The enormously talented and highly regarded, singer/songwriter Rahsaan Patterson, granted ISPYSOUL two interviews early in its initial run. In fact, his first was the first full interview feature that appeared on its pages. The New York born Patterson, who got his start as a child actor as part of the cast of the popular television show, Kids Incorporated in the eighties and later went on to writing hits for artists like singer/actress Brandy (“Baby”), released his self -titled debut, RAHSAAN PATTERSON, in 1997. The widely acclaimed project with gems like “Stop By”, “Spend The Night”, and “Stay Awhile”, helped stoked the fires of a resurgent soul music movement that would be deemed, by many, as “neo-soul” and also seduced a legion of fans with cult-like obsession, eliciting sold-out shows around the country.
Patterson would later, in 1999, follow up the debut with LOVE IN STEREO, another fan favorite steered by his emotive, multi-octave ranged vocals and flaunting superlative songwriting, incredible production and infectious grooves.
We caught up with Patterson a couple years later as he was working on his next project and in retrospect, our candid conversation was perhaps prophetic as he shared his views on his career at that point, the Love In Stereo record, the industry, the label he was then on and the artist he was intent on being. The following is that interview:
From the original ISPYSOUL feature segment, IN FOCUS, 2001
ISPYSOUL: You had already done a great deal of recording prior to releasing your debut solo CD, but was there still any anxiety?
Rahsaan Patterson: It was a natural progression for me to get to the point of making a record so when I was making it, it felt natural, you know, like the next phase. I was definitely excited about releasing an album.
ISPYSOUL: With that first CD, musically, what were you trying to accomplish or show?
RP: That I’m not a follower, that I don’t choose to be a follower unless I want to be lead by someone. I knew that I had to make some kind of impact and in doing so, I had to be me.
ISPYSOUL: I’ve always felt that an artist is only as good as their second project. Is there a great deal more expectation for your second CD than there is on your first?
RP: I believe there is on the second project. Definitely. People have more of an expectation. They want to at least see if you can live up to what the first one was. I believe it is true in that sense. I know for myself, I am always changing, growing rather and getting to places within myself where I feel comfortable with exposing other sides of myself to people through music. So with each album it just gets a little deeper for me that way. I feel that with each album, it’s for people to get to know the artist, maybe a little more in depth – See some other sides instead of that same side for twenty years.
ISPYSOUL: The first single off of the second CD, LOVE IN STEREO, was “Treat You Like A Queen.” Because this was your important follow-up CD and because of the nature of the song, dealing with issues of abuse, was there any hesitation by the label to release this as the first single and to choose another?
RP: Well the interesting thing is, “Do You Feel The Way I Do” was the last song that I recorded for the album and I recorded that song, with those producers, basically because that was supposed to be the first single. For some reason, it ended up not being – after spending an astronomical amount of money with two hot producers of the moment – for a song that was suppose to be the first single because they were hot at that moment and the production style of the song was suppose to be the hottest. It was crazy for it not to be the first single after all of that, but there are certain areas that I don’t control. But in terms of what I write and what I sing and who I do it with, I have control over that.
ISPYSOUL: Along with the song “Treat You Like A Queen” you started a foundation called Soul Survivors [dedicated to the rebuilding of condemned houses into new shelters for victims of abuse]. What brought about you being moved to record this song and to start this foundation?
RP: Growing up around it. Growing up around physical abuse – Being exposed to it and realizing the effect that it has had on my life and my view of relationships. I knew that it was something that a lot of people could relate to and I know definitely a lot of people that come from the place I come from and could relate to it. So it really stems from a healing place and a place of putting out what’s real and something for people to think about. I‘ve always wanted to give back and in doing that, I just started the foundation and hopefully within the next few years we’ll be able to embellish on that.
ISPYSOUL: With now two CDs under your belt and with now a third soon to be released, can you give us an idea of what we’ll hear that will reflect your growth and experiences since the last CD?
RP: It’s another side of Rahsaan. Not that you haven’t had glimpses in the two previous albums. It’s definitely the next album after Love in Stereo. With “Get Here” being the last song on that album, it segues into the new one.
ISPYSOUL: I, like a number of other people, believe you are just half way over the wall of full- blown stardom. How do you feel about that assessment and does it really matter that you become a “star?”
RP: Well, like Sly [of Sly and the Family Stone] said, “Everybody is a star” and my level of success is not defined by what is most commonly assumed being successful is. You know, like having a platinum record and all that kind of stuff. For me, my success is everyday, waking up cool with myself, and cool with my decisions and my choices – Always maintaining true to myself and artistry first. As long as I can stay true to that, I feel that I’m extremely successful in this industry.
ISPYSOUL: Because that‘s a hard thing to do, stay true to yourself and still stay on a label.
RP: Yeah, yeah, but then there’s always a reason why they keep you. Beneath all of that there has to be a reason why they keep you.
ISPYSOUL: Why is it, you believe, that your label has kept you especially since your CDs have done well, but haven’t been the multi-platinum successes they usually look for? Also keeping in mind, there have been other artists that have been dropped for similar situations.
