T-Pain On Owning His Individuality + Growth In His Music: “I Wanted To Dig Deeper”

T-PAINPhoto Credit: Frito-Lay

How does T-Pain own his individuality? That was the topic of the day as the 2x Grammy winner and 12x nominee prepared for this weekend’s 2021 Grammy Awards and simultaneously dished on his new campaign with Ruffles, “Own Your Ridges.” [The Official Chip of the NBA also partnered with basketball stars Anthony Davis, who launched the Ruffles Lime & Jalapeño as well as a Ruffles-inspired signature shoe, The Ruffles Ridge Tops, and Jayson Tatum, who launched the new Ruffles Flamin’ Hot BBQ,for the campaign — which aired its first spot during the NBA All-Star Game last weekend — in celebration of individuals who live their originality out loud.]  

But back to T-Pain. Here, we chatted with the award-winning rapper (who’s live from a swish home studio) about his new album, Precious Stones, his love of cars (and new venture with drift driver Vaughn Gittin Jr.) and most of all, why you should never have to apologize for being exactly who you are.

T-PAINPhoto Credit: Frito-Lay Tell us about the ‘Own Your Ridges’ campaign from Ruffles, which will be airing during the Grammys. What’s it all about?

Basically, Ruffles has come through with a campaign that’s about owning your uniqueness and owning the things that make you you. I think it goes along with what I’ve been doing in music. When you see the way that I was dressing on my third album, Thr33 Ringz, with the top hats and all that, I feel like those are the things that were just me. I owned up to it, I owned it, I kept it in my heart and poured it out into the world. Ruffles is on the same path, be you and don’t apologize for it.’ It’s pretty cool.

So, how do you ‘own your ridges’? What makes you unique?

My music. My music doesn’t sound like everything else. I don’t go to the charts to see what’s working and copy that [and say]hopefully mine will work too. The decisions I make in my life to be who I am, you know what I’m saying – [from] my hair to everything I do, I make sure that I’m the one that’s making the decisions… It’s always just me. Anytime you see me in the studio — unless it’s someone else’s sessions — it’s just me by myself, my wife and I or me and my kids. I make sure my decisions come from me and that’s how I keep that unique and owned.

Has it always been important to you to retain that sense of self?

Not necessarily – not at the beginning – because I didn’t know that I was giving that away… I didn’t realize what I was missing until I had it. You really don’t know the importance of something until the story switches, until the plot twists. For as long as it has been like that for me, it’s been very important for me, absolutely.

Speaking of the Grammys, does it ever get old or is that something you’re constantly striving for?

It’s a bonus! It’s a dope thing to say at parties. Not a lot of people get to have that opportunity, so I’m always grateful for those things that people would absolutely love to be a part of. It’s something as a culture that we’ve taken for granted because it seems so unattainable, so why even try? It’s not like we try [to actively get nominated], but when it happens it’s like, ‘Oh, OK, yeah, I’ll take that.’ But it’s not like ‘I’m going to make this song so I can win a Grammy.’ And that’s what it is about owning your ridges, when you do something so unique and you don’t even try because it’s inside of you already. These things just come, these things just happen.

The Golden Globes didn’t play out as well as America hoped. Are you apprehensive or excited about the pandemic version of the Grammys?

I’m not sure. I think it’s more on the participants. I think if the participants take things a little serious than it could be great. If people are just showing up, if you’re sitting on the couch with your dogs it’s going to look a little weird. But I think if participants take it as serious as they say they feel like it is, it should be pretty good.

Have you been trying new things during this time?

I guess I’ve been trying to be more open about things. It’s always our job to make sure everybody’s comfortable with us and what we’re doing. I think I’ve been streaming a lot on Twitch since 2014, making sure I get in touch with my fans on the road. I’ve been prepared for this for a very long time, just being at home, but the fact that now everybody else is at home also they finally get a chance to see what I’ve been doing. It’s definitely made me more open. I’ve been able to put my feelings out there and tell a lot of stories about my past. Sometimes people don’t like that because they’ve been a part of it, but what are you going to do? Don’t be a part of my past, I don’t know what to tell you. I [relate it to] having thousands of therapists at one time. It’s been pretty good for me knowing that I have some kind of validity in my stories and the words that I speak. That’s how I’ve been changing the ways that I’ve been doings during this pandemic for sure.

What have you been up to lately? Do you have any exciting projects coming up? What’s this I hear about a drift car?

I’ve been building cars for a while. That’s been a thing. I actually started getting really into foreign cars at the beginning of the pandemic. I had never dealt with anything like Chevys or Fords or anything like that. I ventured out. That was kind of like my sourdough project; my bread-making. I just wanted to see if I could do it and I could. I built a car, and it was pretty cool! It worked out. Now I’m doing two more cars and these are just huge projects for me. I’m getting one done with Vaughn Gittin Jr., one of the best drifters in the country. I feel like that’s an honor in itself. It’s a Mustang and that’s his expertise. I can’t wait to get that back. It should be back actually in a week. Cars have been a big part of my life since I was 15. I’m real big into it now that I have time to sit and tinker.

How about new music?

I have a new album coming up, Precious Stones. That’s another reason I got involved with Ruffles. My campaign is like that. The reason my album is called Precious Stones is [because it’s] about digging deeper within yourself, the stones that you find when you’re mining for anything. The deeper your dig, the more unique the stones become and the more colors come out and more natural cuts come out. You start digging deeper within yourself, the more you’ll find those precious stones. Even if you dig deeper into music, you’ll discover music that you never knew existed or new groups or artists you never knew [about]. It’s about digging deeper and finding that unique thing. This album is pretty much that. It’s very unique. I wouldn’t say it’s classic T-Pain, but it still has that flavor. I just wanted to do something different and explore myself. I wanted to dig deeper.

And finally, what to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

Living. That’s gotta be it. that’s the one we take for granted the most. Regardless of your situation, being alive has to be the best part of this. For the many people that I’ve lost in my life and seeing people fade away, being alive has to be our biggest privilege.

Check out T-Pain’s new commercial with Anthony Davis below!