| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Rapper T-Pain is known for using the Auto-Tune pitch corrector, which disguises off-key singing and allows for perfectly tuned vocals, and for all those who want to sound like him, he has a microphone for you.
T-Pain told Reuters that when others started referring to his signature style as "The T-Pain Effect," he quickly trademarked the term and went to work to create a brand.
In August, his "I Am T-Pain Mic" hit retail stores such as K-Mart and Toys "R" Us, which might seem strange to some for a man whose rap hits include "Bartender," "Buy U a Drank" and "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)". But T-Pain says that when he first offered a voice-modification app for iPhones in 2009, he learned very quickly that he was missing a demanding market.
"A lot of kids don't have cell phones, (so) in order to reach everyone, I'm taking it to where it can be a toy," said the Grammy-winning artist and producer. "They sell out every week. This was far beyond my expectations."
The "I Am T-Pain Mic" uses a voice modification technique where users record songs against a selection of beats, which then modifies their voice for the playback. The microphone also comes with a USB plug to download and share recorded songs.
"We've got add-on packages coming," T-Pain said. "There is going to be video camera you can use with it. We have speakers going on right now and a deco pack to decorate with. We still haven't dropped the special edition ones, which will have more production and be an even better working (microphone)."
The rapper is by no means the only artist to use Auto-Tune. Back in 1998, singer Cher used it on her hit song "Believe" and over the years, many others artists have adopted it, although most refuse to admit it. In fact, with pop acts doing more singing and dancing on stage, Auto-Tune has become almost a music industry standard.
Though many artists often criticize Auto-Tune because it masks reality, T-Pain defends it saying the biggest misconception is that performers don't really have to be able to sing when they employ it.
"That's the furthest from the truth," he said. "Your voice may sound better, but you still have to know music. You still have to know how to write a song. You can't just use Auto-Tune and have a hit song. It only corrects the pitch but it doesn't give you a singing career."
The rapper is by no means the only one selling a microphone using voice modification technology. The makers of Bratz dolls have one, too, but T-Pain says he is not bothered by the competition.
"I don't care," said the rapper, who turns 26 years-old on Friday. "People will figure out which is better. I'm pretty sure there's no grown-ups buying Bratz toys to get that mic. I have no problem."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)