Many artists will tell you they became rich before they were ready. At least, that is what rapper and producer T-Pain, while currently sitting comfortably with an estimated net worth of $10 million, the hitmaker behind hit songs like “I’m Sprung,” and “Buy U a Drank” went from being “mega-rich” to having to borrow money to take his kids to fast food restaurants.
How? He says he didn’t “give a sh-t about money,” and that lack of respect cost him tens of millions of dollars.
T-Pain is Faheem Rashad Najm
T-Pain, whose real name is Faheem Rashad Najm, didn’t grow up with the money. Born and raised in an Islamic family in north Florida, the young man turned to music as a way to express himself creatively. At the age of 10, he created a music studio in his bedroom and started making beats.
A decade later, after adopting the stage name Tallahassee Pain (shortened for commercial purposes to T-Pain), he debuted on the Billboard 200 charts with his first album “Rappa Ternt Sanga,” a meteoric rise for the 20-year-old who captured America’s heart as a rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer.
With the fast acclaim came fast money. Artists from all over tapped the Auto-Tuned singer to lace him with hit after hit, including Kanye West, Chris Brown, Pitbull, Mariah Carey, Akon, Lil Wayne, Jamie Foxx, and the list could go on for paragraphs.
Seemingly on top of the world with platinum-selling records galore and radio spins to boot, 2009 came and the biggest rapper at the time, Jay-Z, released a song called “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).”
Jay-Z rapped on the song, “You n-ggas singin’ too much/Get back to rap, you T-Painin’ too much,” and all of a sudden, the millions of people who once celebrated his art turned on him.
Despite having sold over 16 million albums and 50 million digital tracks worldwide, fans chanted at his live performances, “F##k T-Pain,” according to The New Yorker.
T-Pain talked about how that one line from that explosive song changed his life. In an interview with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN on “Drink Champs,” he said, “A wise man once said, “I’m the face of this,” referencing the autotune movement.
“Just like Lil Yachty was the face of mumble rap — anytime somebody talk about mumble rap, Lil Yachty was the first person to come up,” he continued. “I was the face of Auto-Tune. Anytime somebody said, ‘Auto-Tune,’ I’m the face. So, when you say Auto-Tune is wack, I’m the face.”
He also noted the power of the RocNation Founder’s co-sign or rejection with fans, “Anytime [Jay] says something is wack, it’s trash.”
How Deep Depression Affected His Views on Money
After this period, the “Up Down” chart-topper said he slipped into a deep depression. At 28 years old, he no longer wanted to make music, according to the New Yorker. He also developed horrible spending habits.
By 2019, after allegedly amassing $40 million, he had to file for bankruptcy. In 12 years, his depression and poor financial discipline (like buying a Bugatti for $2.1 million and then selling it for $800K) caused him to go broke.
He said in an interview with Steve-O, “Everybody before me that I had to look up to always said that once you start rapping, it’s just good money, all the time. Nothing bad’s ever going to happen to you — it’s just girls and swimming pools all the time!”
“Nobody ever sat me down and explained that all this good stuff can go away — all these singers, musicians, athletes just kept saying that once the money started rolling in it gonna stay that way forever,” he continued.
While talking about his exuberant purchases, like the luxury car, he said, “I was like ‘well, since I got this Bugatti I might as well buy another house!’ These people just moved out of a house that was literally connected to mine, and I wanted to buy it and build a path that literally connected the two properties.”
“It was at that point that somebody whispered in my ear and said ‘hey- you know don’t actually have any money left,'” he said.
What T-Pain didn’t know he was engaged in is called “Emotional Spending,” a coping mechanism that many Americans embrace to deal with psychological and emotional trauma in their lives.
Dr. Sheila Forman, a clinical psychologist said to VeryWellMind.com, “To be an emotional spender is to use shopping (online, in person, or both) to soothe what ails.”
She continued to share these buys are less about being pragmatic and sensible, but about the release of pleasure to overcome the pain from what the person is experiencing in their life.
“Items that one tends to forego to pay the rent may move front and center when emotionally shopping,” she says. “Emotional spending also tends to be impulsive. Red leather thigh-high boots, anyone?”
For T-Pain, he never thought about his bills — only the things he thought would make him happier like cars, houses, and partying.
He said he never checked his bank balances and allowed other people to manage his money. He also assumed with all the hit songs that he made; the royalty checks would just keep flowing. He was wrong.
It got so bad he had to borrow money to pay for Burger King meals for his children.
He said on the Breakfast Club, “Like had to borrow money to get my kids Burger King.”
T-Pain also stated poor spending and allowing others to make bad real estate investments contributed to his financial demise — where he went from $40 million to zero.
“It was a lot of bad investments,” he said, adding his manager purchased properties that never lived up to their value. “I was letting my manager do it and he was way more optimistic than I was … He would just buy complete dumps and think that we can just paint them. We never sold anything.”
Plan for a Legacy
T-Pain said now he is back on track, doing so because he wants to leave a legacy for his wife Amber Najm, and three kids Lyriq (15 years old), Muziq (12 years old), and Kaydnz (10 years old).
Part of that goes into him figuring out a new relationship with money.
“I’m not chasing the $40. The money I’m making now, I’m just making it, I’m not trying to make it,” he said. “That $40 million, I was hustling, I needed to be on everybody’s record, and every record gotta go No. 1, I gotta do this work. And at that time, I didn’t know my family at all.”
Explaining, “Awards are always great, but in the long run, it doesn’t really say who you are. I’m more concerned about my family, my kids, and my wife and making sure I can provide.”
Usher, one of the catalysts of the artist’s depression because he valued his opinion, said he is “happy” that T-Pain is back on the right track, and said he never meant to hurt him when he told T-Pain during a plane ride in 2013 that he “f-cked up music for real singers,” with Auto-Tune.
The “Confessions” singer said last year in Billboard, “I’m happy that T-Pain said something — I’m not sure if it was before or after our actual conversation after I heard what was said. It was very hurtful to know that he had experienced that kind of hardship in life.”
“I wouldn’t wish that on any person. Private conversations for me have always been intended to uplift,” he added. “But when or if people get pieces of it, they can always have some other interpretation. But we’ve spoken since and we’re good.”