Cast your mind back to the halcyon days of 2008. Barack Obama was elected as America’s first ever black president, Usain Bolt broke the world-record for the 100m sprint, and a couple of artists called Lil Wayne and T-Pain dominated the airwaves. The pair were the biggest hip-hop double act in the game. Era-defining tracks such as Flo Rida & T-Pain’s “Low,” Chris Brown and T-Pain’s “Kiss Kiss” and Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” were bumped out of car stereos across the world, Blue-Toothed relentlessly via many a Sony Ericsson, and competed alongside the likes of OneRepublic and Metro Station in the charts. Feel old yet? It might seem like a long time ago, but you might remember just how much the duo completely owned both hip-hop, and pop, that year.
Furthermore, Kanye had just dropped 808’s and Heartbreaks – an album contemporarily panned by his fans for its use of Autotune and lack of beats akin to The College Dropout and his previous albums et al. What it actually solidified was both T-Pain and Lil Wayne’s influence in that period, as well as the beginning of a new era for the recording technique. Many dismissed 808’s and T-Pain and Lil Wayne’s choice to use Autotune as either irritating or lazy, when it was actually innovative musical experimentation. This period laid down the benchmark for a whole host of contemporary hip-hop artists who are reliant on Autotune today, but it’s a sonic tool synonymous with T-Pain and Lil Wayne’s absolute pomp.
So when fans got the news that T-Pain was “feelin reeeeeaaaaalll spontaneous” about dropping a long-lost collaborative album from their golden era they went into meltdown. T-Pain responded to the mass hysteria by punctually posting an 8-track project titled T-Wayne on Soundcloud. And no one was ready for what they were about to be blessed with.
How can something almost a decade old sound so inherently fresh? In our current era of hip-hop popularity, you get everything from the #woke rap of Joey Badass and J.Cole to the ad-lib-oriented, beat driven stylings of Playboi Carti or Travis Scott to the diaspora-inflected beats of Drake rubbing off in wider popular music to list off a few successful crossover hip-hop acts. But you simply don’t hear this brand of hip-hop about any more. T-Wayne is complete with summertime anthems galore – and it’s a barrel of laughs from start to finish.
Right from the beginning, the chemistry between the two is evident to hear. For every T-Pain’s “He rap,” Lil Wayne follows up with a little “And he sang.” The pair’s charming connection throughout the album continues naturally throughout T-Wayne, and it’s easy to see why Wayne commented that the pair “have the exact same energy” in an interview earlier this year. They trade verses breezily over a host of different beats, but it’s their relationship that makes the whole project so endearing – as well as ensure its ability to stand the test of time long after the era in which it was initially written.
That said, there are of course aspects of the project that feel a bit dated. As T-Pain announced, the project is “the lost files from ’08” compiled together, with no particular structure or order to the album. There’s definitely instances that make you realize they’re cuts from the era that today would have been skipped over. For instance, Wayne’s eye-roll-inducing use of “No homo” at the start of “Heavy Chevy’s” or T-Pain’s “Put on my Oakley’s” in “DAMN DAMN DAMN,” (we’re not expecting an Oakley resurgence anytime soon) you can definitely hear the project’s age. But these are minor, minor points… when you play the album through, it’s predominantly a compilation of sick, nostalgic cuts which all go off, one after the other.
Of course lyrically, the album’s themes aren’t exactly on a Kendrick Lamar-level of deepness. Choice bars such as “Yellow Buggati, I could have drove you bananas” and “Shawty, lady, what it Mountain Dew?” all hark back to an era of pop and hip-hop where everything was a bit less “Trap Trap Trap” and a bit more T-Pain performing live on a Segway whilst wearing a top-hat. And that makes it all the better for dropping in 2017.
Tha Bizness are in charge of the album’s production, which ranges from party slappers such as “Heavy Chevy’s” through to the sex-mix worthy “Snap Ya Fangers”. You may be familiar with the “Breathe” beat, which takes Nicki Minaj’s infamous “Did It On ‘Em” instrumental to a distinctly less sassy direction, with T-Pain and Tunechi trading roles fluidly in the singing and rapping department. The most notable beat, however, is indisputably “Listen To Me.” I’m not sure how it’s possible to take a sample from Willy Wonka’s “Oompa Loompa” song and make it bang so hard, but T-Pain managed to do so. Taking over the effervescent, trumpet-led trap beat to explosive effect, T-Pain raps, “If you was wise enough to get wise and wise up and listen / You rap n*ggas wouldn’t sound so fucking insufficient.” Who’d have thought a man usually sporting a top-hat and a constant grin on his face could snap like that!?
It’s an era of hip-hop which didn’t take itself too seriously, (imagine a sample from Willy Wonka ending up on Views!) – and it’s all the better for it. Replacing all the trap-heavy melodies of today, T-Wayne is an album full of classic, wholesome, and joyous melodies – amongst a few other surprises along the way. In short, it’s an album that was definitely well worth the wait, and exactly what we need this summer.
For more like this, read our take on how Lana Del Rey’s ‘Lust For Life’ is going to be a game-changer as soon as it drops right here.