T-Pain: Thr33 Ringz

T-Pain employs his vocoder sonics and everyman attitude on this carnival-themed release.


Thr33 Ringz

Label: Jive
First date: 2008-11-11
US Release Date: 2008-11-11
UK Release Date: 2008-11-17

I'm quickly coming to the realization that T-Pain and I could totally hang out. Not because he's jumped the shark a la Tom Waits, singing about carnivals and midgets and psychedelia most people are completely unable to imagine. Rather, T-Pain is a lot like your average Joe: getting shot down/messed with by girls, not all that good at singing, dreaming of making it big, and wanting nothing more than to get high and hang out with his buddies. But this average Joe managed to get his hands on a vocoder and turn himself into a worldwide sensation.

Anyone who's been near a radio or music television in the last three years knows the sound: the colloquially named robot voice that has appeared on just about every pop song since T-Pain's breakout. But T-Pain uses the vocoder unlike his contemporaries who frequently employ the effect -- specifically recent converts Kanye West, whose upcoming 808s and Heartbreak features it on every song, and Lil Wayne. T-Pain uses the vocoder as a crutch rather than as a way to sound different or weird, because, frankly, T-Pain isn’t weird or different. He just doesn't have the vocal chops to keep up with his high-powered beats on his own. And since his voice and music lack this eccentricity, the dude makes up for it with his general demeanor and by creating an album revolving around the concept that he runs a circus. We're all privy to the inner workings and backstage bickering… when he’s not frequenting his favorite strip club, anyway.

Enter Thr33 Ringz. Though T-Pain's recent affinity for top hats, the cover art of this release, and the every-other-song carnival skits argue otherwise, Thr33 Ringz isn't much more than a standard pop R&B album, rife with love ballads, emcee guest spots, and even the typical Mary J. Blige appearance (read: social awareness). And yet, it's the record's predictability and T-Pain's everymanness, as much as he doesn't want to admit it, that elevates this disc above the general mainstream drudge.

T-Pain, for better or worse, and this record as a whole, can be summed up by one song: "Long Lap Dance", a song that is neither particularly long nor lap dance-enticing. The premise is this simple. T-Pain gets really annoyed when he's geared up for a lap dance right as the song is ending. He wants "two for one tonight". (His words, not mine.) Even as cringe-inducing as the concept might be, there's nothing that more accurately encapsulates T-Pain. Not only does he really just want to sit around and get a lap dance at a strip club, but he is not demeaning towards the women doing it. In fact, he's more than willing to shell out immense amounts of cash, and he encourages the women to go get as much money as they possibly can.

The rest of the disc is pretty typical with, unfortunately, few standouts. "Freeze", which features a guest spot from the increasingly talented Chris Brown, is the obvious all-star on Thr33 Ringz. T-Pain's electronic swooning lays perfectly over the minimalist digitized handclaps and maracas. Meanwhile, Chris Brown kills -- like, really kills -- the chorus, punctuated by the knockout "Freeze!" command. "Can’t Believe It" is basically a worthless single, and "It Ain't Me" has its moments, including the intro, in which T.I. questions, "Have you ever been in the club and have a chick run up on you and tell you to buy her a drink?" But it's ultimately devoid of little more than a good Akon hook and stutter-stepping hook.

And aside from the other sluggish hit, "Chopped N Screwed", the entirety of Thr33 Ringz is almost immediately dismissible. What this record ultimately boils down to is whether or not you're tired of the incessant vocoder effect. If you are, this really isn't for you. But if it's little more than a mainstream trend, T-Pain does it better than anyone. He does pretty well for himself on Thr33 Ringz, and he matches some of the funnier moments on recent R. Kelly discs.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.