A crowd review of T-Pain: ‘We were the only ones who knew the words’


Josh Christian | Photography Editor

Rapper T-Pain performed hits like “Booty Wurk (One Cheek at a Time)” and “Bartender” at his show April 6 in Avron B. Fogelman Arena at Devlin Fieldhouse.

T-Pain performed the soundtrack of my childhood Thursday night. The rhythm and blues artist played every middle school anthem from “Bartender” to “I’m Sprung” and Chris Brown’s legendary “Kiss Kiss.” I danced and relived memories with my friends, throats burning from screaming the lyrics until I realized we were the only ones who knew the words.  

My body was pressed against the barrier from the weight of the entire crowd. As I turned my back to T-Pain, looking past my friends and towards the bodies compressing my own, I saw faces looking blindly towards the stage, incoherently mumbling the words I knew by heart. I was confused. They did not have the same relationship I have with R&B and rap music.

T-Pain’s career grew from humble beginnings. Born Faheem Rashad Najm, he was raised in Florida by a low-income family. Najm, as a black man, struggled with identity and racial conflicts, as with any person of color. What makes his circumstances particularly complex and perhaps a greater struggle is that his family practiced Islam, yet another targeted identity on the artist’s list.

Though his music may come off as shallow, or the work of just another artist making quick hits for clubs, the life behind the artist adds a new depth and meaning to his persona. To become the hit maker he is today, Najm had to overcome and endure the circumstances he was born into and create his own path, something with which many who listen to his music identify.

The adversity Najm faced, and continues to face given the multiplicity of his identities, is what made his sound so relatable. To me, his story is an inspiration and his music the perfect companion for the few moments that I can be carefree.

Every beat drops in sync with my own heart. The lyrics he sings and raps fall perfectly in tune with the narratives of those listening through their radios. His music sounds like a Friday night or a car ride back home after school.

Our hips and legs move to his songs, heads bop in the backseat as we beg our moms to “please, turn it up,” and they do, because T-Pain is fun. It seems so simple, but fun is a precious commodity on days when it seems tomorrow’s sunrise only brings another burden. T-Pain’s music is like a lunch break, a quick chat with your best friend on the way to class. For so many people like myself, T-Pain is an unsung hero.

Before the concert, I was excited to be in a space with people who understood that seeing T-Pain is, in some way, less of a form of entertainment and more of an experience. Afterward, I realized that not everyone feels the same way about this artist or many other artists in this genre.

Underneath the catchy beats and choruses, we love to play at parties are stories of people like me. Finding these stories is almost like joining a secret club: You have to live it to get it.

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