This interview is a continuation of the Conversations with Chris Patrick series. His new album, ‘From the Heart, Vol. 2’ was released Dec. 14 and this conversation with Brandon Hill was had on Dec. 10. You can also check out the previous interview in the series and the featured artist profile.
Chris Patrick has weight on his shoulders. He feels this pressure from two sides. On one hand he feels the urge to follow his artistic dreams and find success as a vocalist and emcee, but on the other hand he questions the cost. Even as an artist, Patrick lives and works within a rigged system. He has seen first-hand the violent police state and healthcare cost disparity that limits the prosperity of Black Americans. Success is certainly a goal, but when conventional success is detained by the terms of a system that prevents your people from winning, is it really a reliable measure of victory? As he continues to rise as an individual he has a lot on his mind. His latest full-length project, From the Heart, Vol. 2, is the filter by which he’s processing these thoughts in the moment they’re experienced.
Having quit his hospital job that utilized his bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration, the pressure is on for him to validate his decision. He’s seen some mild success with music, landing his song “Swish” on the NBA 2K21 soundtrack and building an engaged following on social media but having done so while mostly working a full-time retail job, the fruits of his labor are still ripening. He places no limits on his potential and won’t compromise his goals even if it means turning down audacious offers from label representatives calling him on the work phone of his nine to five.
While he puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed, the low points he’s experienced have made him well aware of the need to maintain his mental health through the journey. On “Peace of Mind” he sings “I’m scared that I might lose myself trying to chase my fate.” He’s able to hold off the creeping effect of doubt by reassuring himself through a system of support built by his friends and family and by marking off concrete musical achievements as progress. The weight he has more difficulty shrugging is the state of a nation that could take away that support system or discard his achievements. Whether victimized by systemic violence, industrial incarceration or the COVID pandemic that’s sweeping through communities like his own with no remorse for the disparity in healthcare, he feels vulnerable.
Among the anxiety he expresses for the fragility of healthy coping mechanisms, he addresses the allure that he sees in escaping through drugs, alcohol and sex — methods that might not be healthy but allow for a greater illusion of control over your mental state. On songs like “Seattle Interlude” and “Gray’‘ he expresses the tendency he sees in himself and others to lean towards these means of escape as learned behaviors passed through unknown generational trauma or even from one slighted lover seeking selfish solace through the slighting of another. The way he brings the anecdotal experiences of others into his own narrative of healing shows how closely he ties his own mental state to the wider condition of Black people in America.
The standout single from the album, “Typical Shit,” sees Patrick lamenting the everyday reality of being Black in America with an invigorating feature from Deante’ Hitchcock. The Atlanta emcee really helped Patrick sharpen his lyrical sword by entering into a challenge with him where they exchanged a verse with each other every single day for 62 days. From the Heart, Vol. 2 is the result of his refined processing of that work and the external factors beyond his control that influence an internal state he struggles to maintain. Even when searching for his own peace of mind, Patrick never leaves the awareness that he’s working within a culture that’s designed to make even his success an outlying statistic.
I had the opportunity to sit down with the visionary emcee and hear him explain in his own words. In the interview below, Chris Patrick breaks down From the Heart, Vol. 2, lightly edited for content and clarity.
From the Heart, Vol. 2 Cover Art
Brandon: A lot has changed since our last conversation six months ago. You’ve quit your retail job right?
Chris: Yeah, we dealt with that. It wasn’t crazy until I left that last day. I just saw things moving in a certain way. I saw the amount of time that needed to be dedicated to the project. I just saw everything that I needed to do coming into fruition in that moment, that I was like, ‘Yo, I really can’t be here anymore.’
You’ve been all over the place lately. East Coast, Atlanta, Los Angeles, what’s up with all the travel?
