20 Questions: Rahsaan Patterson

All photos by ©Craig Bailey / Perspective Photo

The purveyor of 21st century soul chats with PopMatters 20 Questions about chocolate, Chaka Khan, and the significance of Snoopy.

According to the Gospel of Thomas, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you". Rahsaan Patterson not only included this adage in the liner notes of Wines and Spirits (2007), his fourth album, he courageously embodied its truth on what was called "his most ambitious offering yet" (AOL Black Voices). Patterson laid bare his soul on Wines and Spirits, communicating with his heart through stirring melodies and infectious rhythms across twelve stylistically distinct songs.

Widely regarded as the best R&B album of 2007, Wines and Spirits also begat one of the most creative periods in Patterson's career. Since the album's release last year, he's toured three continents while gearing up for the debut album by SugaRush Beat Company, a UK-based collective he formed with Jaz Rogers and Ida Corr, which is set for a European release in August on RCA. In October, Patterson will release The Ultimate Gift, a Christmas album that promises to be imbued with his multi-faceted creativity.

When PopMatters caught up with Rahsaan Patterson for a round of 20 Questions, the artist was successfully summoning the Christmas spirit in the 80-degree Los Angeles heat.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Under the Same Moon (2008). It's about this little boy from Mexico who leaves Mexico to find his mother in Los Angeles. I love that movie. The boy wanted to be with his mother and she sacrificed being away from him so that she could make enough money to bring him to her for a better life. He took it upon himself to cross the border of Mexico through dangerous circumstances to be with his mother -- by himself.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Oh wow, great question! Snoopy. Snoopy, at heart, is just a lovable dog who loves companionship. He's quite wise.

3. The greatest album, ever?

One of my favorite albums of all time is Parade (1986) by Prince. The way it's orchestrated, the way it's arranged, the way it was articulated, the precision of it, the spontaneity of it, the fluidity of it. It was quite angelic in many ways, I thought. That's the album with 'Mountains', 'Christopher Tracy's Parade', 'Under the Cherry Moon', 'Sometimes it Snows in April', 'Kiss'.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek because of the voyage and the mystery of the unknown.

5. Your ideal brain food?

I must say music, first, and an alcoholic beverage, second.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I'm proud of the fact that I've been in this industry so long, since I was a kid, and of the impact and impression that I've made on people who were my age at that time, who were growing up with me, who wanted to pursue those very things, whom I might have inspired from that time up until now. For them to have seen my journey and been with me all these years and see me at this point, I think that alone is an accomplishment. To have been a child in the industry and still be able to do what I'm doing and find the passion for it and the love for it and still inspire people, that's what I'm most proud of.

7. You want to be remembered for…??

I want to be remembered for my art. Through my art, I communicate who I am and what I think and feel throughout the time frame of my life. Through my work, after I'm gone, hopefully that will communicate who I was.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Chaka Khan. Her honesty, her ability to know and understand -- without words -- that in a lot of ways we are one in the same. I don't mean vocally. I want that to be clear and understood. It's not about me sounding like her or anything like that. It's deeper than that. It was deeper than that as a child listening to her. That's what drew me into her and that's what, before I understood how and why I would relate to an artist such as herself as well as the Prince's and the Michael's (Jackson), the Marvin Gaye's, and Al Green's and all the greats, it took me to become and grow into the artist and understand that that's who we are, this is what our path is, and it's not always easy.

To have someone who's been through it, to mentor me and to help me on a daily basis through it, and remind me, is a great blessing. Not everybody has that. Even artists in the industry who love Chaka as much as I do, they don't have the opportunity to sit and converse and establish a relationship to assist them in their growth as an artist.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The Mona Lisa. I identify with her sarcasm. I identify with the mystique and that little smirk. It's like, 'I know something you don't know. What I know is that I have a great big secret…and I might not have a great big secret'.

10. Your hidden talents…?

It could be the magnitude of my intuition, my foresight, and how, through my music, I can sometimes see what's ahead before it's actually happening. Not only for myself but in the world, and time and space, and where people's feelings and emotions are, which is one of the great things about having the ability to make music and the power of music. I think there are several artists who have that ability.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

One of the things I remember Chaka telling me was that you have to pay for what you want. At the time it was related to the amount of people I had in a band and what I wanted and how I wanted my music to be represented. I was on tour with a live, full band and it consisted of ten people when, at the time, that may have been not what people suggested or would have liked for me to do but it was something that I needed to represent my music properly. It's something that you have to pay for.

Now, in the end, if I don't get as much money as I could get, it's about representing my music and making sure that how rich the music is to me is given to people with that same richness. That was one of the best pieces of advice I took because it definitely opened the door for a lot of artists who, at the time and who followed, were able to use live musicians.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Probably my first 45 that I ever bought with my own money -- Vanity 6: 'Nasty Girl'. I paid $1.25 for it. It was 1981 and I was seven-years-old. I got my first record player at about six-years-old. My father would give me records and I would get records from my aunt but one of the first records that I bought was the Vanity 6 record.

There was this girl that worked behind the counter at the record store who had a really big Afro, who was really cool and really sexy and really free-spirited, and she would allow me to spend as much time as I wanted to put on whatever record I wanted to in the record store. It was one of the greatest times of my life, every time I could go in there and do that.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

That's hard because what you put on can alter how you feel. On a daily basis, I'm really a jeans kind of guy, so I would say Levi's.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Lauryn Hill, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Lalah Hathaway, D'Angelo, Chaka Khan, Prince, and Michael Jackson.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I would time travel into another galaxy because I would want to see how we existed and how we can still exist. It would be going into the future but it would also be going back in time, possibly, like way back in time, before time as we know it.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

It would be a cross between a hit man and Prozac. I would need the Prozac to keep from wanting to have the hit man.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?

All of the above. They're all options. A couple of those go very well together. Coffee and cigarettes go well together. Coffee and chocolate go well together. Coffee in the morning after drinking too much vodka and smoking too many cigarettes.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I think part of what makes me who I am is that I so can appreciate both. I'm very much a city person at heart because that's where I was born, that's where I come from.

In this fantasyland of perfection and serenity, it's the country, it's peace, it's trees. I'm very much a lover of both and can get lost in both for a period of time.

The first apartment I lived in alone was on a tree-lined street but it was in the city. From there, I moved up into the hills with trees. I then moved further up into the hills where no one could even see me but I could see the hills and the people. From there, I moved to downtown (Los Angeles).

Now I'm trying to move back into some kind of area where there's the hills but then down the street is the city. I always need both.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Give peace a chance.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on now?

I've been working on the Christmas album. It will probably come out in October on Artistry Music. I'm doing dates in Atlanta, DC, San Francisco, Montreux, and Detroit. I'll be in London to promote SugaRush Beat Company. The album comes out in August in the UK on RCA.

The single, 'L-O-V-E', comes out in July. It's a very creative time and period for me. It's a great place to be in, actually.

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