Chris Patrick doesn’t let the negativity get to him. Despite the COVID-19 crisis impacting his ability to perform, he’s in good spirits. Preparing for his new single 3AM release, Chris focuses on those supporting his movement rather than distractions. Chris’ music ebbs and flows moment to moment and portrays an artist unabashedly present in the art he’s creating.
While his lyrical meandering is often boxed in with that of J. Cole, Chris’ ability to articulate intense emotions from frustration to desire is what initially drew me to his music. His compositions often read like sketches in a journal detailing the inescapable struggle that has followed him for some time.
In our latest interview, Chris Patrick sat down with Swidlife to talk about his childhood in East Orange, what propelled him to focus on writing in his free time, and making his music as open and honest as possible.
For those who don’t know, where are you from?
I’m a Native of East Orange, New Jersey, a neighbor to Newark, and I’ve been there all my life.
I’ve been watching your growth for a while now, dating back to the early Swidlife days, but it seems the past year, or so, things have completely shifted for you. To what do you attribute your success?
Honestly, I’ve just been trusting my gut and being transparent with everything through my music. As an artist, it’s super easy to cut out the world and stick to ourselves. Truthfully, I did the opposite. I started to show my face more and put my heart on my sleeve. Just let the people know I was human as well. I started engaging with everyone, and in turn, shit started to move faster. Just being my genuine self has brought me the most success.
You bring up an excellent point about that artist/fan engagement. Like you said, oftentimes it’s so easy to stick to yourself and block out everything else. How much would you say your confidence has played a factor?
Confidence is everything for me. The growth started when I began to believe in the vision with every step fully, and I just started trusting every play. I spend so much time with my team going over every detail, and we tighten up every slight weakness to ensure there aren’t any holes. Of course, every plan isn’t perfect, but we’re more than disciplined enough to find a way around every obstacle.
Let’s backtrack a little. A lot of times, artists’ backgrounds help shape their future. What was your childhood like?
As a kid, honestly, I felt like an outcast. My parents were loving people for real [laughs.] But in school, I was an intelligent guy. Niggas kind of didn’t fuck with that where I was from, and I feel like I got picked on a lot. I wrote my first rap in 6th grade. When niggas found I could rap, people started to fuck with me a little more, but I still felt like I stood out. It had me feeling like a weirdo, and I was depressed due to all the bullying. A lot of my music comes from a place of my trauma. Just growing and evolving from the shit my mind put me through.
Was there a lot of music being played throughout the house growing up?
Yeah. There was a lot of RnB. My dad loved his singers. A lot of Mary J Blige was played. We are a house of Mary [laughs.] Usher was in heavy rotation. A lot of Bell Biv Devoe. Mike Jack had the streets in my crib as well. I heard Biggie occasionally and a lot of Hov.
Was there one particular track that got you to start rapping — or was it more so you constantly hear the music he played throughout your house?
Truthfully, my homie Ant Thomas put me on to Lil Wayne and J. Cole. It was that Dollar and a Dream that did it for me. Shit changed my life for real. Cole got me through so much. Bro is my favorite rapper, and he inspired me to start it all up.
And your inspiration from J. Cole can be heard in your music. Coming into the game, was that a style you wanted to emulate, or did you want to be diverse in different types?
So initially, my whole thing was mainly focusing on rapping. I wanted to be like Cole. As time went along, though, I had this thought. “Why doesn’t Cole sing? That’d be cool.” It was at that moment that shit started to spark in my head. Why wait for Cole to do something I could do myself? Singing and vibing were super nerve-racking for me. Once I found my pocket and understood how to work my voice, floating on tracks became 10x easier. The diversity is what makes the element of storytelling all that more enjoyable.
A lot of times when I hear your music, you always highlight the struggles you’ve gone through and solidify yourself in the game — and other times, you have tracks like 3AM, which sounds completely different. Do you focus on specific areas more when it comes to your artistry?
Truthfully the rhythm of my writing comes from inspiration. When I’m heavily inspired, my goal is always to find a way to convey the idea in the most effective means. That sometimes calls for me to rap, and other times it calls for the more melodic. I focus on which way is going to give me the best results.
Do you like this idea of “hybrid artists” — and would you label yourself one?
Yeah, 100% to both. Just being fluent in more than just one skill is crucial. It makes the ability to express oneself jump to another level. Think about it like hoops. To be able to dunk is dope. To be a shooter is also fire. However, to do both, that’s when the problem starts. You become a threat inside and out. Let’s say you learn how to dribble and pass. Now you become an offensive threat that can facilitate. For music, it’s the same thing. To rap is fire. To sing and rap is crazy. Swagging out and creating actual songs are two additional skills in their own right. Harnessing that ability to do more than one thing grants a higher level of success.
