“Every generation is afraid of the music that comes from the next,” says Lindsay Weir in the second episode of Freaks And Geeks. She’s discussing the Sex Pistols with her parents, who are appalled by the idea of going to a concert and being spit on by a performer.
While T-Pain is no Johnny Rotten, the rapper certainly possesses the same shock value as the elder punk rocker. All the moms and dads singing along to Tom Petty at Summerfest Wednesday night would have been disgusted at the display of millennial debauchery occurring north of the amphitheater. Bare butts, people climbing fences, grinding, and thick clouds of smoke were only a few of the sights to be seen at T-Pain’s show. But for the thousands of young people who came out to see the iconic rapper, it was fucking lit, fam.
Someone in the Summerfest booking team made the questionable decision to book T-Pain at the compact Uline Warehouse. Droves of teens and post-adolescents were packed into one of the most cramped Summerfest stages like Axe body spray-scented sardines. The crowd of young people was so dense that there was barely room to move, much less dance—but nobody seemed to care as soon as T-Pain appeared.
He immediately began jumping and dancing all over the stage, opening his set with “Booty Wurk (One Cheek At A Time).” After a quick transition into “Cyclone,” the crowd was already going insane. It was “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” that solidified the excitement as people shook their sweaty butts.
After 15 minutes of performing, he finally acknowledged the crowd: “I’m T-Pain. What’s up with you assholes? I wanna thank y’all for letting me come to y’all’s shit.”
Anyone who has listened to top 40 radio over the last 10 years will know at least one T-Pain song…or two, or three. At 31, he already has a greatest hits album—a rare feat for any artist of the post-modern persuasion. Famed for a catalog drenched in a thick layer of heavily Auto-Tuned goodness, he performed all of his bangers along with quite a few songs he’s featured on.
T-Pain shined more as a hype-man than a rapper Wednesday night, and his energy reflected well onto the crowd. While the radio may remove countless swear words from his tracks, the audience filled them in gladly as they loudly sang along. On “Can’t Believe It,” the show was at its peak when he sang his line about a mansion somewhere in Wisconsin. After a long break between songs, “I’m ‘N Luv (Wit A Stripper)” invoked another massive sing-along.
“I don’t get to see this shit a lot,” he said at one point. “All I see is bad shit, and they don’t cover what’s a bunch of motherfuckers getting together like this, man. You don’t see this shit on the news. But I didn’t come here to preach to y’all, I came here to learn from y’all. Now’s the time to show me how LIT you can GET!”
He quickly dove into his most recent release, “F.B.G.M.” “All she wanna do is fuck bitches and get money,” T-Pain crooned, solidifying his place as the voice of a generation who definitely knows how to party. While his music may lack the social commentary of Kendrick or the production value of Kanye, his post-modern jock jams can easily keep a crowd entertained for a good, long while. His ability to hype shined the brightest during “All I Do Is Win.” Everybody’s hands went up, and they stayed there for most of the song.
T-Pain rapped a few bars here and there, but the majority of the performance was him faintly singing over blaring samples as he showed off his goofy dance moves (which were, admittedly, very entertaining). He wasn’t doing much more than connecting the dots as various bits and pieces of his tracks quickly spewed from the speakers. He did take one opportunity to sing a cappella, highlighting his understated vocal chops that are oftentimes overshadowed by good ol’ computer editing.
The show’s abrupt end was a major bummer, and didn’t exactly send T-Pain off in style. Anticlimactic at best and boring at worst, he left the stage quickly and didn’t treat the rowdy crowd to an encore. The house lights went on, the roadies came out, and “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” (the Dirty Dancing version, not the Pitbull version) started bumping through the north end of the Summerfest grounds. It was a disheartening finale that unfortunately did not mimic the rest of T-Pain’s set.
Anyone looking for a life-changing musical performance definitely didn’t find one at T-Pain’s show, but those who sought a fun-filled night of careless singing and carefree dancing were certainly satisfied. As the great William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born lit, some achieve litness, and some have litness thrust upon them.” As far as T-Pain is concerned, he’s all of the above.