T-Pain‘s biggest hits may have soundtracked fans’ lives, but for him it serves as a reminder of a time when he was searching for acceptance from others.

“I didn’t want to do ‘Freeze,’ I didn’t want to do ‘Buy U a Drank,’ I didn’t want to do most of the songs that are my biggest hits. Because, you know, I’m an artiste,” he tells Billboard. “Back then, when I got done with a song, I was always thinking, ‘People are going to like this,’ and not, ‘I like this.’”

That desire for validation spilled into his fashion and the way he carried himself. He dumbed down his speech, drank more and used his money, like other rappers, to purchase and show off material items.

“I remember forcing happiness,” T-Pain recalls. “I remember being drunk a lot. I remember going out to clubs in order to be happy because it wasn’t the studio, it wasn’t work.” 

Eventually he realized that by hiding his true identity, “anybody outside of the rap community just straight up thought I was stupid.”

“It felt bad as s***. I didn’t want to be the stupid rapper that everybody thought I was going to be. I wanted to be better for my wife. I wanted to articulate myself. I had to change: to be who I really was and not who everybody wanted me to be.”

T-Pain has since ditched the Auto-Tune, occasionally dabbling in music to fund his hobbies. He displays his nerdy side in his music, and his love for gaming is especially known to Twitch streamers.

“It’s five people in this house that I need to like me: my wife, my kids, myself. That’s all I need,” he says of his new mentality. “That’s all I ever needed.”

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