Interview: T-Pain Talks About His ‘Happy Place’ and New Album

Stoicville may sound like an esoteric location referenced within the pages of Dr. Seuss’s classic book “Oh The Places You’ll Go,” but it’s not.

There’s no use in pulling out a map of all 50 states because it isn’t an actual town or community. You wont find it. We tried. Stoicville is a fictional destination filled with happiness, isolated from society. It’s as close to euphoria as there is—according to T-Pain. The rapper-turned-singer says that’s exactly where he’s been during his two year hiatus from music.

“That’s my happy place—that’s where I’ve been hiding at,” T-Pain confessed to VIBE. “When little kids cover their faces that’s the place that they go. Everybody is so stoic there, and there’s no emotions, no judging. Everybody pays attention to themselves because that’s everybody’s happy place. That’s where we all need to be at. We all need a place like that.”

Pain has titled his fifth studio album after his fictitious residence and is ready to embark on a return to the industry he took by storm in 2005. As auto-tune continues to assist struggling singers today, the man largely responsible for its prominence in today’s hip-hop scene is lighthearted, hung-over and ready to break his silence.

T-Pain: Hey, I’m way more hung-over than I should be. [Laughs]

VIBE: Oh okay, did you have a wild night?
Not really a wild night I was in the studio with Tyrese last night.

How did that go?
It actually went pretty good. That was our first time working together, he was in Atlanta shooting Fast 7. I don’t know why they have so many of those damn movies.

Were you guys recording something for his project or yours?
We’re working on his, and it’s going to be great. We’ve been such good friends that we didn’t get in the studio together yet. [Laughs]

Is it something for the ladies?
Of course, that’s all he do.

I know it has been a few months now, but I want to know what has the reaction been to your hair cut?
Some people like it and some people say I should’ve kept it. People don’t like change, people like familiarity, and they don’t like things to be unfamiliar to them. I understand that. It’s the same thing when Omarion cut his hair, Ludacris, Trey Songz, Busta Rhymes. People were like ‘oh no what you do that for?’ It’s pretty much the normal now. It’s just hair, it grows back.

Ludacris won a Grammy after he cut his hair. Do you think you’ll be more successful after?
I just think he had better music at the time. I don’t think it had anything to do with his hair. I already have two, so I don’t think that did anything, but hey!

You’ve mentioned that cutting your hair and your new album signifies a new you. What can fans expect from the new T-Pain?
It’s time for a change. It’s time to be who I want to be. The hair wasn’t for entertainment or nothing. It definitely wasn’t my power. A lot of people keep saying your hair is your strength but it didn’t change anything. It didn’t make me a better person. It’s just something that I wanted to do, something that the person inside of me wanted to do. It’s time to bring out what I need to bring out. In order to do that, I felt like I needed to sacrifice something dearly, which was my hair. I had to push everyone off and just have some “me” time. I haven’t had a break in eight years, so taking this break is just the greatest thing I can do right now.

What have you been doing with your free time?
Its been all family, I’ve been taking care of my kids. Making sure my wife is happy. Just being a husband and a father. That’s the most important thing to me. When I was on the road 8 years straight, it got to a point where my kids were scared of me, they didn’t know if I was just this guy who came around every now and then. [laughs] Now they tell me they love me every day. I really love the time I’ve taken off and they appreciate it more than I do.

Your fifth album is called Stoicville: Rise of the Phoenix – Why’d you choose that title?
That’s my happy place, that’s where I’ve been hiding at. When little kids cover their faces, that’s the place that they go. That’s my happy place basically, everybody is so stoic, no emotions, no judging. Everybody pays attention to themselves because that’s everybody’s happy place. That’s where we all need to be at, we all need a place like that.

How do you think the fans will relate?
Everybody needs that one place where they can go. I think they can relate because it’s so free in Stoicville. You can do whatever you want to do and this is what I want to do, this is the music that I want to do. It’s not the label, it’s not my management, it’s not my friends, this is me. A lot of people are saying this is the best music I’ve made in years.

I’m excited! How much of it did you produce and write?
93-95 %. I was venturing off trying to find hits, trying to find closure in other producers and other writers. I already had songs that were pretty dope, I started making beats again and got proud of myself. That’s what really happened, I wasn’t proud of myself. I was really disappointed in the stuff I was doing because it didn’t sound like anybody else, then I realized that’s what made T-Pain, It didn’t sound like anybody else. I got back to that and I think I’m back to what I need to be.

You once said that it got to a point where people were expecting you to always be partying, always “winning” and always in the club. How hard has it been to live up to those expectations?
It’s not really difficult when you realize you don’t have to. We’re celebrities, we do what when we can. We don’t have to live up to the expectations. We try to make people happy, that’s the most difficult part – make everybody happy. At the same time we don’t have to. Ain’tnobody going out their way to make us happy. We do what we can when we can do it.

It sounds like spiritually you’re in a good place right now by your responses, it seems like you’ve really grown. Do you agree?
Yeah, I’ve definitely grown up. I’m old as hell. I just had my 29th birthday three days ago. I’m old as shit, it’s terrible.

Happy belated Birthday!
Thank you.

Are there any other artists we wouldn’t expect you to be working with that are on the new album?
Not right now, I’ve been doing the whole “me” time thing. I’ve been doing everything I need to do. It’s basically I’m trying to do everything I gotta do and when it’s time to actually look for artists and I ain’t got to do nothing else. Such and such can go on this song. This person can go on the other song, it’s really just a picking game for me.