*Though hip hop star T-Pain has scored Number 1 songs and GRAMMY Awards, his “The Masked Singer” win last week represents a special, meaningful accomplishment, according to Jay Lyriq, a childhood friend who has gold and platinum collaborations with Pain.
During the Fox singing competition, T-Pain and other contestants performed in disguise and their identities were not revealed until they were eliminated. T-Pain beat out other semi-finalists pop icons Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond, Joey Fatone and La Toya Jackson.
“I was extremely happy for him,” Jay says about T-Pain’s victory.
“I know it was tough for him to do it but just to be recognized as a good singer. No Auto-Tune. No nothing and he’s always had a good voice.”
The Auto-Tune effect on T-Pain vocals on hits “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” Flo Rida’s “Low” and Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” would be a blessing and a curse. With his extreme success that fueled an over saturation of songs from other artists using the Auto-Tune technology, T-Pain received a backlash that included Jay-Z’s 2009 song “(D.O.A. Death of Auto-Tune).”
When T-Pain was named The Masked Singer champion, he said he was grateful for the opportunity: “This helped me get my voice out there even more.” Jay knows how important this win is to T-Pain. Jay and T-Pain began working together when they were “14 to 15 years old,” growing up in Tallahassee. T-Pain was in the Nappy Heads rap group and Jay was a member of the R&B Boys, both signed to T-Pain’s father’s Stargate Platinum Plus Records.
As the group members later pursued solo opportunities, T-Pain shared with Jay his interest in singing more.
“He didn’t think people would accept his voice because his voice was different,” Jay recalls. “He got so used to people telling him, ‘Oh you can’t sing. Oh, it doesn’t sound good.’” But Jay encouraged him and offered to help. “I was like, ‘Pain, well you can’t worry about it,’” he says. “‘You can’t worry about what people are going to say about it. If it’s on you like that to sing let’s get in here and let’s make it happen. I’ll help you with your harmonies. I’ll help you with your arrangement.’ It actually took off for him.”
The Masked Singer title is a major affirmation that people would like T-Pain’s natural singing voice.
“For him to go and do this competition, that basically to me solidified him,” Jay says. “He was 100 percent authentic. Now everybody is recognizing that he does have a voice and he can sing.”
The news of the win comes just a few weeks after the passing of T-Pain’s brother Rasheed Najm, who was also in the Nappy Heads group. In December, T-Pain shared on Instagram that he paid his brother’s hospital bill and thanked the staff for the care they provided.
“I was happy for him because he just lost his brother who is a legend,” Jay says. “We were all at the funeral. We had a big get together in Tallahassee for him. Long Live Sheed.”
Last month, Jay released a revamped version of 112’s R&B classic “Cupid.”
“I’m just trying to bring the feeling of R&B music back, good music,” says Jay, who co-wrote T-Pain’s platinum single “Up Down (Do This All Day)” and performed with Pain on BET and Jimmy Kimmel Live! “I feel like there’s a void and I feel like when you listen to ‘Cupid’ and you listen to some of my records coming up, everybody of every age will be able to infuse what we’re missing in R&B with a little bit of what’s going on today. People can just expect real R&B, real life situations, stories, just told from my point of view.”