T-Pain just touched down in New York and already he’s running through the streets, trying to stop a pandemic that has left the city in a state of chaos. “I can only handle being here like four days in a row, max,” he tells me, picking at some catered fried chicken and cracking up about how dry it is. The two-time Grammy-winning singer and producer from Tallahassee has come from his home in Atlanta to Williamsburg to play a show tonight; at the moment, he’s winding down from rehearsals by blasting bystanders and rioters backstage on his custom PlayStation 4.
He gets some visitors from next door–opening act Bosco and Speakerfoxxx–along with the some bloggers and photogs. The first-person digital dystopia he’s been inhabiting is seamlessly replaced with a different one made of Snapchats, texts and Instas.
T-Pain is occupying multiple worlds without ever missing a beat, or name, or joke in the real one, whichever one that is. But after a while everybody has to wind down: He has a sold out-show to play in an hour.
The room thins out and T-Pain turns up the stereo in the dressing room good and loud. I quickly realize the tracks we’re hearing are all new—this has become an impromptu listening party. You can see his mind now fast at work, split between saving New York on the one hand and analyzing which of the 20 or so fully polished tracks streaming off his diamond-encrusted Apple Watch might end up on the new album.
He’s trying to get it down to 10. Self-produced at his home studio(s) in Atlanta, the forthcoming TP10 will be, as he says “just something for the fans.” From what I hear, the hitmaker might be finding a few billion new ones before summer.
In any case, showtime.
I follow T-Pain back up to his room where he catches his breath and drinks some water, the bill of his hat drenched in sweat.
He picks up his phone and tells me that he’s uploading the new track they had just played downstairs for the first time. Titled “Look at Me,” the track is slated for a premiere tomorrow on Noisey.
And before we take off he shows me the album artwork:
We cross the river back to Manhattan and check into the hotel. Then over to the after party in Queens.
DJ Clue is hosting and T-Pain makes his entrance by playing another new track straight off his iPhone. It’s perfectly built for the place. I hang around for a bit before deciding it’s time to give the man some space.
The world he’s occupying now is no less surreal than the one that was coming out of his Playstation just a few hours earlier. And it’s all his.
Kevin Shea Adams is a photographer and writer living in New York. Follow him here.