CHULA VISTA, Calif. — T-Pain knows that whatever he does — including his latest album, "rEVOLVEr," which he calls the best record he's ever done — there will be people who will just dismiss him as that Auto-Tune guy.
It doesn't bother him though. While it may be a blow to his ego, he soothes the slams with his ever-hearty laugh — and a glance at his checkbook.
"Say what you wanna say — I'm still rich," he said, chuckling while sitting in his tour bus. "It's not going to change anything."
Indeed, nothing seems to have derailed the 27-year-old singer and producer and his hit-making magic since he made his debut with songs like "I'm Sprung" and "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)" in 2005. Those songs started a platinum-chain reaction of hits, including "Buy U a Drank," ''Can't Believe It" and "Good Life" with Kanye West, which earned him one of his two Grammy Awards.
His reliance on Auto-Tune, the vocal aide that gives a computerized effect to his voice, became his signature sound. Its use grew so ubiquitous with other acts that it sparked a backlash. Jay-Z famously declared "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," but it still thrives. In fact, T-Pain's app that lets people add that effect to their voice is a popular one.
Speaking last month on the night of his final concert as the opening act for Chris Brown's "F.A.M.E." tour, T-Pain was weary as he waited for his moment onstage. But through laughs, he had enough energy to talk about his latest album, his critics and the truth in his music.
AP: Have you ever considered not using Auto-Tune because of all the criticism?
T-Pain: No. It made me do it more, just to annoy the hell out of people (laughs). ... It made me realize that when I don't use it, people don't pay attention to them songs. I've got a song on every album, two songs as a matter of fact on every album without Auto-Tune, and that's the song that nobody talks about. It's weird. And like my biggest hit, the biggest hit song I had, the longest-running song was Flo Rida's "Low," and that didn't have Auto-Tune on it at all, and people had no idea. They just feel like anytime they hear me, it's going to be Auto-Tune. Anytime people read my tweets, they hear it in Auto-Tune. It's weird. I don't know (laughing).
AP: How have you grown performing in the spotlight, dealing with criticism?
T-Pain: Most of the blogs and stuff, it's just their opinion. It's just that one person. They didn't ask anybody else how they felt. ... It's just their opinion, and I can ask anybody that. It doesn't have to be a journalist. I can just go on Twitter and say, "Hey guys, how did I do tonight?" (Laughs.) That's what I look to, I look to the people who actually came there for a concert, and not somebody who came there looking for some bad stuff to say, because that's what's interesting, that's what makes your blog interesting. ... I look to them (fans) more than anything, because journalists don't buy my album anyway ... most of them have said I hate T-Pain.
AP: Does this record represent a different T-Pain?
T-Pain: It's a really different T-Pain. It's a more confident T-Pain on the album, but I'm like scared. I don't know what to do. I don't know how this is gonna work out. This album is really good, though. It's so good that I went back just to listen to all of my other albums, and I was like, I don't know why I thought people would like that. It's bad. It's like, such a difference
AP: If you were to go back and look at any bad reviews, would you agree with them?
T-Pain: No. No. That's just how I express myself. That's what music was created for, music was created for people to express themselves. Whether they do a good job to you or not, they got those feelings out. You know what I'm saying? Everything that I sung about and everything that my songs were about, these were things that I was going through. ... If someone is not as talented of a rapper than another rapper, that doesn't mean that they are not saying the same thing. You guys live right next to each other, it's just you can't express yourself as good. ... It doesn't matter how good you do, it's about how you get it out and if you really meant what you said. I know the albums was terrible and I sounded terrible, but you can get somebody that's singing great that let somebody write their feelings down or let somebody else produce a track for them and you just like blindly having to feel like you're being an actor, you're a singing actor, and that's not what I do, everything I do comes from the heart, and that's harder to do.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the music editor for The Associated Press. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi