51. T-Pain’s Vocoder

Dear T-Pain’s Vocoder:

If I could pry you away from your owner’s grasp I would stomp you out the way those LA cops did Rodney King in 1991. Yes, I’d tape it with my camera phone and post it on YouTube for the whole world to see that I slayed America’s favorite most annoying music device.

This is not a joke. I have a sincere hatred for you. I know it’s not good to hate people. But you’re clearly an inanimate object. So my disdain is warranted.

If Teddy had a vocoder in his right hand and Predator-like dreads we could easily mistake him for T-Pain. Actually, I'd rather hear him, Teddy Ruxpin, sing than T-Pain.

If Teddy Ruxpin had a vocoder in his right hand and Predator-like dreads we could easily mistake him for T-Pain. Actually, I'd rather hear him, Ruxpin, singing.

Why do I abhor you so? Because your owner has used you to build his career although he only has one-sixteenth of the vocal ability of one William Hung. OK, I’ll admit it: Teddy “Ruxpin” Pain can hold a note. But he also sings out of tune quite often, which is why he crutches on to aid of Auto-Tune non-stop.

I understand it’s not your fault. Still, I have a question or two that I know you can’t answer: Why did you allow him to record “In Love Wit a Stripper” through you? Why didn’t you malfunction when you first heard him phrasing together the lyrics?

Oh, that’s right. You weren’t warned. He doesn’t write (and neither do I … sure). He just aimlessly freestyles. And you allow him to perpetuate that garbage?

Don’t get me wrong. Some of his garbage smells like filet mignon — all thanks to your ability to enhance a voice that should otherwise be nowhere near a mic. Take “Buy U A Drank” or “Bartender.” They’re catchy tunes that were cool to groove to a few years back. There’s a reason people want him on their singles. They want the popular sound. That still doesn’t mean what Teddy Pain spits is a fine steak dinner. No, it’s more like a Hardee’s Thick Burger or Chipotle burrito. They taste good, but also cause irreparable damage to your life — best known as “The Itis” — for a period lasting up to 24 hours.

Still, biter after biter has grabbed a hold of one of your voice-altering cousins. Kanye West, Jamie Foxx and Britney Spears have taken this route. Kanye is one of the best rappers in the game. Foxx’s vocals are impeccable at times. Britney is …… she just is. But even stars that big have succumbed to you because you’re the “it” thing.

This is baffling. Even our music is fake these days.

I mean, you were cool when Roger Troutman and Zapp recorded “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “More Bounce to the Ounce” and “Computer Love.” (I can still make the beat to “Computer Love” with my hands, chest and mouth.)

That was the 1980s, though. Cancer sticks, Jheri curls, big hair, spandex, biking shorts and mullets we’re still cool then, too. Not so much now (I don’t care what you think, Kanye).

So why don’t you do us all a huge favor: Go back to the time capsule we put you in 1992, and don’t come again until we celebrate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America for the 600th time (2092). Seeing as how you’re an inanimate object, I know you can’t oblige my request. That still doesn’t mean I have to like you or your owner. Again, I don’t like him.

And I currently hate you so much that I pray you find your way underneath the bottom of my size 10 1/2 Tims Kenneth Cole’s or the clear heels of the woman Teddy Pain fell in love with at the start of his career.



P.S. “The Good Life” and “Blame It,” which some how features Ron “Opie Taylor” Howard, Forrest Whitaker and Jake Gyllenhaal, Quincy Jones, Sam Jack, Morris Chestnut, Lauren London and etc.


36 responses to “51. T-Pain’s Vocoder

  1. I can honestly say that I was disappointed with Yeezy using this, but I was even MORE disappointed with Jamie Foxx using this. ‘Blame it on the Alcohol’ is my joint but I was upset when I realized that Jamie Foxx was the artist, not because I don’t like him but because he can actually sing but still chose to use that ‘thing’ on his track. Snoop Dogg uses it, Weezy too, next thing you know Jigga will resort to it, maybe even Bey…sad sad sad…

    • @jlbd: After doing just a little research, I’ve come to the conclusion that a bevy of pop/R&B singers use Auto-Tune to at least correct their pitch. They don’t all use it like T-Pain does, but still, they’re depriving us of real music … like you said, extremely sad … but we live in a fake real world, ya know?

