Rahsaan Patterson : “The Kid’ of old emotes new shades of “bleu”
Time sure flies when you are busy influencing the music world and leaving deep footprints in the sand as you go along your journey. That is in fact the case with child star (The Kid on “Kids Incorporated”) turned vocalist/songwriter/performer Rahsaan Patterson who has created a trademark style that distinctively separates him from the rest. Even though compared with legendary singers Stevie Wonder and Prince, Patterson is indeed a few layers deeper than just a mere emulation of greats who have a musical path before him. With five studio and one Holiday album under his belt over the past 15 years,
Rahsaan has independently forged ahead through the obstacles often faced by openly-gay performers to independently produce a collection of music that has distinctively created his own style to be emulated by future musicians. Sharing his talents with other respected artists such as Shanice, Lalah Hathaway, Brandy, to name a few, continues to sprinkle a little bit of Rahsaan in the sound of others. In preparation for a San Francisco engagement at Yoshi’s SF, Rahsaan took me on his journey from the days of being just ‘The Kid’ to the man of critical acclaim.
BEBE: I was looking back at your time as “The Kid” on the show “Kids Incorporated” back in the 80s, and I thought we could really call the show the urban version of the Mickey Mouse Club (both laugh).
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Very much so.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Yeah, and it was pre-GLEE.
BEBE: Did you think that your time on the show would lead to a singing career?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: I didn’t necessarily expect it initially. By the time I was 12, I think, I began to think I could make a career in music and performing. Initially I had no intentions of pursuing a career in music. It just happened that I had received a phone call while I was in New York from a consultant for the TV show Kids Incorporated, who happened to be Chip Fields, Kim Fields (“Facts of Life”) mom. And, she flew me out like the day after she called.
BEBE: Were you tinkering with writing music at an early age?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Not at all. I was just singing in church in New York, and going to school. That was pretty much it.
BEBE: Doing what regular folks do, huh?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Yeah (laughs a little)! Just chillin’ and being a kid. If it hadn’t been for my grandmother, and my dad, and my older sister, who all influenced and pushed me, to sing as a child, I would have never necessarily known that I had gift sing.
BEBE: Well, when people throw your name out there in the music world, there is an automatic comparison to Stevie Wonder and Prince. But, I’d like to know who were your personal musical influences?
BEBE: You want to pull out some lesser known names (we both laugh).
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Right! Basically all the legends, you know? All the true artistic pioneers. As a child I was not only influenced by their singing, but also by their communication through their art, and their individual styles.
BEBE: I know you are friends with Grammy-nominated recording artist Ledisi, one of the San Francisco Bay Area jewels, and when she brings up your name and speaks about you, she says one of your artistic strengths is your uninhibited approach to your music. Agree or disagree?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: I would definitely agree with that. It basically harkens back to those artists I named earlier and their honest communication through their songs, and their spirit and really revealing themselves in who they were. Those are always the artists that speak most to me, the ones who are really mavericks and have no shame in displaying who they really are, not only their triumphs but (also) their pains.
BEBE: The people that you named are not only good in their vocal styles and the presentation of their music, they are also great lyricists. They have a good way of communicating feelings through words.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: and, there are tons of great singers out there, but to me, there is a major difference between those who don’t just sing songs, but write their lives. They write songs about spirit, and God, and the struggles with all that.
BEBE: As a live performer, getting to the presentation of one’s music, you’ve sold out many venues including your B.B. King Blues Club date, and this comes without having mainstream push. So, what would you say it is about your live performances that captivates the audience so that they become major fans and followers?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Well, I give them myself, and I don’t look at what I do on stage, per se, as a performance or an act. People are used to going to shows to be entertained and getting a stage character from people.
BEBE: A fabrication is what I call it.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Yeah, to an extent (laughing). And that’s not to take away from the aspect of what a lot of performers are great at. Because people do go to those to get that, to be taken out of the everyday realm of life. When I’m on stage, I give them whatever mood I’m in. If I’m insecure, if I’m happy, if I’m sad, if I’m cocky, they can get all of that within an hour and fifteen minutes. It is something they can relate to, and there’s strength in that. Not only is there strength in people going to see a Beyonce who is like perfect from the beginning to the end. But, I think sometimes people can appreciate flaws in human beings. I think that is one of the things I do when I perform.
BEBE: To bring up Yoshi’s in San Francisco , where you will be performing Friday, June 22, and places like B.B. King’s Blues Club, those are intimate venues. So do you think in places like those where they are set up for an intimate interaction between the performer and the audience are best suited for the crowd to feel your vibe?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Oh, absolutely! It’s so up close and personal that it pretty much makes me comfortable to give them me. It’s kind like them in my house.
BEBE: I was just going to say that it was probably like the days when you used to perform before your family (laughs).
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: (laughing along) Exactly! And similarly the support that comes along with that family setting is very much present in those intimate settings. I’ve had the support of the people who have come to see me over the years, they feel like family. I find that special.
BEBE: Your first couple of albums you put out there were on the MCA label, which was a major label. But when you left them you started your own independent label after album two.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: I did. MCA actually folded as a label, and certain artists were moved over to Geffen, and I was not one of those artists. But I was fortunate enough to receive the masters of my album “After Hours” (Patterson’s third album) which I recorded while at MCA. So with that I started the label, and it was difficult, but I was able to get the record out to certain markets and in the stores and that was a blessing.
