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Auto-Tune icon T-Pain, the most hated man in music, coming to Fargo this Saturday


FARGO - T-Pain knows you probably hate him.

Even if you can't name any of his hip-hop songs.

Even if you've never heard of the Florida musician who will be headlining the Snowstorm tour when it blows into The Venue at The Hub this Saturday evening.

And he's fine with that.

Because while T-Pain absorbs all kind of venom from the haterazzi, this rapper is cool with the criticism. T-Pain can handle the hate because, as he puts it, he changed the world - or, at least, the world of popular music.

"Not a lot of people can say that. I can," the rapper says from a phone in Atlanta.

If you're still trying to figure out who T-Pain is, he's the guy credited with re-introducing Auto-Tune into pop music through his early 2000s songs, like "I'm in Love with a Stripper," that soaked the singing rapper's voice in a warbly, almost robotic sound effect.

By the end of the 2000s, seemingly every pop artist - from Britney to Ke$ha to Kanye West - was using a form of the vocal pitch correction software to jump on the trend T-Pain started because, as he says, he just liked the sound of it.

Along the way "Saturday Night Live" parodied the effect, with T-Pain on vocals, in the song "I'm on a Boat." And YouTube became the breeding ground for "music videos" that use Auto-Tune to inject musicality into everything from casual singers to news reports to cats meowing.

In essence, Auto-Tune was everywhere. And, like so many things that be-come popular in a very short time frame, it's become a polarizing topic among music fans.

Obviously, people like the effect; because they're buying music soaked in syrupy Auto-Tune sounds. But the term - which is actually the name of a processor created by the company Antarres - has also become shorthand for "everything that's wrong with the music industry," in a way that suggests "true talent" is being replaced by computer-enhanced singers.

And, yes, T-Pain hears about the hatred for this sound, and gets blamed for all of it. But the rapper doesn't sound bitter about being the focal point of people's Auto-Tune frustration.

One the phone, he's polite, cheerful and sounds kind of excited to talk about, well, anything. Even the fact that he doesn't use Auto-Tune - or any pitch correction devices - during his live shows.

"I know, it's weird," he says.

It's also daring. The guy who grew his fanbase through vocals that sound like they came from a funky, singing cyborg ditches the trademark sound when his fans are staring at him face to face.

But he's not worried. Like most musicians, T-Pain is confident enough in his abilities as a singer and performer that he's convinced people will walk away from the show talking more about his performance than the lack of the digital dialect he's branded all over his cultural image - remember, this is the guy who's pimping a phone app that can make anyone sound like "T-Pain."

Still, if you do leave Saturday's concert disappointed that your ears weren't buzzing with the Auto-Tune effect and you want to cast some more criticism at T-Pain he even tells us where you can find him: in a strip club.

It's not surprising, since hip-hop culture celebrates these skin shops like they're cathedrals. But what is interesting is the reason T-Pain says he goes to the strip clubs; so he can be alone.

"At a strip club, no one is looking at me, no one wants to talk to me, you can't take photos," he says. "I can get some privacy."

Considering all the hate thrown his way, you can't blame the guy for wanting some time to himself.

If you go

What: Snowstorm tour featuring T-Pain, Gym Class Heroes, Outasight, Grieves & Budo, Cris Cab

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Venue at The Hub, 2525 9th Ave. S., Fargo

Info: Tickets cost $35 in advance of $40 the day of the show. They can be purchased at Tickets 300, 300 Broadway, Fargo;; or by calling (866) 300-8300