My engineer moved to LA… and we had to finish the project. I literally just decided to say ‘Hey, I’m going to just take this trip out there to you.’ Prior to that I had already knew that me and Deante’ [Hitchcock] had got cool doing the verse-a-day stuff. [We] stopped in Atlanta first, Deante’ slid on us for the [“Typical Shit”] video and that was just vibes man. From there, we went straight to LA and spent the rest of those days out there finishing up the project.
The album opens on a voicemail from a sleazy label representative. Have you actually been getting offers like that?
One hundred percent inspired by real real experiences. The day I got the CXR tatted on me was the day that I received the most egregious call of my life. They were like, ‘Hey, you know, we really like your music, xy and z, we think you would be great on TikTok and all these different places. We just need more hits.’ But I see myself as being bigger than just an artist, writer, I see myself trying to go head to head with some of the greats. So for me what they were offering, it wasn’t really much of what I was looking for. My vision is here. You guys are here. I don’t think we’re meeting up. I’m trying to be bigger than that. I’m trying to provide a level of legacy for everybody who’s rockin’ with me.
On the same track you say you’re tired of running. What have you been running from?
I feel like I’ve been running in the wrong direction. I feel like for some time, I was chasing the wrong thing, or maybe not chasing the wrong thing but pushing perhaps something that I felt was not essentially me all the way through and through. I won’t divulge on which songs because some of them ain’t even drop, but From The Heart [Vol. 2] is the realest representation of who I am. I literally feel like I’m my most authentic self, in all ways, shapes and forms.
Which is why the track makes such a great transition to “Dreams.” You wrote “Dreams” awhile ago so do you feel like it was prophetic or are those dreams still in progress?
I feel like the dreams are in progress. I think “Tired” is the frustration — even with the way that it ends with the ‘Hey, thank you for calling Geek Squad. This is Chris Patrick, how can I be of assistance?’ I’ve got calls from labels in the midst of my job offering some crazy shit. Mind you, I’m working at a shit job and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this would be so good right now, but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t take it right now because it doesn’t fit where I need to be.’ And that’s where that frustration comes from, which does lead into “Dreams.” I think it’s an assessment of where we are and where we would like to be.
Working with Deante’ Hitchcock on “Typical Shit” had to be an incredible opportunity. How did those pieces fall into place?
The tracklist everybody sees is not the original tracklist. There were a different set of songs. Before we had finalized all the tracks for the first rough draft, which we called something entirely different, I remember telling myself we need a feature from somebody. I said, Kenny Mason and Deante’.
Three days later, people are tweeting Deante’ about who he should work with. A lot of people tweeted Chris Patrick, he goes, ‘I keep seeing this Chris Patrick name. Is bruh cold?’ So I sent him two records, but he was a little busy at the time. I didn’t realize he’s working on his Deluxe. I saw him about a week or two later say, ‘Hey, I want to do a verse-a-day.’ By that time, I had went through BETTER and I realized how good of a rapper he was. I kind of felt like maybe I was the one lacking in certain substance with things. I didn’t feel like I was equipped to even send him the tracks I should have sent him. So I said let’s do a verse-a-day. Let me see if I can really hang with you. On that first round of verse-a-days we got through about 60-62 days straight of bars.
Day one I sent him a verse that I ended up putting on From the Heart [Vol. 2], and he was like, ‘Bruh, you cold,’ and he sent me something back. And I was just like, ‘Bro, you think I’m cold? You’re a fucking demon.’ I specifically remember myself telling him ‘If I’m the top High School player in the country, I just got invited to play with some college dudes in the summer and you’re one of the top college guys and you’re kicking my ass right now.’ I finally felt like I was behind a little bit. But for them 62 days, bro, I grinded out every single day with him.
Truthfully, I don’t feel like my pen would have elevated to which now From the Heart [Vol. 2] sounds like. In the midst of me doing those verse-a-days with him, I’m crafting up a whole new project. That whole project I had? Gutted it. He don’t even realize what he did for me. He really made me believe more so in myself.
“Typical Shit” is about the typical struggles of being Black in America, and there’s this contrast with recognizing the system that reinforces these things but somehow still needing to work within it even knowing how it treats Black people the way it does. How does that contradiction feel?
