"I'm Sprung," T-Pain's first single as a solo artist, is the song that started the Auto-Tune revolution in hip-hop. The software was introduced in 1997
to correct pitch on vocals, but it could also be used as an effect, creating a robotic sound similar to a Vocoder. The first hit song to use it for this purpose was "Believe
" by Cher in 1999, but for years after, the sound was considered a novelty. T-Pain, though, figured out how to integrate it into hip-hop as part of a sound somewhere between rapping and singing, which was pretty radical. It didn't come easy: It took him about a year to figure out what kind of software created the effect (Auto-Tune was an industry secret) and another year to figure out how to use it properly. "I really studied this s--t," he said. "I know why it catches certain notes and why it doesn't catch certain notes."
Reaction was mixed, but there was no doubt T-Pain created something new. Other rappers - Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Kanye West among them - wanted in, and hired him to produce and/or guest on their tracks, bringing along his signature sound. By 2007, when he released his second album, Epiphany
, the sound was red-hot, and that album went to #1. The following year, when Kanye West released his Auto-Tune-drenched album 808s And Heartbreak
, it was clear this was more than a passing trend.