Day Job: Hit-making Grammy-winning performer/singer, Auto-Tune pioneer and avid Twitch pro.
Current Happenings: Last month he released “Wake Up Dead” (featuring Chris Brown), the first single from his upcoming album Precious Stones. He’ll soon be dropping the album’s second single, “Bingo” (featuring Rich the Kid)
Animal Crossing Island: Oak Island (Visited May 27)
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a man who famously sang hooks about the “Good Life” with Kanye West and bragged that “I’m on a Boat” would end up living that island life. But for T-Pain, the Animal Crossing isle hopping was less about that champagne lifestyle and closer to something like a family vacation.
“My daughter was playing it a lot,” says T-Pain. “I try to play everything that she plays so I can try to stay in touch with what she has going on. You know, just keeping up with the kids. Three in the family [play Animal Crossing] right now, but it’s only just started. It’s gonna expand throughout the house at some point.”
T-Pain greets me at the gate of Oak Island airport in full regalia. His ensemble consists of a regal crown (a gift from his appearance on the popular Animal Crossing-based talk show, Animal Talking), a futuristic visor that would make Geordi La Forge jealous, comic print shorts, scuff-free red sneakers, a purple blazer, and a black face mask (keep staying safe out there). If there’s a better dressed tour guide out there, I’ve yet to encounter them.
While many Animal Crossing players design their island with distinct sections for their residents’ homes and amenities, T-Pain is all about fostering a tight-knit neighborhood. The entirety of his island’s urban center — comprised of his crib, his neighbors’ houses, the stores, Resident Services and even the campsite — is jam-packed into the parcel of land closest to their airport. As a result, the area is bustling with energy all hours of the day. Maybe that’s not your ideal of relaxing island life, but Oak Island is clearly aiming for a more festive tropical-bash feel.
T-Pain’s abode is the proverbial house on the hill, though not in a terraformed sense — it’s just the northernmost building. Right outside his front door there’s a fenced off patio ideal for entertaining guests. “A little barbeque spot," says T-Pain. "A little drink, little barbeque, little pool to keep the party going at night.”
One can’t actually reach the grill the way the items are set out. “I don’t know how to cook s---!" He laughs. "That’s why I made it impossible to get to it.”
While his daughter may have lit the AC spark, T-Pain’s wife is the one who keeps his interior design fresh, operating as his unofficial interior decorator. Her secret? Fostering a great relationship with Animal Crossing’s traveling camel merchant of rare wallpapers and flooring, Sahara.
Sahara’s touch is immediately felt upon entering T-Pain’s home, as the first room gives off a distinct digital castle vibe. The room also serves an homage to the resident star’s fun-loving side with a pro wrestling figure (“I saw Xavier Wood’s [island profile for Launcher] and it blew my mind”), his pet scorpion named Sting, and every kid’s dream, a racecar bed.
“The best room in the house is this way,” T-Pain says as he leads me to the left. "It’s just a bathroom.”
In fairness, it’s an extremely elegant bathroom. Not only does it boast an automatic toilet, working shower, a Taurus bathtub (somebody’s been collecting star fragments), but there’s actually fine art hanging above the cabinet (what appears to be Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy).
In real life, T-Pain boasts one of the craziest game rooms on the planet — a voice-activated arcade with gold-plated stations for each console. So naturally, some of that needed to carry over to Oak Island.
“Gotta have a game room,” he says. “It would be weird if I didn’t.”
While it can’t touch the lavishness of his IRL setup (for one, Nintendo isn’t going to allow PlayStation into New Horizon), the room features two Space Blaster cabinets, two pinball machines, two fighting game cabinets, a Brake Tapper slot machine (Pocket Camp players represent!), and other needed arcade amenities like a jukebox. “Got the popcorn. Got the K.K. Slider bumping all day,” T-Pain says.
Like all Animal Crossers, T-Pain is a big fan of everybody’s favorite musical pooch and his virtuosic sonic versatility. Though like many of us, T-Pain is not at the Slider stan-level where he can request his favorite tunes by title.
“I don’t know the names of a lot of them, but I do know them when I hear them,” he says. “When I’m just chillin’. The one that sounds like the D’Angelo song ‘How Does It Feel,’ that’s always a good one.” [Writer’s note: After some extensive research, I believe the song in question is “Soulful K.K.” It’s got a very similar intro to “Untitled (How Does It Feel).”]
Perhaps the most unusual feature of the deluxe crib is the empty room to the right of the entryway. It’s not a case of T-Pain being lazy; It’s his storage room. “When I can’t carry something, I just drop it in here real quick,” he says. Eventually, he plans to do something more with the space, but he doesn’t want to force it. “I want more weird things to go in here, so I gotta find me some more weird stuff.”
To make up for the lack of decor, T-Pain has adorned the walls with another wallpaper his wife procured from Sahara: the much-adored Rainy Wallpaper. “This wallpaper is f---ing fire, I’m not gonna lie,” T-Pain boasts.
The top floor of his home has the aura of a chic apartment crossed with a scientist’s study. As T-Pain puts it: “It’s my National Geographic room.” As T-Pain tickles the ivories on his grand piano, I take a few moments to marvel at the resplendence of his display fossils, anatomical models and moon.
Finally, it’s time to descend to the basement for the obvious final room — T-Pain’s music studio. Just like in real life, it’s in his home’s subterranean quadrant, and just like other rooms, his wife’s eye for wallpaper designs makes the room pop. The dark neon green walls which appear to house sci-fi experiments give off strong Super Metroid vibes. As T-Pain explains, “She gave me these cause I call my studio ‘The Lab.’” In addition to the studio essentials — keyboard, turntables, drum kit, guitar, backup server — the room also features posters of T-Pain’s Animal Crossing muses: his neighbors. “I got all my islanders there, showin’ love.”
The rest of T-Pain’s island remains relatively untouched, wilderness. He just got access to terraforming, but as soon as he completed the main gameplay push — trying to get K.K. Slider to visit your island — he’s felt a bit adrift on his own isle.
“After they rolled credits, I’m like, ‘I’m not sure what I want to do here.’ What else is going on here?” he says half-jokingly. “I keep going to Tom Nook and asking what I should do. And he’s like, ‘Nothin’,’" he laughs. “I try to keep it basic, man. I don’t want to take up a lot of time just digging holes. I just don’t feel like it.”
Call of Duty occupies a lot of his quarantine time these days. That said, T-Pain does keep coming back to Oak Island. Animal Crossing just scratches that boredom itch. He’s not grinding away for hour. Let’s just say he enjoys squeezing it into shorter allotments of time.
“It’s definitely the ultimate toilet game. It’s for sure a s----ing game.”
Seth Sommerfeld is a Seattle-based culture writer and the Resident Representative of Ahch-To. Follow him on Twitter @sethsommerfeld