Florida singer, rapper and producer T-Pain profoundly impacted hip-hop in the mid-2000s despite being an R’n’B artist. The vocalist (real name Faheem Najim) is most known for popularising auto-tune with his sophomore album, Epiphany, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and launched him into fame.
However, in an episode of the 2021 Netflix series This Is Pop, Najim unveiled that he fell into a long and dark depression after the renowned vocalist Usher told him that his extreme use of auto-tune had ruined the art of singing.
Since T-Pain first used auto-tune in the mid-2000s, it has become the de facto way rappers deliver their verses in the US, with artists such as Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert using it to a great extent on songs such as ‘Poland’ and ‘XO Tour Llif3’.
After T-Pain began using auto-tune, many other artists, most notably Lil Wayne, started using it, and it quickly became a polarising tool, with many asserting that it was turning rap into a melody-driven gimmick.
However, it wasn’t fans bickering that upset Najim. Instead, it was when his counterpart, Usher, told him his debut album messed up music forever. Opening up about it in the documentary, the ‘I’m Sprung’ singer disclosed, “Usher was my friend. I really respect Usher. And he said, ‘I’m gonna tell you something, man. You kinda fucked up music.'”
He continued, “And then [Usher] was like, ‘Yeah man you really fucked up music for real singers. I was like, ‘What did I do? I came out, and I used Auto-Tune.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, you fucked it up.’ I’m like, ‘But I used it, I didn’t tell everybody else to start using it.'”
Unfortunately, Usher’s comments hurt T-Pain so profoundly that it sent him into a depression. Unveiling more about his low, the singer explained, “That is the very moment, and I don’t even think I realized this for a long time, but that’s the very moment that started a four-year depression for me.”
In 2009, Jay-Z made it clear that Usher wasn’t the only person in the industry who disliked auto-tune, choosing to title the lead single of The Blueprint III, ‘D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)’ which took aim at the overuse of Auto-Tune in hip-hop. Although T-Pain did have a lull in his career during the 2010s, he ended up producing music for a lot of highly respected artists including Bruno Mars and K Michelle. You can hear Najim speaking about his battle with depression below.