T-Pain almost ended up working at McDonald’s

/ Source: The Associated Press

Rapper and singer T-Pain has one of the top singles in the country with “Buy U a Drank,” but just a few years ago, the Tallahassee, Fla., native was contemplating giving up his musical aspirations.

T-Pain, born Faheem Najm, had tried for years to make it big in the industry, producing music for others as well as performing in the rap group Nappy Headz. But, operating on aspiration alone doesn’t pay. T-Pain was broke. Luckily for him, singer and producer Akon stepped in and signed T-Pain to his label Konvict Music.

T-Pain’s first album, 2005’s “Rappa Ternt Sanga,” produced two hit singles, including last year’s “I’m In Luv (Wit a Stripper).” Now, not only is he topping the charts with the first single from his sophomore album, “Epiphany,” but he is one of the music industry’s in-demand producers, working with superstars like Britney Spears and R. Kelly.

AP: Did you ever think about giving up your musical dreams?

T-Pain: Yes. The most horrible time was the day that Akon called me. He called me right when I went to get my application from McDonald’s. I was giving up. I was literally in my dad’s house renting my studio out, running it off of a generator outside. People couldn’t even record. The people who lived behind us was calling the police because of the noise ordinance because they heard the generator all day and all night. I was eating mayonnaise out of the jar. It was bad. I used to sit in front of McDonald’s and ask people for dollars to get me a cheeseburger. It was bad. Then that one day I went to go get that application. I had been hanging out in front of there so much I knew the managers and all. I had no problem getting a job or anything. I went to go get that application and that’s when Akon called me.

AP: You didn’t finish junior high. Do you regret not finishing?

T-Pain: No. I just knew half of the history class was bullcrap. Math class, that helped me out. Science, I wasn’t going to be a scientist. I know how to burn stuff and cut frogs open.

AP: What about missing out on milestones in your life, like prom and graduation?

T-Pain: I didn’t need that. I was in 30-plus clubs when I was 14-years-old. I didn’t want to go and dance with no little girl. All the joys, my parents weren’t big on first prom picture like, “Oh my son is going to prom.” My parents weren’t big on that at all. I just made it how I made it and if I wouldn’t have made that decision I wouldn’t be in front of the camera right now.

AP: Do you want to break away from the vocal synthesizer to prove to people you can sing well without it?

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AP: You are most known for being a singer, but you also rap. Why didn’t you just stick to singing on this album?

T-Pain: Because I can still rap. It is nothing I am going to throw away. I started my album off with rap last time. I started out this album with a rap just letting people know it is still there. It isn’t going to take anything away from the album. If there are certain songs you like, you are still going to like those songs no matter how much I rap I basically was trying to please myself because I like to rap I have to please myself more than anybody else because I’ve got to like it before anybody.

AP: What do you think will surprise people most about this album?

T-Pain: Everybody thinks the album is going to be a bunch of “I’m N Luv (Wit A Strippers).” I am hitting on way more stuff than that. I’ve got a song called “Suicide” that’s talking about the awareness of AIDS and drug addiction. A lot of people don’t think I got songs like that. They see my image and they go, “He’s hood. He is going to talk about some hood stuff or a lot of sex on his album.” I hit on a lot of different subjects.

AP: You produced two songs for Britney Spears. What is your impression of her?

T-Pain: That was the most beautiful thing in the world. Do you know why she was shaving her head? Because it was so important to other people. She is like, “Listen. Don’t touch my hair anymore. Stop touching my hair.” She still had hair and all that (when I worked with her). People were like, “We’ve got to make your hair before you go outside. You can’t leave.” She went ... “Now I don’t have hair. What you going to do?” You can’t hate R. Kelly. You can’t hate Britney Spears because you know what, no matter what Britney Spears been doing, she’s still on TV. Every time I say something about her, “People are like, ‘For real, Britney Spears. How was that?” You can’t get rid of these people no matter what they do. R. Kelly, 16 years in the game, one incident can’t take away the last 15 years.

AP: What do you want people to know about this album?

T-Pain: I’ve made club songs and I’ve made radio songs and I’ve made the car songs. These songs are T-Pain songs. These are my songs. This is all me and it came from my heart. If people like this album that means they like me as a person.