A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this album has a circus theme, it's definitely not kid friendly; this is a gritty, sexually infused performance. Although somewhat toned down from his previous releases, T-Pain's common topics are the same: drinking, drugging, and clubbing. Women are seen as either sexual prizes or manipulative seducers. Expletives are scattered throughout the songs, but the album's numerous skits contain the most profanity and iffy content. But the theme of most concern is T-Pain's single-minded connection between women and money. On the album, women are after money, men use money to get sex, and T-Pain discusses giving strippers dollar bills. The message that comes across is that women are commodities to be bought, traded, and sold.
What's the story?
Apparently T-Pain has been hearing a lot of people in today's music scene calling him a leader, and the rapper/singer has fully embraced that label on his latest album -- THR33 RINGZ -- deeming himself a "ringleader" of the industry. The album takes the circus theme and runs with it: From the vintage sideshow cover art to songs like "Ringleader Man" and "Welcome to Thr33 Ringz," circus imagery abounds. That said, the majority of the songs cover topics such as hitting on women, clubbing, and hitting on more women.
Is it any good?
With his gangster sensibilities -- drinking, hustling, and objectifying women -- T-Pain is an R&B singer for anyone too cool to listen to real harmonies. But his reliance on electronic production and vocoder sounds calls into question his actual singing ability: Can he actually carry a tune unplugged? There's no denying that the electro-soul on the album has its own funk appeal, but the voice altering becomes monotonous at a certain point. T-Pain's "ringleader" character is somewhat clever, but that also gets old after several tracks. As does his constant bragging.
T-Pain is at his best when he sticks to what made him famous: lush club music that's easy to dance to. At least there are plenty of these tracks to groove to, from "Freeze" (which features Chris Brown, who can actually sing without electronic assistance) to "It Ain't Me" and "Can't Believe It." Although it's questionable whether T-Pain is the ringmaster of the record industry, there's little doubt that he's the ringleader of his own electronic productions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how club music like this impacts women. Gangsta rap that objectifies women can be easy to dismiss when it's full of thumping beats and violent images. But what about upbeat music like T-Pain's that's played in clubs and at parties? Does the pop tone make these lyrics any more socially acceptable?