This conversation between Chris Patrick and Brandon Hill was had on July 15. The full interview was also used to write the profile, Chris Patrick: It’s About Progression, Not Competition.
Born and raised in East Orange, NJ, Chris Patrick is a young rapper with as much heart and soul as rhythm and bars. His career started with a surge of energy that matches the rapper’s own determination. His live show debut netted him first place at Rider University’s The R Factor Talent Show and just a month later he was opening for Travis Scott at the campus stop for the Birds in The Trap Sing McKnight tour.
After graduation, Patrick did the sensible thing and followed up on his healthcare administration degree with a job working behind a hospital desk. However, the long hours and rigid scheduling were slowly choking out his lofty dreams. When Patrick first heard J.I.D’s “151 Rum” it shook the hunger loose again. He opted to go back to retail work to afford himself the time and flexibility needed. Despite leaving his professional field for now, he still hopes to work towards a solution for affordable healthcare due to the disparity he’s seen in communities like his own.
Since renewing his focus, Patrick has seen another run of success with his music. “Swish” garnered viral attention and earned placement on the NBA 2K21 soundtrack, he leveled the playing field from idol to rival with the “BigBlackTruck” remix, and the passionately spit “Dreams” has connected him to engaged fans that support his vision. Patrick owes his climb in part to the dedicated support of friends and family, but the motivation to lift him up is born of the rapper’s own sincerity.
His most recent release, “3AM,” is a wispy R&B hit that suddenly opens Patrick’s musical lane to a startling potential range. He reveals a singing voice that I was unaware of up until this point, but his crooning comes with a unique flavor that’s still very much him. His voice is raspy in a way that leaves the texture of each line sticking to the words of the last. The effect is an intimate and unique musical experience.
One of the first things you notice when tasked with a two hour window to figure out who a person is, is how they spend that time. I can tell that long hours spent stocking shelves and helping customers has left Patrick accustomed to leaving creative ruminations constantly simmering in the back of his mind. He thinks as he speaks, and I get the idea that some of the things I’m hearing are brand new thoughts, pulled freshly from the groundwork of the words that came before them. Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity is presented below.
Brandon: So how have you adapted to some of the strange demands of the COVID lockdown? I know you said you have a big emphasis on consistently putting out content and that you’ve had to be a little more creative to do that while remaining safe.
Chris: I realized that sometimes as a starting up artist, and I see it with a lot of artists around me, I think we have the anxiety sometimes that we have to be ever so present all the given time. I realized now that with dropping a lot of things, it’s about dropping it and milking that moment and making it bigger so that way people can enjoy it. I feel like the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is putting your work in to create a moment that’s bigger than just a day or just a week is something that’s been a lot more beneficial to me.
Truthfully, if you continue to try to work at that weekly pace you can do it, but you’re gonna burn out eventually and you definitely want to try avoiding that because I felt like I burned out at one point through this quarantine and I had to really get my whole mind restructured again to get everything going.
You really focused on rapping after winning a competition at Rider University that earned you a spot opening up for Travis Scott at a concert in 2016. What was your motivation to enter that competition?
I laugh about this 1000 times because people always ask me, and it’s almost unbelievable I guess. I’ve been dating my girlfriend forever and I wanted to get her an anniversary gift. You know, college is college, you know, we’re broke college students or something right, and the winner apparently got $500. Now, normally, with that competition, they only do singers, but for the first time ever, they decided to include rappers to which I was like, okay, let me give this a try. Mind you, I hadn’t really got down to making songs or anything like that, but I just knew I had a pretty good pen in terms of writing. So I was like, alright, I think the key is to just really show people who I am. And then from there, it just, I ended up winning it and I was in disbelief because I was the only rapper. I won that $500, I got my girlfriend an Apple Watch and in the moment that’s literally what it was about for me. I was like, hey, I’m gonna just take my talents and see what I could do to get this gift for my girlfriend.
