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How has T-Pain done it? He's not attractive, his fashion sense leaves much to be desired (at least for those without Dr. Seuss/LSD fetishes, in any case), and without the benefit of the computer program Auto-Tune, his voice is nothing special. And yet, considering his hip-hop and R&B radio dominance, his claim to be "ringleader of the game" can't be argued with. The circus theme informs Pain's third album, Thr33 Ringz, in which his task is moving beyond singles toward a memorable CD. Sadly, unfunny skits clog it up ("She had five different niggas' names tattooed on her left ass cheek. That's when a bitch gotta make a decision"), and the sexy songs aren't nearly as alluring as they could be. "Chopped N Skrewed" is about... getting screwed, while his popular single "Can't Believe It" is essentially about Pain stashing his women around the world. You've still got to salute his ability to rhyme mansion with Wisconsin, but beyond that and a good beat, it's not exactly a grand slam. "Long Lap Dance" is about getting good value out of your stripper, while "Therapy" is about relationship conflict ("5, 6, 7, 8, I don't need your sex/I'll masturbate"). All told, Thr33 Ringz's tracks aren't cohesive, and it doesn't work as a full album. That doesn't mean T-Pain's not still R&B's ringleader; it just means he's not its Barnum & Bailey.

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Ben Westhoff
Contact: Ben Westhoff

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