Two-time Grammy winner T-Pain is known around the world for his game-changing approach to hip-hop, pop and R&B. You may even know about his post-pandemic side hustle as a Twitch gamer and podcast host—but did you know he’s been modifying cars as long as he’s been making beats? He even knows how to drift!
His lifelong passion has recently come under the spotlight with the recent launch of Nappy Boy Automotive, a new drift racing team T-Pain’s developing with the aim of diversifying the sport. It’s also central to his new partnership with eBay Motors, who tapped the Rappa Ternt Sanga to spread the word about its Guaranteed Fit program, which promises a shopping experience to car lovers around the world that’s easier than ever before.
“When you used to go into normal auto parts stores, they would hand you the manual to your car, and that only made it worse,” T-Pain says, “Like, ‘what am I looking at, man?’ When you get stuff like eBay Motors that will show you the Guaranteed Fit checkmark, you don’t have to really guess or anything like that. Getting into cars was so much harder in my time. We didn’t have that, and now everybody’s an expert.”
T-Pain's ride will be out in Atlanta on Memorial Day weekend in support of eBay Motors’ Renew Your Ride event, where the eBay Motors team will be on hand to offer folks a free consultation and up to $200 in parts and accessories from Saturday to Monday, May 27 to 29.
We caught up with T-Pain for a quick chat via Zoom to learn more about his not-so-secret love of all things cars, and how eBay Motors recently helped him trick out his beloved 1994 Honda Accord.
Hey T-Pain! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. You seem like a dude who uses fun as a guiding light for all you do.
Fun is what it’s all about. It took me a while to realize that because that’s not the message that was portrayed to me. We all get the same message from people that come before us: “You got to get money, girls and party, stuff like that.” That stuff is fine, but having a stable life is also pretty dope. Having a family and having fun with them is pretty cool.
I didn’t know you had such a passion for cars and automotive sports. Who got you into this world?
Mother Nature! Believe it or not, the first time I ever attempted to touch a car caught on fire. I was 15, and I was changing the fuel pump on my 84 Ford Taurus. I didn’t know you're not supposed to do this, but I did it on top of a bunch of dry leaves, and it was a hot day in Florida. Came back outside. Car was on fire. I put it out with a bottle of—I think it was Frutopia or something. It was a fruit drink for sure. I had two cars catch on fire, and both were put out with fruit drink.
I had to revive the car because that was my first car. My dad wasn’t going to buy me another one. He spent $300 on that one. Not going to happen again. I hit studio time, wrote hooks for other people, and made and sold beats. I had to gather up anything I could do to fix this car. I learned everything about cars from that experience, and I got to tell you, I wish I would have had eBay Motors at that point because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I had no inkling of a thought of where I should even start.
Well, you must have found the fun in that trial as well, because it’s now you’ve got Nappy Boy Automotive. What is it about really understanding a car, and getting your hands dirty with the mods that you like so much?
I’ll tell you what I didn’t like about [fixing my first car]. I didn’t like all the parties I missed out on from the time that it was down to the time that I got it up. There was a lot going on without me, and I didn’t f— with think that at all!
But no, literally the best analogy or explanation I can give for it is, as morbid as it looks and sounds, the sheer joy it must have been for Frankenstein to be able to say “It’s alive!” and then Frankenstein’s monster gets up and starts walking? That first crank where it actually stays on and you can drive it down the road—illegally, probably because the tag has expired; that first “it’s alive” is just pure euphoria. Dopamine levels through the roof. That’s what I got hooked on. I got hooked on doing that for other people, too. I started driving around, and if somebody’s got a car in their yard. “Hey, what’s up? What’s going on with that thing over there? I’ve got a few wrenches on me. You want me to take a look at that?”
That's another level of running the streets. You’re like “I worked on that car and the beats that it’s banging right now.”
I got one of those Rent-a-Center house speakers that’s supposed to be in your living room and put it in the trunk. Hooked that up. I did a lot of that, too.
When did you get this 1994 Honda Accord?
I actually got this in 2006 or ’07. It was the start of a friendship between Rob Roberson and I. He owns the shop Auto Extremes that I became the co-owner of, and we’ve had a long friendship. It was his car first, and then I bought it from him and started doing all kinds of crazy stuff to it. It looks like it looked when I bought it, but the stuff on the interior, the new head unit, the airrex suspension and stuff like that. I kept suggesting these things and he just would not do it. So I was like, “You know what? Sell me the car, and I’ll do the stuff."
EBay motors stepped in, and we modded it even further. I mean, I drive this car a lot, you know? It was almost an every day-er for me. It needed a little TLC. It was about the time that it needed something done, because I was going to run it into the ground. They have that Guarantee Fit checkmark, and it changed the way I looked at getting parts. I’ll always see if anybody else has a different view of a part. I need to know if it has this little notch in it, but you don’t have to worry about that with eBay Motors. They do that [for you].
Once we talked about this collab, they told me to go check out the parts I want to build with, and it was pretty simple. It took me like 20 minutes to find all the stuff I want. Then it was like, “Yeah, now we’ll get you those for free,” and I was like, “Okay, now I got to test the site out crazy.” I’m trying to see some of the difficult things to find in such a moded car like, "I’ll be the judge of how well this little checkmark works.”
We got a cat-back exhaust, we got a brake kit, we got the doubled in—First of all, the car’s not even set up for a double din head unit, and we got one that’ll fit the double din head unit. We got a backup camera, and that’s not supposed to be on this car whatsoever; the LED under glow. Once I tested that out and saw that it actually did work, I was able to become a part of this event their doing.
Tell us about the event.
They’re bringing that whole experience, called the Renew Your Ride experience, to Atlanta on Memorial Day weekend. Fans and car people alike can just come and either modify, maintain or just straight up keep their car alive.
The only thing you’ve got to do is check for that check mark, and you’re good. It’s going to be on Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta, they’re doing the whole thing. But, yeah, I’m in full support of the whole thing.
Do you want to drop any last lines about what you’re doing?
We have an announcement for Nappy Boy Automotive coming soon. We’ve concreted a deal with an actual racetrack. We’ve concreted some tire deals. We’ve got concreted a lot of stuff, and we're trying to wait until we have our whole program together before we really make a big announcement. HertLife is officially back from London, and we’re about to take the world by storm. Get ready for probably the most inclusive race team that you’ve ever seen!
Follow along with T-Pain’s adventures in the world of music, automotive sports, games and more via Instagram, and follow Nappy Boy Automotive to see what’s coming from “the most inclusive race team” in the drift world. Learn more about eBay Motors and give its guaranteed fit checkmark a test drive at ebay.com, and register for the Renew Your Ride event in Atlanta online.
Photography by: Courtesy of eBay