shit like that. So [the critics] are really the close-minded people. Listen to some other shit.

You’ve talked about homophobia in rap music before. Do you think the situation is getting better?
Yeah, I think so, man. But I don’t think it’s getting better because it’s actually getting better. I think it’s getting better because rappers are afraid of being criticized for being homophobic. They probably still are. They probably just say [the right things] in interviews to not be shunned by the community. So publicly it’s getting better, but I don’t know who’s feeling what.

Is that your experience from artists you know?
Of course. A lot of people I hang with, they’ve been taught that since they were young: don’t associate with gay people, don’t be around gay people because you don’t want to be seen as gay. That’s just what they’ve been taught. 

Do you have gay friends?
Tons of them. The most fun people in the world. Very strong, too. I tried to arm-wrestle a gay guy once, and he beat me in a second. (Laughs)

The Roseland Theater
Aug 1
Switching subjects: Is there ever a time when you say, ‘No, I’m just gonna stay in?'
Oh yeah. The whole day after partying. But I can’t really concentrate on anything, because I’m most likely still drunk from the night before.

What’s your hangover cure?
More alcohol. That’ll do it. I’ve been getting into beer a lot for some reason. It’s weird. Ever since I started drinking beer instead of hard liquor I haven’t really made a fool of myself anywhere. It’s kind of my drink right now.

What’s your brand?
Bud Light Platinum is what I can stomach the most. I’ll try some imported stuff sometimes. I tried something called Tiger’s Tail, or some shit like that. It was super strong and super hoppy, but super nasty. Extra gross. Took one sip and let it go.

We have a lot of those kinds of beers in Portland.
Yeah. Super gross.


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