I switched to healthcare administration because it allowed me to look at the numbers aspect and understand the disconnect between why people in communities of my own weren’t able to get the services that we’re all entitled as a people.”
Before the job you have now, you were working in a hospital and I know you have a degree in healthcare administration. When you first started school what was your vision for life after graduation?
Before this bro, I didn’t have dreads. My hair was cut and clean. I kept it like that. There was a lot of things growing up that I wasn’t aware of. The way society is, they put a box on who we’re supposed to be or what we’re supposed to be, essentially. To make sense of it without diving too deep. It’s like, in the culture of [being] African American the way everybody sees it is like you want to be able to break these boundaries and get into these places that necessarily haven’t always been open to us. I get it, but that dream to be a doctor essentially was not mine.
I felt like I was for the longest of times, walking down a path that, yes it’s phenomenal progress where we’re going as a people, but I just felt like it wasn’t me. I switched to healthcare administration because it allowed me to look at the numbers aspect and understand the disconnect between why people in communities of my own weren’t able to get the services that we’re all entitled as a people. I had worked in the finance department, and I started to see the numbers. I was like, yo, like, forget who you are for a second. This shit is unreal. To pay this amount of money to keep yourself alive is crazy.
I remember one day, after “151 Rum,” I was at my desk just crying. I was like, yo, like, I need to pursue something that I love, something that I’m confident in. Yeah, it’s not healthcare. Yeah, I’m not a doctor. Yeah, I’m not in the labs no more. I just told myself yo, I gotta make this jump, and I left it… I mean, my intentions were always to help people out. I think with my degree I plan to get back into it when all this music shit is said and done. I want to get back into it and literally try to find ways to just make healthcare more affordable for everybody.
I feel that man, and I definitely understand just how physically and mentally draining it can be to be working a full time job and then you’re chasing the dream on your off time.
What I do is when I step out of [redacted] I leave everything at [redacted]. I don’t care. somebody ready to fire me while I was there, you gonna have to fire me tomorrow. I’ll worry about that when I get back to the store. My parents be asking, ‘how is work?’ and I just tell ‘em straight up, I don’t even wanna talk about it. Why? I hate it. I don’t even want to talk about it with y’all because I don’t want you to hear how crazy I be feeling over there. Y’all gonna feel bad for me. This is what I signed up for. I want to be as big as everybody else and even bigger than them, so I got to put that same amount of time in. If I got to take mental breaks, I’m gonna do that, and if I got to breathe, I got to do that.
I’m not gonna lie. Last night I was in there till about 11 o’clock, and I was standing for five hours straight, just counting inventory and product. I woke up today at 11:30, bro, I jumped out of my bed because I thought I overslept our meeting. That’s how tired I was, but I was like, God bless. Good. Like, we’re good. I’m straight.
And then you know, feeling like when you do take time for yourself it’s hard not to be stressed thinking you could be doing something productive or you could be doing something more with that time. It’s kind of hard to separate those things sometimes when you’re really locked in.
You’re making a really good point you know, and I think that’s what drives a lot of people, creatives like you and I, to that point where they feel like they’re not good enough almost because it’s like, there’s an anxiety and a level of guilt behind taking a breather, essentially. I don’t feel like I’m competing against anybody in this music shit at this point. I know I’m a good rapper, I think I’m great. I think I out-rapped J.I.D on “Big Black Truck.”
It’s made my process so much easier to handle because it’s like, I’m no longer here to compete against ya’ll, I’m competing against myself because I want to build myself to the highest level. People get so caught up in competition they’re missing opportunities. That whole competition breeds toxicity in our minds that make us feel like we have to work 24-7 hence it leads to burnouts, hence, people quit. So as long as you focus on you, and getting to where you want to get to, literally bro, you’re gonna see the glory regardless of whatever that success is. You define success for yourself and it starts with just focusing on you for real.
What makes your social media presence, and your Twitter approach specifically, different from so many other people?