Since we’re on the topic of hoops, let’s talk about ‘Swish’ for a second. What does that track mean to you?
‘Swish’ is a vibe. It’s a great bop for real. That was one of the more so first attempts at rocking with a song. When my guy Tom Jacob and I cooked it up, we kind of just thought it was trash. I sent it to the homies, and they got hyped. I sent it to my manager, and the first thing he said was, “oh yeah, we hitting the league with this one.” Next thing you know, we’re in NBA 2K. Shit was insane. It’s deadass a bop that I like to rock out to. Of course, I got better songs than that, but it picked up, so we’ve just been pushing.
It’s always crazy how artists drop certain tracks, and they don’t expect it to have a massive impact on their careers. When you were working on Swish, did you have high expectations for the track? Or did you notice you had a hit on your hands after it started to gain accolades?
Truthfully it was a little bit of both. I knew it would go up as soon as people heard it and just wasn’t sure how far it’d go. I got a write-up from NPR, got it played on the Radio out in Florida (still gets spins), and now 2K. At this point, I’ve entirely accepted that it’s going to keep going crazy.
With the whole COVID situation, artists are brainstorming more creative ways to get content to people. How beneficial are live stream concerts/performances to you?
Having done my first live one just a couple of days ago, it’s fire. Off the momentum of that, I went up around 800 followers. I’m not a numbers guy much, but I know I must’ve done a pretty good job if that was the response I got. It’s a nice means of interacting and engaging with the people who support me.
Although you’re able to switch it up, many of your lyrics are so dense and carefully crafted. In an era where distorted 808s and short tracks are the norms, how do you manage to stay current with trends while ensuring your message doesn’t get diluted?
This is a fire question. For me, every record is built on the premise of delivering the most compelling message in the best way. Over the years, I learned to cut the fat and get to the point with every bar. Once I knew that, I realized I could do just about anything on any track. From there, it’s just finding a creative way to deliver the message.
Coming up, you’ve had to learn on a trial and error-base. What’s something you think would be beneficial for artists starting?
Try as much as you can. You have to try anything and everything until something sticks. Fear can’t be the piece holding you back. You have to be willing to take that leap off the edge for your dream, no matter what. Failing is progress if you spin it correctly. Successful people failed. Winning doesn’t teach you shit. It just confirms the plan at hand worked for one. Failing teaches you how to win. That shit is critical. I worked on my pen (2016-2019) for three years until I got my first viral video. After that, shit started clicking. Of course, I failed after that, but it taught me how to maneuver. I got good at Twitter due to just studying the way people write. You have to take risks, and you have to be willing to fail regularly.
You’ve been sharing a lot of visuals recently, whether it be music videos or behind-the-scenes footage — it seems like you’re constantly providing visuals. How important do you think that aspect is?
Visuals are key to the game. People connect to something they can see before audio. Visuals > audio. Literally. People don’t want to click links anymore. They want easily digestible content. A good short video where you are putting your all into it is always more appreciated. People like to see your face, especially when they rock with you.
When working on songs, do you know which ones you’ll make a video for — or do you base it off the audience’s reaction?
I’m giving out them gems [laughs.] Truthfully I usually talk it over with my team. Bars and songs paired with a visual go the farthest in impact. Any piece that can invoke a strong response, whether happy, sad, uneasy or all of the above, is usually video-worthy. I like to talk to people. Once again, visuals are the key to connecting. So if you got a record where you are talking, and it’s structured properly, a visual behind it is gold.
You’ve been very consistent lately by dropping off singles. When can we expect a project?
Truthfully the project is finished in regards to the writing. Right now, we’re in the mixing stage. A lot of smoothing our we have to do! It should be up and ready soon.
Being 24, you kind of seem to have it somewhat all figured out — for the most part. What are your five-year goals? I don’t even mean music bro, but life-wise.
For one, I need COVID to be done. After that, I want a crib. Big ass crib in the cut for me and my girl. I need to have all those damn student loans paid off (fuck college), and truthfully I want to be able to travel the world.
What can we expect from you moving forward? Or is everything under wraps?
I got a single on the way with that 3AM joint and potentially a fire project hoping to have that all finished up and ready to go to give the world before the end of 2020. I feel like I’ll strike gold with that one.
Anything else you want to add?
Make sure you wear your mask, drink water, and brush your teeth. Hygiene is important. In addition, don’t let a hoe ass nigga tell you you can’t be great. Life is too short to worry about the opinions of others. Finally, if you believe in your dream, chase that shit to hell and back.