RP: I can’t really say, because I’m not them and any perception I have in my mind is just a perception. I know that what I bring to the table is credibility and strength in music- Individuality, hope and truth. I guess, in the end, its just because I’m Rahsaan and I’m not anybody else. I’m me and what else should it be. And I guess, as difficult as it may be for them to try to understand me or understand what to try to do with me or my music – that’s on them, but there’s obviously some reason why I’m still there.
ISPYSOUL: With this whole Neo- Classic Soul. . .
RP: (laughs) I can’t believe that’s, like, still the phrase.
ISPYSOUL: I can’t really believe that there is a phrase, quite frankly.
RP: Well, outside of that, what I’m saying is that same phrase was around in 1996, so I guess we’re still in this.
ISPYSOUL: Well we’re hearing it more, its seems, because ironically enough, there’s been a succession of artists, new artists, that have come out that have been conveniently plugged into this classification.
RP: Well, that’s bullshit really, because the bottom line is its music, period. When it’s not hip- hop or when it’s not bubblegum pop, then they’ve got to give it something – Another label. It’s just unfortunate that they have to label it Neo-Soul simply because it takes people to a time when songs were strong songs and had melodies and were more memorable because of the sentiment or melody or lyric.
ISPYSOUL: But like it or not its an acceptable stamp now. . .
RP: And now, it’s a gimmick. Now it’s a way to be to fit into this new genre to sell records that are supposed to be hot right now and its all a bunch of bullshit.
ISPYSOUL: Now, with that being said, does that hurt or help you? I mean, you’ve been doing your sound, this sound, since you’ve been doing what you do. . .
RP: And being that I’m who I am and have always been, I never go with the rest of the grain. That just doesn’t appeal to me at all. So on this third album you won’t be hearing “Spend The Night” (song from his debut CD, Rahsaan Patterson). You won’t be hearing that because “Spend The Night” was in 1996.
ISPYSOUL: When I went to check you out at S.O.B.’s in New York, I was very surprised to see the lines waiting outside the door and the place packed. But the thing that impressed me the most were people standing there, being able to sing word for word every single one of your songs. Can you give me an idea of just how you feel when something like that happens?
RP: It’s a beautiful feeling and it’s nice to know that people appreciate it and are there for you. On the other hand, it sometimes felt like I was not either existing on this planet or the other people involved in my career were fucking crazy. Because you know, it kept being said that people weren’t feeling me and coming up with all these excuses why my records weren’t selling and why people weren’t feeling me. To do a show, sell it out and have people standing there, singing every song. There were times when I’m like, what the fuck is going on? Am I buggin’ out? Or like, what’s really going on? So it was always comforting to get to that point and know that I wasn’t losing my mind and that basically other people were just talking trash and making excuses.
ISPYSOUL: So now with this third CD coming up, what changes in that respect?
RP: What changes? I have no idea because I’m not in the position that those people are in to sell records -To make them number one records. I don’t know how to do that. Those people get paid five hundred thousand dollars a year to do that, so they should know how to do it. What I know how to do is write songs, and present Rahsaan Patterson. That’s all I know how to do. I am a point now where I’m not as moved or bothered by the excuses and opinions that in the past made me the reason for lack of, you know, lack of listeners. Now I’m just like, whatever, I’ve got to do me. I’ve got to do what I’m doing and that’s it. Not that I have deaf ears to other peoples opinions or anything like that, but number one, I have to respect your musical knowledge in order to even check for your opinion. I’m 27 years old and I am a young black male who lives in this society and who is very conscious and aware of the state of music and the youth mentality. For me, as an artist, its about being original, but yet, using what I’ve learned from growing up, listening to people that I grew up listening to, and incorporating that knowledge and manifesting it into some kind of strength and power for myself so that I stand apart. I’ve always felt that I wanted to show people that I’m just like they are. It’s interesting because, I don’t know if its people’s perception of what an artist is or what, but I know that I’ve always been perceived as something different and that’s fine, but I always felt like I wanted to let people know that . . .
ISPYSOUL: I’m just like you
RP: Exactly! That we all are capable of achieving greatness and we all have the power to do and be whatever we want.
I’m at a point now where I’m cool with being here, with everybody else without having to prove anything, – without having to prove anything.
and now . . .
Rahsaan Patterson would ultimately part ways with his then label, MCA and his third project, AFTER HOURS, was released in 2004 on the independent label, ironically called, Artistry. The move has become a sign of the times for many renowned and successful as well as incredibly talented upstart artists frustrated by the bureaucracy, limitations and short-sightedness of the major music behemoths. Patterson has since had several other successful, Billboard-charting projects including WINES & SPIRITS and BLEUPHORIA, as well as continued collaborations with A-list artists and producers. And yes, he’s still selling out shows across the country and overseas. Catch him if you can!
For more on Rahsaan Patterson go to his website, Not-of-this-world.com. Of course!