Nobody is hungrier for their music to be heard than indie hip hop artists. Whenever I am on the strip in Vegas, I always get stopped and accosted by aspiring rap gods trying to peddle their CDRs. They are out there all day and all night hustling on the streets, like 1920′s newsboys yelling “extra extra!” Not just in Vegas though or on Hollywood Blvd. This sort of thing happens in downtown Scottsdale even. Occasionally I have purchased jams from them, more out of respect for their work ethic than any genuine desire to listen to their music(aside from CD’s being cumbersome to carry, who even still owns a cd player? the number of people is surely dwindling fast.)
Anyhow, this brings me to a hip hop artist known as P.A.T.(no relation to the old Saturday Night Live character.) P.A.T.(whose real name is Pat Fraser) isn’t actually one of those street hustlers. He’s more advanced and sophisticated than that(musically and “promotionally.”) The point though, is that the indie hip hop community is vibrant, determined and interesting while most modern mainstream hip hop is lifeless and dumbed-down. P.A.T.’s 15 song album is cleverly called “P.A.T.M.A.N.(Powerful Artistic Truth, Misunderstood, or America’s Nightmare.”) It’s actually aptly titled, as the album contains each of those elements, and the artist leaves everything open to interpretation by keeping you guessing as to what his intentions and motivations are. At times the lyrics seem typically smug and assertive, but you quickly get the sense that he’s being somewhat ironic, covertly making fun of stereotypical hip hop cliches while knowingly espousing some of them at the same time. The song “Pay Me” is a good example of this: “I hate workin’ for the white man…I’m just playin.’ I hate workin’ period… now I’m serious.” Pat frequently injects humor into his rhymes, with pop culture references coming from left field such as in “Legendary.” I got a chuckle out of lines like “I’m movin’ up like The Jeffersons” and a Wrestlemania (III?) analogy transitioned from a biblical one:
David to Goliath pulling out my slingshot
Hulk Hogan to Andre The Giant with my leg chop
He makes very good usage of samples as well, which provide fishing hook intros to each song, as well as backing to various sections of tracks. As such, they give a refreshingly early 90′s feel to most of the songs. He maintains solid enough production values without veering into overly auto-tuned, shamelessy overproduced pop territory. One thing I would like to see is hip hop artists choosing more obscure samples. It’s too cheap and easy to take a known hook from a classic hit song and basically have a built in, time-tested hook. The best samples should be unrecognizable except to seriously detail oriented movie and music buffs, tv trivia nerds etc. In “Heartache and Pain” Pat appears to sample the Foreigner classic “I Want To Know What Love Is.” He also samples an instrumental portion from “The Look Of Love” as well(which actually works very well with his song but has probably been sampled to death by now.) I think I detected some Laurence Fishburne dialogue in there somewhere, The album contains a lot of other samples, most of which blend in smoothly with his beats and music unremarkably(a good thing.) Hint: If you want a good Laurence Fishburne sample for your next album grab the one from “Apocalypse Now Redux” where he is singing a Beach Boys lyric.
The songs on this album are very catchy, and the lyrics are quite poetic for the most part. In “Soul Searching” he somewhat shockingly mentions that he “sympathizes with the Columbine murderers.” Probably many people would on some level, if they had been bullied or made fun of in school at any time in their life. Whether he is serious or whether it is just a lyrical metaphor, there actually is always some genuine soul searching going on when someone faces potentially dark thoughts. This is the type of stuff that ties the album together nicely with the title. Is it artistic truth and intellectual honesty, misunderstood by unimaginative people? Or is P.A.T. just another embodiment of the worst of hip hop stereotypes? Maybe a bit of both? What seems to separate him from most other hip hop artists is a self awareness and witty sense of humor about the matter. Even though you can tell he has some street cred and could get tough if he wanted to, he comes off more as a guy you’d want to hang out with and wax nostalgic about vintage Super Nintendo games and 80′s TV than someone who’s going to corrupt your children and radicalize oppressed peoples. His demeanor is just too polite and reasonable for all that. Check out his music. It’s worth a few listens.