It’s been a decade since Tallahassee act T-Pain professed his love for a stripper on wax. In December 2005, the Nappy Boy threw industry trends to the sideline (the year was flooded with releases like Kanye West‘s Late Registration, Jeezy‘s Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 and Lil Wayne‘s Tha Carter II) and used real-life experiences as his mood board for his 18-track 2005 debut Rappa Ternt Sanga. The project hosted his breakout single “I’m Sprung” followed by “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper),” which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and rolled out a monster remix including contributions from Mike Jones to Trick Daddy.
A decade later, the influences drenched in Auto-Tune can still be heard in today’s rotation of hits from the vocal riffs of New Jersey rep Fetty Wap to the warbly anthems of Atlanta native Future and Toronto’s resident singing rapper, Drake. The only thing that’s changed: Pain’s dreads have vanished.
Billboard recently hopped on the phone with T-Pain to press rewind on the album’s cultural significance, his gripe with current artists, how he influenced Kanye West and why he’s no longer gullible.
T-Pain’s mission statement for Rappa Ternt Sanga: I was just in love with music at the time. It was just really my passion. I wasn’t trying to prove a point or knock anybody out of their spot. I really wanted the world to hear my ideas.
On “I’m N Luv With A Stripper” making strip club records mainstream-friendly: On Rappa Ternt Sanga, I didn’t know what was cool or wasn’t cool — I was just going off life. It was just a story at that point. I wasn’t the clever type in the studio. I wasn’t the type to come up with the new dances or the new sayings so I just figured why not share stories of what I did today? I can tell that story in four different ways from different perspectives so at the time, I wasn’t trying to think of it as anything special, anything very different. I just thought I was telling the truth.
The origin of the phrase “I’m Sprung”: I got that word “sprung” from a movie. I think there was a movie called Sprung at that time so then it was like the early ‘90s. It had been a thing already but I didn’t think I was doing anything special or new but that’s just a natural thing for me. People related to me so well. The way I brought across this message was good, my melodies was catchy — all those things just help me tell the story. And I’m sure other people was goin’ through it but too afraid to talk about it I guess at the time but I just thought it was a normal thing because [I was making music] so much. It felt normal as hell to me.
One edit I would’ve made: Me being an artist, I want all my songs to be singles. [Laughs.] I’ll always wish I could’ve redone everything that I do. Back then, I was real lazy and if I missed a note or one of the harmonies was off or something, I wouldn’t go back in and [re]-do it so now when I listen to it, I’m always like, ‘Damn I really should have redone that.’ There’s a harmony I do now on “I’m Sprung” at my shows that I wish I would’ve did. It’s not like major lyric changes or anything like that. Little things I’ve learned throughout the years that I could have applied if I wasn’t such a lazy ass.
That time I sang in Spanish: I did “Como Estas” when I was living in Miami at the time. [Laughs.] It was something that I had to kind of start learning. I did not do well. I sounded terrible singing in Spanish.
Why I wouldn’t rename the album: The reason I named my first album Rappa Ternt Sanga was because it was the name of my first mixtape. Everybody knew about it around Tallahassee and that was just a well-known name so I figured my first [project name] should be something I was already kinda known for.
Why Akon and Styles P were dream collaborations: My fondest memories of those [collaborations] is just having these people do it. As an artist starting out that wasn’t an asshole back then, I was honored. A lot of people got it backwards now. Nobody’s humble anymore. Nobody’s paying homage and everybody think they hot as shit ‘cause they got a mixtape out. Back then, we always paid respect to the OGs and just seeing people like Bonecrusher and E-40 wanted me to do a song with him back then and just having these people I grew up on wanting to do songs with me, that blew my mind. I couldn’t think of anything else in my day like when I heard that Akon or Styles P was getting on a song with me. These are legendary people so I didn’t believe it at first — none of them — I always had my doubts like, “Yeah, right. Nobody’s getting on a song with me.” The verse would come back and it felt like heaven every time.
How Rappa Ternt Sanga blurred the lines between rapping and singing: None of this wouldn’t be happening without Rappa Ternt Sanga or me as a whole entity, period. None of this whole sound of music and it’s not even just rap and R&B — it’s going into pop and techno and dubstep and everything. It’s all kinda came from me. I’m seeing cartoons using Auto-Tune. The crazy thing was if this didn’t come from me, then it would’ve been used a lot more before me. I’ve heard Cher use it, Jennifer Lopez use it then after I did it, the whole world came [onboard]. It’s like all these things happened until I did it.
Looking back on his longevity: It was such a real album that unfortunately it got hated on and people was saying it wasn’t gon’ do nothin’ and it wasn’t gon’ go nowhere after that. Everything I did was a gimmick but here I am, having this interview so that’s kinda weird. [Laughs.]
How the sound will remain relevant: I would say as recent as [Kanye West’s] 808s & Heartbreaks, which was a direct copy of Rappa Ternt Sanga. I’m not just being a dick saying that shit sounds a lot like mine. Like literally [Kanye] told me that he listened to Rappa Ternt Sanga and he made 808s & Heartbreaks. He even brought me in to make it sound more like Rappa Ternt Sanga. [Laughs.] Something that I did that was directly copied got so many awards — that’s evidence right there. Rappa Ternt Sanga is still relevant because the sound is still prevalent in the whole industry. It’s never gonna stop.
On T-Pain then versus now: I would say the Pain that did Rappa Ternt Sanga was definitely more gullible. I didn’t know people were such assholes and such bad people. I trusted everybody, I put everything past everybody, tried to see the good in everybody but now I see what the industry really is and that has skewed my vision a bit. The way I come at things and the opportunities I take, I’m a little more picky now. … That is what I want people to know. This is not a normal thing for me to still be doing my thang, still writing for people, moving to different genres and to still be relevant, having things to do in the music industry. This is not normal.
Revisit Rappa Ternt Sanga on Spotify below.