Day 246: “DAMN, DAMN, DAMN” – T-Pain and Lil Wayne, T-Wayne, 2017
One of my absolute favorite things to look at is old renderings of the imagined future. While we all can agree now that 2017 sucks, a hundred years ago they had high hopes for the millennium to come: flying cars, cities made of glass bubbles, weird machines that spat out fully formed food items, etc. Mostly flying cars, to be honest. But old renderings of futuristic cities were beautiful. The world to come shimmered with possibility. They pictured incredible things.
These days, we prefer to imagine dystopian futures: The Handmaid’s Tale, Children of Men, Divergent, The Hunger Games—we’ve pretty much decided we’re going nowhere good, and probably for some reason we will make children battle to the death when we get there. But what if we could change that? What if there was a more splendid world to be found through the magic of technology? What if we could go back and imagine an endpoint of technology that wasn’t Instagram Live on your iPhone?
What I’m saying is, I’ve seen a lot of writing in the wake of the release of T-Wayne (which, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is the long-promised and long-lost T-Pain and Lil Wayne collaborative project that T-Pain released for free after a post on this very blog by this very author inspired him to go look for his old hard drives) reminiscing over the now-distant zeitgeist of 2009. And while on one hand I can’t deny my appreciation for the references to keffiyehs and Sony Ericsson phones that have proliferated in that context, the story of T-Wayne is also about a future that could have been.
My favorite song on the new T-Wayne project is “DAMN, DAMN, DAMN.” It is not so much what you might think of as a conventional song as it is a cavalcade of Wayne and Pain coming up with successively more beautiful sounding ways to say “damn” and “wham” and “whoa.” Yes, there are lyrics, and there is ostensibly a chorus, and it does follow a pretty traditional structure. But what is truly incredible about “DAMN, DAMN, DAMN” is how it turns Auto-Tuned voices into symphonies’ worth of instruments, building to a crescendo where T-Pain’s “damn”s fire off in rapid succession like so many violin stabs, swelling into a single unified sound.
Listening to this song feels like walking into a room on a spaceship filled with shag carpet. It feels like swimming in a lava lamp. There’s a universal law of nerds that says that every technology those dorks come up with will eventually circle back around to finding a way to have sex with a robot. This song is like the inverse of that: No matter how many robots and how few humans you put in a room, if either T-Pain or Lil Wayne is also in that room they will find a way to make real, human sex happen in there. Seriously, has something ever sounded so digital and so sumptuous at the same time? Have you ever heard a song more likely to be DJed by a Roomba and yet more capable of getting a grown woman down to her barely-theres?
In 2009, we had figured out a lot about Auto-Tune already. We had 808s and Heartbreak, of course. We had “Sexual Eruption.” More importantly, we had Wayne and T-Pain’s combined oeuvres, with songs like “I’m Sprung,” “I’m In Luv (Wit a Stripper),” “Lollipop,” and “Prostitute Flange.” We knew you could make a robot love song, but “DAMN, DAMN, DAMN” takes those combined T-Wayne works and levels them up into something far weirder and more elemental. Imagine a world in which this had been released when it was made. We might have gotten Future years earlier. Whatever music will sound like in 2020, when Lil Yachty is seen as the most influential artist of his generation—we could be there now. More than any other song on T-Wayne, “DAMN, DAMN, DAMN” makes me wish for the future that never was. It is raw sound at its most entrancing. It is the most sublime the words “I said hey there shawty / Look what I bought ya / It’s the brand new Ferrara / equipped with no top-ah” have ever sounded and ever will sound.
It’s stunning, and even if we can’t live in the future where it might have been part of the past, we are lucky to live in the present where it will inevitably be a part of our futures. Damn.
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