We put a lot of time into trying to be imaged like the people who are already on. I have a homie who is an incredible rapper, and he’s very similar to Jay Z. I feel like sometimes the way he approaches things is phenomenal. He has a great vision, a great brain, a great mind. It’s incredible. But I feel like he sees himself as if he has to present himself like Hov. I feel sometimes I got to present myself in the way that Drake, J Cole and Kendrick were. But you got to take into consideration that’s the finished product. If you move like the finished product before you even started the adventure, nobody’s gonna even pay attention to you because you’re going to be moving in a way that’s outside the realms of reality.
I’m sure the way I’m feeling now about being transparent, may eventually change as things get more professional, but I want to hold on to this moment, as much as I can. I like to interact with people. I like to tell people like, yo, I feel the same things you’re feeling. I know you feel anxiety sometimes, bro, I feel that too.
Your most streamed song [at the time of this interview] is “Code of Ethics.” Take me through the creation of the song. What came first, the beat or the lyrics?
Um, the beat came first. I heard the beat and I instantly knew. A lot of times I get beats and I’m like, alright, I gotta figure out what I’m gonna do with this. But “Code of Ethics…” I got that beat and it was almost like the beat was just talking to me and it was like, hey, do this, do this, do this. Honestly, a lot of the times the beats always come first to me. Not that I’m not a believer in it, but I just don’t write prior to the beats. I like to create in that moment and with creating a moment I like to encompass everything. I’m a very environmental guy. I like to take in my headspace, what I’m feeling, what I’m doing, where I feel like is it hot outside? Is it cold? Is my elbow ashy? A lot of my music sometimes feels like a snapshot. Like “Dreams,” when I wrote that, that was after a really, really rough week at work. And I say, yo, I can’t do this no more. The second verse everybody hears on “Dreams” is not the original second verse. There’s a second verse that exists, where I am literally screaming fuck [redacted].
I can’t really write without feeling something. I move off inspiration. I don’t really make senseless tracks. I think my ability to produce as much is based on feeling everything all at once. Once I get that I literally need a beat and from there I know exactly what I got to do.
I think the most human aspect of this story is the space that you’re existing in while you’re getting this work done. You can spend a whole day working on a hook, but that’s still your day after you’ve got off work.
Yeah, man, I remember I was writing a song the other day and I got off work at six and I told myself, I was like, yo, if I work on a song with this hook, I’m gonna have to work on this till I go to sleep. I went to sleep at 12 o’clock, and had to be up at 8:30 again. I remember driving to work thinking to myself, like, damn, I spent the whole yesterday working on that hook and now I’m about to come home and spend a whole day working on this verse. So mind you, that’s two days that just took up and now I’m on Wednesday where I finally have the freedom to actually breathe. These off days for me are off days that almost permit my ability to exist as a regular person without all the extra stuff and then I still do the extra stuff anyway, because it’s like, you know, more free time. We need that right? You know, I feel you. You dedicate this time after you get off work when you have this free time for yourself because that’s really what it comes down to.
And how do you incorporate your great social media outreach into your recording process? I see a lot of videos of you in your room playing back the songs yourself and kind of rapping along. They always seem to do really well on Twitter, which is in part due to your engaged fan base, but…
I think what I’m trying to realize about the fans, because you can’t give them everything, but I try to show them a little bit of my process and just what I’d be doing. And I will say this: a lot of what we’re seeing on Twitter, like a lot of artists doing a lot of different things, I know I inspired that. Because everybody was trying to figure out like a year ago, a lot of people that I know was trying to figure out what was the next step? And then I started doing um…
[Patrick’s face lights up. He’s clearly distracted by a notification on his phone]
Oh, wow, that’s crazy. I’m gonna share something with you real quick, hold on. Wow, uh wow it’s like good things just be coming out of nowhere all the time. But um yeah I try to show people what my uh, I try to show people my um… But my process is to show people that they can do it… [pauses in thought] I just got a text from one of my homies. He sent me a joint and one of the one of the dudes who produced it is from Dreamville. Wow, yeah, we about to work on a track together. My guy… I won’t say his name cuz I don’t know what… You know what I’m saying, [laughs] you know who he is…
Now you have the finished track. How do you plan your song releases?
