For those of us firmly in the millennial age range, the announcement Wednesday that T-Pain will be the halftime performer at Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs likely sparked a lot of nostalgia. Sure, we now have to ice our backs after breaking it down to songs like “Buy U A Drank,” “In Love With A Stripper” and “Booty Wurk,” but the Florida rapper who popularized Auto-Tune ruled our worlds — and our playlists — in the mid-to-late 2000s.
Buzz around the celebrities likely to attend this weekend’s football matchup has firmly focused on Taylor Swift potentially making an appearance in Charm City to support her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. But we feel compelled to remind you that T-Pain and T-Swift have a history.
Join us on a journey back to 2009 when Barack Obama was president, “Glee” debuted its first episode and a 19-year-old Ms. Swift, still firmly a country music artist, was opening the CMT Music Awards. In a parody of her song “Love Story,” Swift and fellow hitmaker T-Pain, then 24, paired up for “Thug Story,” a music video that opened Country Music Television’s annual show, both clad in white T-shirts, fronts and baggy pants.
In it, the self-proclaimed “8-foot-4, blonde hair to the floor” songstress raps about her predilection for baking (”You out clubbing? I just made caramel delights”) and crafting (”I knit sweaters, yo!”) backed by T-Pain’s melodic riffs and moral support.
T-Pain: Singer turned gangster
Taylor: You don’t want to fight me!
T-Pain: Straight to the top
Taylor: In my extra-small white tee!
The song is a deep cut for Swifties, and frankly more than a little embarrassing in the way it leans into stereotypes about the hip-hop genre. (Remember: This was the year of “Glee.” Cringe was in.) But the video serves as a reminder of the position the two stars held in the music world at the time and, more importantly, their staying power.
Swift, of course, still rules the airwaves and smashed records with her “Eras” tour. T-Pain, once criticized and then ostracized for his use of Auto-Tune, has made a resurgence sans machinery, proving to listeners old and new that he had the staggering vocal prowess all along. A trip to NPR’s Tiny Desk in 2014, “Masked Singer” win in 2019 and last year’s cover album, filled with rock songs and classic ballads, has only added to his bona fides.
While it’s unlikely to expect Swift to join T-Pain on stage, we can certainly hope for a photo of a behind-the-scenes meeting that transports us back to our younger days and a halftime show that’ll make us dance like crazy.
In the meantime, hand me the Icy Hot.