There was a time in the early-mid 2000s when you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing a T-Pain song, but then he pretty much went silent for the four years following the flop of his last album, Revolver. Today, he dropped the DJ Drama-hosted mixtape The Iron Way, and I think it's safe to say Teddy Bend-Er-Ass Down is back.

T-Pain has been building a freight train's worth of steam in the lead-up to this tape, and he's quashed a lot of prevailing doubts as to his abilities along the way. Those are doubts you may have yourself, and you probably will share them in the comments. But let me save your fingers the trouble. The self-proclaimed Tallahassee hero is so much more than a guy that sings with the aid of autotune. Still have doubts? In December, he did an NPR Tiny Desk concert. An excellent acoustic concert that smashed all those autotune criticisms to bits. The set was incredible, and a nice little hello to all the haters.

He's also been dropping a couple of singles along the way. And you know what? They didn't all make it on The Iron Way. The turned down, brooding track "Stoicville" that T-Pain dropped back in November? Nope, that's for the album. Just last weekend, he performed a surprise 42-song set at SXSW. It was incredible! Especially when you consider that just a few years ago, T-Pain's career was kaput. All signs point to good things to come.

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In the time between Revolver and now, T-Pain went through something of a transformation. Outwardly, he cut his hair and dropped the gimmicky clothing, and inwardly, he grappled with deep depression and general disillusionment with the music industry and life itself. Last year the New Yorker did a great profile on him that delves further into all of that. It's worth a read, even now.

Maybe even especially now. At the time, I think it served to paint the artist in more of a serious light. In the past he's been seen as a joke, and that's unfair to his talent as a musician. Look at what he's doing now. But that dark time he went through seems to be over, and T-Pain seems to have come out on the other side.

T-Pain today is maybe a little bit of a different T-Pain, too. Call him T-Pain 2.0. All the things you know and love from Teddy Pain 1.0 with some significant enhancements. A tape in and of itself is evidence of that. And who might we have to thank for pushing the Tallahassee musician to make a tape? Perhaps FKA Twigs of all people. In an interview with the Fader last year, T-Pain talked about how she encouraged him to just go for it:

I told her I wanted to do some stuff, like videos and put out some songs. But I was like, "I can't." She was like "Why?" I was like, "You know, the label and stuff like that." She was like "Why? Do they control you? How are they controlling you? What, are they gonna sue you? Cause that's their money, too." (Laughs) She opened my eyes. I felt like I was brainwashed and she came and reset me. Like, "Why am I not putting out songs? Why am I not doing this?"

Here we are less than a year later and here we have a T-Pain mixtape. It's a lot of fun. Hey, it's Friday and this tape is the embodiment of those good vibes. There's a track with The-Dream on it. That's a collaboration that is simply meant to be. There's a song called "Hashtag" that is a million times better than the name would suggest. There's another called "Booty Butt Ass" that is like a wonderful celebration of the gluteus that is mentally sending me directly to the dance floor. Lil' Wayne hops on a verse. Hell, T-Pain even invited the Migos over for "What Y0u Know." The tape is 20 infectious songs, but it's just a warm up. Go download it here now. T-Pain is back.

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