So let me break down my team a little bit. I’m independent. I ain’t signed to a label. But when I tell you my people work like we signed to a label… Jesus Christ dog, Jesus Christ. First and foremost is my manager. That’s my cousin, his name is Nile. He be on top of everything. My guy Christian, we call him Mizzy, he really the A&R for the sound and everything. Then I got my guy, Austin Goodlucke, he handles everything marketing related. My boy, Justin LA, he does all the videos, my guy THRD, he helps out with the sound as well and he also gives me ideas in terms of how to move on social media a lot better. Then we got Tom Jacob, who is the mastering and mixing and all that. Between the seven people including myself, bro, I’m talking about the first thing we get done essentially is the track.
Once the track is done, I’m hitting up Justin to figure out a visual. Then from there I’m hitting up THRD to figure out where we about to go in terms of moving it. I’m hitting up Austin in terms of the marketing, I’m hitting up Nile to make sure we submitted things to United Masters.
From the moment we know the date that everything’s dropping, that’s when the clock really starts. Because the clock don’t start ticking until we submit the song with the cover art. Also I gotta hit up my brother because he does all the cover art for the most part. Once we submit that song, and it says, okay, it’s submitted… well, that’s when everybody’s heads start spinning because it’s like aight, now we got to figure out what we’re doing. We got to get a video ready. We got to figure out how we gonna get the promos right, we got to figure out who we can hit to send it to.
I can’t really write without feeling something. I move off inspiration. I don’t really make senseless tracks. I think my ability to produce as much is based on feeling everything all at once.”
This “Swish” shoot dog… for that “Swish” video it was so hectic because so many things were happening all at once. “Swish” was coming out, we had to submit it through United Masters, we had all these people we had to get together to get a gym, the guy that we were going to shoot the video in the gym for, he canceled on us initially, so I had to find a separate guy who actually came through and helped us out, got us in there, got everything done.
We usually like to drop things the same day, you know, to help boost them up, stuff like that. It was so hectic. Then for “Dreams,” it looks so flawless. But yo that whole thing I did in my backyard, I figured that out five days before the song drop. My mom, she hung up them lights by the way, my mom and my dad, but we were all over the place trying to get it together. It’s so stressful, to the point where I won’t even be making music like that when it’s time for releases. When it’s release time I’m focused specifically on that release. To the point where my mind, body and soul are literally locked into getting anything and everything about that right.
For this interview do you think there’s anything off the top of your head that we’ve missed that’s important to your story?
Yes. All right. This is the thing that I don’t think a lot of people talk about. Relationships in music. A lot of these artists have girlfriends or boyfriends that have been around for the longest time. Don’t let them fool y’all. The reason why I bring that up is because, outside of the homies, having somebody there as a backbone to like really hold you down in the moments of this… like, I remember when I aint have no.. I was a little short on bread, my girlfriend used to throw me bread for some of my studio sessions back in the day.
Make sure as a creative you’re around somebody who essentially will help your energy blossom rather than take it away. You want somebody pushing that. I think that’s one of those things that people forget a lot about. You want to be around somebody who fosters that energy regardless of who you are, regardless of where you see yourself going. You got to have somebody around you that helps push and blossom that energy upward because to be around somebody who has negative energy will not help you blossom and I think that’s one of the most important things. Because, you know, like, we can be drawing inspiration from everywhere and anywhere.
Speak what you want into existence, and then work behind what you spoke and I swear it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen hundred percent. The world is based on energies and it all works around what you put into it. If you put positive energy into it, you get positive energy back out. You put negative energy into it… you know, it’s gonna follow you the way you put it in here. So put that positive energy into what you speak on and it’ll literally take you anywhere you want to go in this world.”