  2. Yes, this whole vocoder thing needs to end. It wasn’t so bad at first, I just ignored it, but I died a little on the inside when I heard lil’ Wayne’s “Prom Queen”. That’s the worst case of vocoder abuse I have EVER heard.

    • @jacque: there are some people out there who love “Prom Queen.” I was talking to one this weekend. I seriously think Wayne needs to put down the weed, cough syrup and vocoder. He needs to stick to spitting lyrics, as does Kanye. The entire trend is just beyond annoying, and I just want to hear real people sing real songs. … I’d rather listen to “Kiss Me Thru Da Phone,” than another auto-tune laced song. OK, that’s a lie.

  3. I despise T-Pain, not only for his misuse of the vocoder (which is a tragedy), but mainly for his absolute coonism. When he showed up at some awards show, I forget which, on an elephant that had a huge gold medallion around its neck I was completely through with him. WHY???

    I’ve given up on there being real artists anymore unless they are on some indie label. These mainstream artists are mainly just for show.

    • @tam: I’m glad I knew nothing about dude riding an elephant with a gold medallion on it, or else i would have been forced to use the word “coonism” myself. And I’m trying to avoid such language. lol.

      I do think there are some good mainstream artists out there. But the thing you find is that they have to force their way through to the mainstream because the labels want sure things. … That’s the problem, no one wants to take a chance. They all just want to regurgitate that same BS until people stop buying it…. then they panic in hopes of finding something fresh.

  4. But… but… what about how awesome “On a Boat” is? That SNL skit is nothing without that vocoder!

    • I haven’t seen that. You’re about to have me searching for it now. I’d rather watch “Jizz in my Pants” 10 times, then find this “On A Boat” clip. lol.

      UPDATE: The best part of that skit is T-Pain admitting that he knows who Poseidon is. I wonder if they fed him that line, if he actually knew or if he just saw the movie?

      • That “On a Boat” skit is hilarious but also kind of sad because I really think that someone would do a song like that and that it would be played on the radio. Especially if it had a dance that went with it.

  5. He’s so freakin annoying. I can’t believe he’s claiming to be in his early twenties. He seriously looks older, lol.

    As for the vocoder, it’s one of the reasons why I don’t listen to the radio. I keep my ATCQ or De La Soul on repeat!

    • @garcelle: love the name. Seriously sounds like a name I’d consider for a daughter along with Garnette. Curious to see what it means now (Letter No. 47). … Glad you vibe to ATCQ and DLS … you have good ears.

      I’ll play with your head for a split sec … You know what Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” is?

      Answer: “Classic example of a [somebody else finish it]” …

  6. I like Garnette. My name derives from grace, gracious….idk my mere is told me it comes from Graciela.

    lol….errr, classic example of what? I think I’m overanalyzing.

  7. thecomebackgirl

    “I have a sincere hatred for you”

    Sincere hatred though???? LOL..

    side rant..has T Pain EVER acknowledged Roger and Zapp?

    I mean they were the pioneers. And i thought the vocoder was FIRST used as some type of voice corrector???

    • @cbg: you can’t hate on a sincere hate. lol.

      i’ve never heard him give props. And i sorta allude to the idea of vocoder as a pitch corrector, but don’t delve into it … that’ the whole part about him him singing off pitch. … He really can’t sing that well, as you already know.

    • I don’t believe he has CBG. And where Zapp and Roger use it ‘tastefully, T-Pain abuses the crap out of it and the madness has to stop! I really could not believe that people really liked that In Love With a Stripper song when it came out. Ughhh…just ughhh!

      T-Pain would not be missed if he fell off the face of the earth.

  8. I am sick of the vocoder also. It’s everywhere. If Jay Z uses it, I’m jumping off a bridge.

  9. I think I’m in the minority here, but I actually like the vocoder. Now Teddy Riley got on my nerves with that mess back in the Blackstreet days, but the current use of it doesn’t bother me at all when used on the right beat and song. If you are remaking a Luther song, and vocode it, you should be shot. But if it’s a T-Pain original, then I have no qualms. if the song is actually any good.

