You have to hand it to Akon. Despite a
five-year prison stint, the murder of his best friend, dry-humping a teenager
and monkey-flipping a fan into a crowd of concertgoers, the artist formally known
as Alioune Badara Akon Thiam Thiam has been able to establish
himself as a platinum-selling singer well as a highly sought-after producer,
successfully able to cross over between rap, R&B and pop music.

Already a strong presence as an performer, Akon hopes that his
Soundscan success will translate in the boardroom, as he founded Konvict
Muzik
two years ago. His first act to come from the label:
Florida-reared T-Pain, who managed to push his debut album Rappa
Ternt Sanga
to Gold status off the strength of the two lead singles, “I’m Sprung”
and “I’m N Luv
(Wit A Stripper)
.” Now trying to prove he’s no one-trick pony, T-Pain
returns with his second offering, Epiphany.

Much like Akon’s sometimes woefully distorted nasally charged
vocals, T-Pain’s somewhat weak voice can’t carry a tune by
itself, and relies heavily on a vocoder to accentuate his talents. But what T-Pain
lacks in actual singing ability he makes up for in his knack for creating
catchy, albeit somewhat corny, songs.

The trend du juor in music today is the multiple personality disorder, and T-Pain
uses his album to introduce his other “partners in rhyme:” Teddy Pain,
Teddy Versetti
and Teddy Penderazdoun. Versetti‘s
blunt demeanor is found over the frenetic claps of “Church,” while Pain
and Penderazdoun appears on the ode to female salvation, “Show You How.”
Quirky as it may seem, this novelty quickly wears out its welcome on the crude “Put It Down.”

It is when T-Pain stays true to his heart-on-his-sleeve form
that his focus is clear. On the somber “Right Hand,” he pleads to his woman
about his unintentional infidelity, while on the Akon-guested “Bartender,”
rather than attempt to pick up the average female at the club (as he did on the
lead single “Buy
U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
), he finds himself attracted to the
club’s waitress.

Hoping to appeal to the R. Kelly crowd (or perhaps become the
next Pied Piper himself), T-Pain
also loads his album with sexually charged material. But whereas R.
uses somewhat creative metaphors to describe the lovemaking process, T
is pretty blunt with it, leaving very little to the imagination. “Backseat Action”
and 69 are fast-forward material, but the crude “Yo Stomach” is the worst offense
of all, where his proclamation to have a “romantic explosion” on a
woman’s chest is almost enough to toss the entire album out a window. Leave the
romance explosions to Borat please.

Ironically, it is when he drops the intercourse-inspired stylings for a more
earnest and honest self is when he truly shines. T-Pain’s
yearning for a simpler life on “Time Machine” is an uplifting tale, but the biggest shocker
(and best song) is “Suicide,” a morality-faced tale from the perspective of
someone inflicted with the deadly HIV virus.

While Epiphany has its moments, it is also its schizophrenic nature
that bogs the album down. Had T-Pain delivered something more
cohesive, perhaps he would stand out more in the R&B crowd. Instead, fans
just get the same thing over and over again.