T-Pain remembers that an interaction he had with another music star, Usher, was the moment he began questioning himself.
“Usher was my friend. I really respect Usher,” T-Pain explains in an episode of the new, eight-part Netflix doc, This Is Pop. “And he said, ‘I’m gonna tell you something, man. You kinda f***ed up music.'”
The comment was a reference to T-Pain’s frequent use of Auto-Tune, an effect music producers began using in the late ’90s to alter voices. He became strongly associated with the effect in the mid- to late aughts, with songs such as “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” “Blame It” and “Low.”
But it had been used earlier: Cher’s “Believe” is full of it, and T-Pain first heard it on a remix of Jennifer Lopez’s song “If You Had My Love.” The man born Faheem Rasheed Najm became mesmerized instantly. And he — correctly, as it turned out — thought it could help set him apart from the many other aspiring rappers out there.
When Usher made his comment, T-Pain thought his fellow artist was joking, so he laughed.
“And then he was like, ‘Yeah man you really f***ed up music for real singers.’ I was like, ‘What did I do? I came out and I used Auto-Tune,'” T-Pain said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, you f***ed it up.’ I’m like, ‘But I used it, I didn’t tell everybody else to start using it.'”
By then, T-Pain, who even had an app that allowed people to sing along to songs in his altered voice, realized the conversation about the often maligned practice was serious. (Another critic was Jay-Z, who name-checked T-Pain in his 2009 song “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).”
“That is the very moment, and I don’t even think I realized this for a long time, but that’s the very moment that started a four-year depression for me,” he said.
Usher’s record label did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.
T-Pain eventually rebounded, and the former Masked Singer star is one of the many artists, including Shania Twain, Boyz II Men, Oasis, Linda Perry and many more, featured in the new docuseries examining some of music’s biggest moments.
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