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The Best And Worst Of Voice Alteration

By 09.23.08

The music industry needs to be quarantined for infectious disease. Send its faux-Vocoder crap raft down river to Betty Ford for severe addiction to voice alteration.

Now that three-quarters of BET’s line-up is saturated with AutoTune pipe smoke, I was a tidbit beside myself to hear Kanye invoke the program on “Love Lockdown.” Kanye has generally thought outside the box with eloquence, but digitizing your voice just isn’t what’s popping on the originality front anymore. It’d make more sense for Ye, and the likes, to go full-boar throwback and just embrace the delicacies of gawdawful sangin’ à la Biz Markie.

Now, Kanye is a can-do-no-wrong artist in my eyes so I shall say no more about his latest single. But the fact that he took it there has sparked much Net conversation, and TSS is no exception. Crew member Sam Cadet and I began a dialogue inspired by Mr. West, revealing an intense list of artists over the years who have robotically altered the quality of their voice for music.

As Phonte told TSS in reference to his alter-ego Tay-Pain, there are varying levels of vocal manipulation. Sam Cadet and I took an all-things-considered approach, narrowing our list of synthesizers to a baker’s dozen and ranking them from Best to Worst use or abuse of alteration.

1) Zapp & Roger – Computer Love

LC Weber: See, this is how to do it. Make a two-steppin’ love song about computers, sounding like a computer.
Sam Cadet: This song predates all of the I/G/AIM/Yahoo/MSN chat boo lovin’ that you kids do these days.

Rank: Perfect Than A Mug.

2) Herbie Hancock – Come Running To Me

Sam Cadet: This man deserves a prize for making a good eight-plus minute song using a talk box.
LC Weber: What did I say in Crew Love? Probably the best 8:29 to grace your eardrums.

Rank: Samplicious! (See: Slum Village and Myron)

3) George Clinton – Atomic Dog

Sam Cadet: The drums and the bass line on this joint are undeniably great. I can’t hate on this.
LC Weber: If you get sampled damn near note-for-note by Snoop in his prime, you’re doing something right.

Rank: P-Funktastic.

4) Outkast – Synthesizer

Sam Cadet: This is one of those rare cases where a voice alteration actually adds to a rap song’s value.
LC Weber: I mean, Outkast is so far advanced they may as well sound like robots anyway.

Rank: Aquemini, MFs.

5) Peter Frampton – Show Me The Way

LC Weber: Yacht Rock at it’s finest… when playing an actual instrument was still a talent that could make you famous.
Sam Cadet: I heard this song before but honestly, dude wasn’t even on my radar until I saw that Geico commercial.

Rank: Do You FEEeeeEEeeEEeelllll Like I DooooOOOOOO?!

6) Afrika Bambaataa – Planet Rock

Sam Cadet: Came out way before my time but I can roll with it.
LC Weber: Pardon me while I get to footworkin’… * pops, locks and robots away *

Rank: Rock It Don’t Stop It.

7) Jodeci – Freek’n You
LC Weber: I might could listen to that bridge every freakin’ night and every freakin’ day.

Sam Cadet: “Devaaaante swaaang” © K-Ci

Rank: *JoJo at 1:50*

8) T-Pain – Buy U A Drank

LC Weber: Eh… Still makes me dance. Still like it. Still think Te’darius Pain IV ruined it for everyone thereafter.
Sam Cadet: This was last year’s simp anthem but that doesn’t stop Tangelo Pain from being terrible.

Rank: Simp Game 101.

9) Snoop Dogg – Sexual Eruption

LC Weber: The video saves it, taking it from “Snoop should know better” to “Snoop is a genius” in one fell swoop.
Sam Cadet: Word, Kanye should use this as inspiration for the “Love Lockdown” video… but Prince was probably shaking his head somewhere when this dropped.

Rank: Warbled 80s Video Tape.

10) Lil’ Wayne – Lollipop

LC Weber: I’m sensing an awkward trend of overtly sexual voice alteration.
Sam Cadet: Long story short I skip this EVERYTIME I listen to Tha Carter III.

Rank: Paging Dr. Carter… Paging Dr. Carter…

11) Chris Brown – Forever

Sam Cadet: More reason to believe that the T-Pain effect begets BS like this.
LC Weber: Discarded Enrique Iglasias beat circa 1997 + gum = Chris Brown

Rank: Making Papa-Pain Proud.

12) Cher – Do You Believe

LC Weber: Doing this shit like it was going out of style before it was even in.
Sam Cadet: I’d tell you to stay away if it wasn’t a 10 year old hit already.

Rank: Ear Cancer.

13) Yung Berg – The Business

Sam Cadet: Rappin’ like Optimus Prime is NOT what’s hot in the streets, son.
LC Weber: Rapping with Auto Tune, son… Hell just got about 4 degrees colder.

Rank: Rank.

Feel free to weigh in with your picks for Best or Worst or anything in between.


TAGSAUTO-TUNEautotuneLove Lockdownpitch correctorT-PAINtalk boxtalkboxvocoder

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