Rahsaan Patterson: Full Circle

In 1997, before Musiq sang about being “Just Friends,” Jill Scott stopped chicken heads from “Getting in the Way” and Bilal found his “Soul Sista,” there was Rahsaan Patterson. With his red-tinged blown-out afro, earthy fashion sense and songs filled with sentiments of love, Rahsaan Patterson was neo-soul before we even knew what neo-soul was. Without a doubt, he was well ahead of his time.

Although his walls aren’t adorned with platinum plaques, Rahsaan Patterson has what many platinum selling artists can only dream of achieving—staying power. Four albums deep into his career, Rahsaan Patterson has proven that true talent can, indeed, succeed at the end of the day.

After jumpstarting his career as a background singer and songwriter for artists such as Brandy, Tevin Campbell and Donnell Jones, he finally got his chance to shine on his MCA self-titled debut in 1997. After 1999’s follow up project, Love in Stereo, he found himself with no label home after MCA folded. However, he was able to walk away with something that most artists rarely do—total ownership of his masters.

Dusting himself off, he took his career into his own hands by releasing songs overseas and most recently, in the U.S. on his own label. He sat down to chat with AllHipHop.com Alternatives to share his views on the industry and what inspired him on his latest album, After Hours.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How does it feel when people approach you and tell you that your music touches them, and they identify with something that you created?

Rahsaan: It just lets me know that I’m relatable and I relate to people, and that just because I make albums and people may view me as a celebrity or someone not in their circumference, that it doesn’t mean anything. It makes me feel good to know that people can hear what I write and what I sing and relate to it at all.

AHHA: Some of us may know you primarily for your debut album or Love in Stereo, but you’ve been around since before then, right?

Rahsaan: Well actually, it’s been almost 20 years really.

AHHA: Wow! How old are you, talking about you’ve been doing this for 20 years?

Rahsaan: I’m 31, but I started professionally recording music at 10. A lot of people don’t know that, and they tend to interpret my confidence and security as being egotistical or conceited in some ways, because they don’t know my history. They don’t know that I’m familiar with this music industry and very comfortable in it. I don’t feel a need to please or alter who I am and how I do what I do.

AHHA: How would you describe your experience in the industry overall and just dealing with the majors?

Rahsaan: I feel that it’s unfortunate that the industry has evolved into what it has evolved to, just in terms of the level of talent that is marketed, promoted and forced down people’s throats. The industry has always been the same, even from the beginning, as far as the thievery, the publishing, the under the table money that people get to play a song. At least [back] then, the talent kind of spoke for itself. Nowadays, it’s not like that.

AHHA: Your latest album was initially released overseas first. Tell us about your decision to do that, and what finally prompted you to bring it here to the States.

Rahsaan: Well, I had intended to bring it here to the United States, but what led to it being released in Europe first was an offer that came from a company to license my album in the U.K. Since MCA gave me my masters, I was able to license it to them. I’m very grateful for that opportunity because it allowed the people in that market to have the album. Had they not given me the offer, who knows when I would’ve been able to support breaking it over in that market. As far as the U.S., we were just waiting to finalize our label and make sure that we had all the proper people involved and the proper money just to be able to launch the record here on our own label, Artistry Music.

AHHA: What was on your mind when you were working on this album?

Rahsaan: Several things. Even still today, my father’s death is always prominent in my mind and spirit. That was definitely a major factor in a lot of the inspiration for my record. And I guess in a lot of ways, missing him and relating to him, and being able to feel some of the telepathic communication also led me to learn more about him - the relationship between my parents, and how the environment you grow up in and the things that you learn subconsciously end up affecting how you deal with our own relationships.

AHHA: Now that you have your own label, do you have plans to release any other artists?

Rahsaan: Oh, definitely. Right now, my record is the first record to be released and we’re definitely looking to sign artists in the future. As of now, because we’re just getting off the ground, my album is the main focus at the moment. Hopefully, it will bring in enough revenue to where we could continue to support the label and support the artists that we sign.

AHHA: You worked with Van Hunt and Mike City on this album, which might surprise some listeners.

Rahsaan: Why?

AHHA: Because Mike City is more known for working with more commercialized artists like Carl Thomas and Brandy. What led you to collaborate with him?

Rahsaan: I’ve always been a fan of all of the songs that he’s released that’s been played on radio, like ‘I Wish’ by Carl Thomas and Brandy’s ‘Full Moon’. I feel his spirit through his music, and I think he has a great way of conveying his spirit through his music. That’s what leads me to work with anybody that I’ve worked with—the spirit I hear in their songs. As far as working with him, it was very easy and very laid back. The song that he wrote for me, I felt really conveyed a message that I really feel, as far as me being an artist and communicating to the people who appreciate what I do and buy my records. I wanted to show people that every album that I make is confessional, and it’s true.