The typical shit that you deal with every day as an African American… it don’t change, it just keeps going. You have to literally keep finding ways to work through all of this. You remember, the summer, it was nuts. All these tragedies going on. It was really looking at all these situations and just thinking to myself, what does it mean to be an artist in the midst of all of this as a Black person? How do you align yourself in a way that represents you properly without looking like you’re selling out? Obviously the industry is run by, you know, not us. So it’s really about trying to find your way through that and represent and hold your integrity to the highest level.
Sometimes shit is too much, you got to take that weight off. People smoke, people drink, we get lit, it takes our mind off all this shit. But sometimes what happens, which I’ve seen with myself, when you do turn to shit like that you rely on it as a crutch. That’s when you start to question, ‘Is the peace of mind that you’re currently trying to maintain off of these drugs worth it? Is that high worth it in the midst of all this shit going on? Should I try to find peace of mind sober? How do I do it?’
It’s like, how much are you willing to do? How much are you willing to sacrifice to really obtain peace of mind? Peace of mind, I guess more so is the happiness and because happiness is something that is forever fleeting, it’s almost like a never ending cycle that you’re chasing.
What does it mean to you to have peace of mind?
It’s about evaluating your state of being — who you are as the person in the moment and how you feel moving through that moment. Everything is really about maintaining that integrity, and making sure that state of being is to the highest level possible without compromise. I think when you fall into levels of compromise, that’s where things get tricky and it’s a little hard to evaluate. As long as you know who you are and your integrity is there I think you can achieve a good peace of mind when you feel like you’ve made it to that equilibrium.
That makes the placement of “3AM” so much more significant. The single was about yearning for that person, but following “Peace of Mind” it’s more like you’re longing for the mental solace they provide.
The most important thing I want people to understand is that the singles as a standalone is one thing, but to hear it in context with everything else, it gives it a double meaning. I think people like “Dreams,” but when people hear “Dreams” after “Tired” it just hits differently. “3AM” following “Peace of Mind” — it’s again that juggling act. That understanding that ‘Things are crazy right now, but you lucky I ride for you. Right now I’m not in the best state of mind with everything going on but I’m going to still slide on you and show you the love that I would normally show you if I was good.’ It changes the context of the song a little bit. It goes from a more like, ‘Hey, my peace of mind not good but I’m still gonna slide on you to make sure you’re good.’
You’re mostly singing on “Seattle Interlude.” It doesn’t sound like you’re singing about yourself but is it a true story?
Yes. A lot of this project is indeed about me but there are other people who connect to this project very well. I have a lot of people who I have rocked with in my lifetime that really gave me stories that I can never let go.
What “Seattle [Interlude]” introduces is the understanding of like, ‘yo, why you still ride with him?’ And one of the things I did really, really good on this project was take the hooks and I flipped them: “Lucky I ride for you, I’ma still slide on you” / “why you still ride with him?” Like literally flipping these hooks and just keeping the connectivity between them to introduce the ideas and the cohesiveness to show people that nothing’s changed from song to song. I’m over here talking about how I still ride for you and I’m telling you how crazy it is and I’m questioning you and why you still ride for him like that? Once again, it could be the same exact understanding. Think about “3AM” as an infinite cycle. What if it’s us trying to console somebody out of a bad relationship, and they’re doing the same for the next person. That’s essentially what happens with “Seattle [Interlude].” Shorty that you slid on is in a relationship that’s really bad with the old dude and she keeps bringing it back up. That’s the first half. You keep entertaining somebody, here I am in front of you. My peace of mind sucks. I’m still sliding on you to literally give you the time of day to make sure you’re good and then you’re still doing me dirty. On top of that you’re doing yourself dirty because you’re dealing with this other person.