    I think the difference between today’s use and that of Roger&Zapp and 90’s Teddy Riley’s is those dudes sounded like 8 robots singing when they used it, but today it’s more of a pitch correction. That doesn’t bother me all that much.

    And I’ll also say this before the Sandman pulls me off stage (LOL), I thought Kanye’s use of it on his latest CD was perfect and fitting. That CD is one of my faves of the year.

    • @offdwall: Wow. You know I respect your opinion but … just wow.

      Like I said, in the letter, there are some decent auto-tune tracks. My big problem is that the majority of people who are using them cannot sing … therefore, in my mind, they shouldn’t be singing.

      I don’t have hate for Jamie Foxx using it. Dude is talented. But Kanye? I go back and forth about that album constantly because he cannot sing. He can carry a tune, and write a song. But cannot sing. Therefore, no matte how great the theme behind 808s & Heartbreak is, and how real some of the lyrics are … it’s still hot (poop) on fine china [good beats]. lol.

    • thecomebackgirl

      “you are remaking a Luther song, and vocode it, you should be shot.”


  10. T-Pain should actually be giving props to Cher. Pitch correction hardware and software like Auto-Tune has been used for years in pop music, but the engineers that mixed her “Do You Believe” song were the first ones set the pitch correction to such extreme levels that you get that “T-Pain Sound” that everybody jocks today. Also, in order to protect the secret of how they made her vocals sound like that, they told other engineers that the sound was the Roger Troutman vocoder when it actually isn’t. The vocoder is more of a music instrument extention to a keyboard (or guitar in Peter Frampton’s case).

    Also before T-Pain used the sound, it was used by just about everybody who have recorded for Disney’s record company. How am I supposed to, in good conscious, enjoy the songs on the radio knowing that they have the same vocal sound as the theme to “That’s So Raven?”

    • @RVS: thanks for throwing more of the history out there.

      I actually thought about putting a picture of what the vocoder connected to a keyboard looks like in the post. But decided against it because it seemed like it might confuse people.

      Didn’t know about Cher, too. But it doesn’t surprise me. It seems like most everyone in the music industry is using or has used this device.

      Kinda like most people in Hollywood have had some sort of plastic surgery … parallel? I think so.

  11. Quiet as its kept, T-Pain can actually sing. Fa real. I saw him live with Lil Wayne, and that m’effer can actually crune a bit and he plays the piano. I was surprised as a motha. Now he is defininitely no Luther on the vocals, but he can definitely hold his on.

    • Trust, the majority of what he does is corrected by the vocoder. … He uses the vocoder to distort his sound, which people love. But it’s more so about covering up that he doesn’t always have the best pitch … read RVS’s comment above.

  12. Great post Damon! I agree 100%

  13. I enjoy T-Pain and his vocoder. Its his thing. I liked his first album and his singles.

    I am also a fan of Soldja Boy’s “kiss me thru the phone” and “Turn My Swag On” <<< that’s hot fire right there, gets your day started right!

    When I want deep, political discourse I turn on CNN, watch George Stephanopoulus on Sunday, or engage in conversations with colleagues who work in the political arena.

    When I want poignant, soul stirring verses, I read Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Countee Cullen, or countless others.

    When I want to hear “Hov!” “The Rock” “Uh, uh, uh”; “That’s Riiiiiiiight”, “Let’s Get it”; or “King of the South” yelled over a track repeatedly, I turn on Jay-Z, Jeezy, or TI respectively.

    Pastor Troy/Lil Jon/TI are particularly effective when driving defensively on I-285 in Atlanta, the music just fits.

    There’s a time and place for everything, even T-Pain’s vocoder.

    • @gizzle: totally agree with the second to last sentence. There is such a thing as defensive driving music, and Luda’s “Move” is a great example. lol …

      And I had been trying to avoid “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” for a few weeks. It got to me this weekend. *hangs head in shame*

  14. Like I said, T-Pain can really sing. He did it without the vocoder at the concert. I’m not making this up. If you don’t believe me ask anyone who went to the show. We were all blown away.

    • @dash: I believe plenty of what you say, and you know this. But that’s one I’ll have to see/hear for myself. lol. …. And what were you doing at a T-Pain concert anyway? who else was there? T.I.P.? Please have some saving grace. please.

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