BEBE: I know you don’t define yourself as a gay artist, eventhough you are an openly gay performer. That is apart of who you are, but not all of who you are. But I have interviewed many gay artists, such as yourself, who like you have a quality in their writing and delivery of song that is right up there with the mainstream artists;however, just the fact that there is that word “gay” attached to them, mainstream labels seem to have a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Do you find that to be true?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Um, particularly in the black (music) realm,yes! That just goes back to the issues that we as a black people (with the gay issue). When you compare this to the mainstream on the Pop side with white (gay) artists,it’s entirely a different story, an entirely different acceptance. It’s unfortunate, but I can’t let that stop me from doing what I was brought here to do.
BEBE: Now your current CD that you released last year (2011) is entitled “Bleuphoria”. Where does the name of the album come from or mean?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: That title came to me like in 2005. While I was in Paris I was filming things around Paris, and when I got back I started to put together my little iMovie short, I wanted t o have a production company name to put in front of the movie title, and Bleuphoria came to me. I then had to learn the significance of the word to me and why it came to me. In the course of doing that from 2005 to the time of releasing the album, I discovered it pertains mostly to the world. If you look at the Earth from outer space, it’s like a big blue ball. And, in that world is not only the water represented by the blue, but the blue that can be kind of melancholy, somber darkness representing all the tragedies that occur on this planet. But at the same time, it is all we have and it’s a beautiful life regardless of people’s struggles. Then the love represented in the album, manifests itself in tones of blue. The blue represents that bliss and euphoria that came with it (love).
BEBE: On this collection represented by “Bleuphoria”, you work and perform with some serious music industry hitters. You have Shanice, Jody Watley, Tata Vega, Faith Evans, Lalah Hathaway, and the legendary Andre Crouch, another San Francisco Bay Area talent. Working with all these people to put the album together must have been a magical experience.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: It was absolutely magical! When I created this record, I kept envisioning that I wanted to not only display my capabilities as an artist, but I wanted to homage to the artists and singers that I love and respect. So, with that, I just had to let it come into my consciousness, and then fate just put everything into play. I didn’t have to reach out these artists management, it all just fell into place. It was all quite divine.
BEBE: As I listened to “Bleuphoria” in totality, I picked up all the variables in the music. With all those people involved with you on this project, there are a lot of different styles represented. There is many different styles that you represent on this CD. Nowadays artists are more inclined top put out singles rather than produce an entire album. And many artists I’ve spoken to say that is because the buying habits of the public has changed. Then I wonder, well what came first in this change. Did the buying habits actually lead the way in the way artists release music, or has the lackluster music lead the way in how people buy music? I tend to believe it is the latter. There was a period where albums did not contain variance in the songs contained within. They all sounded the same. So why would I spend the album money when the 8 to 10 songs just sounded like one big, long single?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: And even when they put out they call an “album” , you would tend to like only two or three.
BEBE: So, it is really nice when I hear collections like yours on “Bleuphoria” that rally appeals to all of my senses, my jazz, my gospel, my r&b, my funk….all of that. I get a taste of all of that with “Bleuphoria”.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: I really do appreciate that. You know all of my albums have been quite varied in styles. And, the common thread in each album has been my approach to lyricism, the way that sing and deliver with my emotions, and for me, I find it important to display the different facets of who I am.
BEBE: You’ve already released two singles off the CD, “Easier Said Than Done” and “6 AM”with the latter one charting on the Billboard R&B Chart. Are their plans to release a third?
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Well, a couple of months ago we released “Crazy (Baby)” that has Faith Evans and Shanice featured on it, and it has garnered quite a bit of attention across the nation. To be an independent artist and be able to say that you had three singles (off one album) is monumental. That’s pretty rare. We’ve actually filmed a DVD of a live concert which will be released in October of this year (2012) to hopefully coincide with another single release from the album to help push and support the DVD. And the fourth single release idea is “I Only Have Eyes For You”.
BEBE: I really love your rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You”. It makes me think of how Luther Vandross used to take familiar and popular songs released previously by other celebrat4ed artist, and he would make the song his own, to the point that we would even forget who originally recorded it! You have done that with this one.
RAHSAAN PATTERSON: My main goal was to maintain the ambiance of the song, maintain the integrity of the song, and give people a feeling of the beauty of the lyric. There is not a whole lot of stuff happening. There’s the music and the lyric with the harmonies and stuff. I wanted the listener to capture the space of the song. But at the same time update it to 2012.
BEBE: I think that sums up Rahsaan Patterson as an artist right there….paying attention the beauty of the lyric and the melodies with emphasis in the right spot to allow the audience, the listener, to capture that space.
Rahsaan Patterson brings his vocal talents and wonderful lyricism to San Francisco for a one night two-show engagement at Yoshi’s SF this Friday, June 22. www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco.
Additional performance dates: June 23, El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles with Sy Smith
July 14, Carter Barron Amphiheatre, Washington, DC
For more on Rahsaan Patterson, check out his website www.not-of-this-world.com.