Sometimes people take advantage of you, because they’ve never been treated well. I understand how crazy everything was before and I want to be your crutch in the midst of all of this but you have to eventually escape from this labyrinth of madness on your own accord. The really cool part about “Seattle [Interlude]” is the first half presents you the situation, the second half presents you with two different alternative scenarios of what could possibly happen. Regardless of which option you take, it’ll still bring you back to the gray of the next track.
Mental Health is a subject you’ve touched on frequently throughout your music, but “Gray” is the first song that you’ve dedicated entirely to the subject. What did it feel like to fully flesh that out on a song?
I’m not gonna lie, I think I had like seven verses for “Gray.” I rewrote that song so many times I wanted it to be perfect. Let’s say “Gray” is the acceptance and the understanding that everything that we’ve led up to may have been our fault — as men. I feel like as men, there’s a level of toxic masculinity that has prevailed over all of this in this society of patriarchy.
The way we treat our relationships, the way our corporate status works, everything is patriarchy based. I think a lot of it is gray because this patriarchal society that we live in, has kind of developed individuals, especially men, to be emotionless people who don’t know how to speak on how they feel.
Being raised in a climate of dudes has made us feel like getting a significant other or bagging them is more so what our greatest accomplishments should be. It doesn’t even seem like you’re loving of an individual anymore. You’re just lusting over them, because that’s all you’ve been taught to understand. So then you question yourself, ‘is all this stuff that we’ve been doing in these first six tracks my own accord, or is it because of what I’ve been taught?’
On the next song, “Okay,” you express a more positive outlook.
A lot of times I used to talk to my mom about a lot of the issues going on. I wanted to make that song sound just as grand as how my mother sounded when she told me every time I talked about my problems, how everything was gonna be okay.
Throughout the album, you’re processing things internally but “Give It All” feels a lot more external and it has to do with the world. So what does fixing the world mean to you?
Honestly, bro, it starts with me. They always say you can’t save anybody till you save yourself and I really understand that fully. I’ve got to know myself more and more over the past six months, just understanding who I am as a person, understanding where I’m trying to go, understanding what my goal in my vision and my mission is here on Earth. It’s really about just trying to build up a legacy that people can watch — because I can guarantee you that I’m not going to change the world as Chris Patrick, per se, in terms of my actions. I think it’s more so the effect that I leave on others that will allow the world to change in a better light. I think that’s the key.
We comin’ from an area where happiness, once again, the pursuit of that is very difficult to chase after. It’s really hard because it’s a dog eat dog world. Everybody wants to kill everybody, patriarchy again. It’s really about finding the beauty in the madness, to essentially ascend above all of that. “Give It All” more so is the acceptance of everything in the past eight tracks. With that being said, we have to literally sacrifice and push everything we have into this moment to at least create some level of beauty in the craziness.
There’s two levels to how you impact the world. There’s the very dramatic idea of fixing all these problems, but there’s also a more realistic sense of how conscious you are of your impact. As your relevance grows, how do you feel like your impact on the world will change?
Engagement, quality at which I push things out, and just my commitment. People appreciate that a lot. Showing them that beauty does exist in this and it takes time for that. Secondly, engaging with these people. I remember coming up when I was a little smaller than what I am, J.I.D used to respond to me. I don’t even know if he realized what he was doing, but I remember J.I.D was responding to me and I’m thinking to myself like, ‘Wow, I want to be like you when I get up.’ Even though I don’t feel as up as I should be or I feel like I’m in where I need to be yet, I respond to people and even though I think I’m a regular guy, they look at me as a lot higher — the same way I looked at J.I.D, and I show everybody love and I think that’s a start. As long as I stay committed to the goal at hand, I don’t think I can fail with that and I feel like through that can make the biggest impact possible.
The album ends on a bit of a sad note. How do you want people to feel after hearing it for the first time?
Honestly, I just want people to interpret it. I want people to feel rocked. I didn’t give a solution to any of this. It was like, ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on. This is what we’re gonna do.’ And then we just go from there. I don’t think anybody has a solution. This is just me giving you my best attempt at trying to make something out of nothing.