Project Pat: On His Cheez-N-Dope Mixtape, Staying Current & Getting Fucked Up
Over the past two years, the rap game has re-southernized when it comes to style and production. It’s pretty much second nature now (due, in part, to A$AP Rocky) for a rapper to rock gold teeth, sip syrup and incorporate screwed-n-chopped effects to their vocals. A group that can be directly traced back to as inspiration for this current trend is Three 6 Mafia—they were some of the first weirdos to come out of the south. They rocked all black in their early days (the whole street goth style), they were pretty heavy on satan-themed lyrics and imagery (early Odd Future) and if you’ve ever heard Lord Infamous, you’ll see where Spaceghostpurrp got most of his swag from. Well, most of the guys are nowhere to be found now but the group’s leader, Juicy J, has completely transformed himself into the strip club anthem guy. And thanks to his new found success, his older brother, Project Pat, is finding himself in a second phase of his career.
Because Baltimore had no huge artist when I was growing up, we heavily gravitated to Memphis rap. Not too many neighborhoods went without blasting all of Three 6′s newest shit, but Pat probably stood out the most. I always get flack for saying that Project Pat is in my top 10 rappers of all time but, fuck it—dude is one of the more original rappers ever. Something Pat had that no one else in rap did quite the same was the ability to create visuals with his lyrics. Narrative street raps were something he owned and when he talked about robbing someone or experiencing a bad dope deal, I felt like an eye-witness to the crime. Listen to “We Can Gangsta” or “Try Something” and you’ll see exactly what I mean; you’re not getting robbed, but it may feel that way for a minute.His bending of words to fit them into bars are kind of wild too. He does some super stressing to syllables and yeah, sometimes he adds syllables to words that don’t really exist, but it sounds great. This past Tuesday, Pat was in NYC to perform at Santos Party House and when I met up with him prior to the show. I got to ask him all the nerdy shit I’ve had in the back of my mind since I was 12 listening to Layin Da Smackdown on my portable CD player. Not gonna lie, I didn’t know Pat was about 6’5 , 270 lbs in real life, so while we were talking, I was thinking “these robbery songs have to be real because nobody’s resisting this big motherfucker.” We chilled at a new taco spot in Williamsburg and talked about the old Three 6 days, why he named his mixtape Cheez-N-Dope and how he’s adjusting to internet rap. Check it:
The most popular themes in your music are robbery and deals that eventually go sour. Is that something you wanted to center your music around initially or did it just flow from life experience?
Project Pat:Life experiences (laughs). Everyday ain’t a sunny day where you make $200,000. The streets don’t work like that.
On songs like “We Can Get Gangsta” and “Try Somethin” you paint really vivid pictures of robbery through your story tellng.That street narrative is something that’s close to non-existent in rap right now. Where has that gone? Or is it just something that was generational?
Pat:I guess you could say at that time it was popular. A lot of dudes now talk about a lot of money but it must be a fantasy world because now it’s harder than it was back then. When the economy goes up, everything goes up—including the drug game. So right now with the economy being so bad, drugs are way higher. A key of cocain is way higher than it was when I was coming up in like 89-90. So all these people talking about the street life ain’t getting it how they say because it’s not that accessible. But I dont think it’s anything wrong with rapping about that because it’s all entertainment. It’s like a mob story on TV where the guy lives his life out killing and making money and never goes to jail. I never get too personal with it.
Is that what distinguishes your generation from the current one? That, back then, you had to take it personal because faking it wasn’t tolerated as much?
Pat:At that time when I was coming up, those were usually the cards people were dealt. So you had to play them. Now it’s a lot easier. You can pop up with a song out of nowhere and say whatever you wanna say. People will still probably accept it, even if it’s not true. The person could never go in the street with that but since we’re just rapping, it’s all good. With me going in and out of prison, I had to remain real. When I went to federal prison, if they found out you weren’t real at any time in your life, they were gonna deal with you.
On one of the Cheez-N-Dope interludes, you mentioned instead of sipping syrup and smoking, people wanna do molly. But with someone like A$AP Rocky, syrup is kinda making a comeback. Do you like that southern culture is expanding or did you prefer when people could be categorized by their region?
Pat:I like it now because people are just doing their own thing and wherever the love for their music is, that’s where they’re doing shows.
How does it feel to see Juicy successfully reinvent himself for a new generation and has that helped your career at all thus far?
Pat:That’s gotten me more shows and more younger fans. Juicy did it, man. The whole Hypnotized Minds and Three 6 thing was his vision. That’s why he stands out the most. I always said, we’re from Memphis but Juicy got a New York hustle. I’m sure he’s in the studio right now! His drive is like where we came from—we had nothing. He always says “I hustle like I don’t have nothin’ because I didnt have nothin’”. And he’s a multi-millionaire.
So because of Juicy and your new internet presence , are you doing shows more than ever before?
Pat:Maybe a little bit more now but the internet is the best game. And it’s free! It’s unreal. It’s the best thing going. I mean rappers are dropping one song and getting deals now because of the internet. It’s crazy! Even the poor man can come up. That’s what I love about it; it’s an even playing field.
”Cheese And Dope” is definitely one of your cult classics. Is that why you named the tape after it?
Pat:Yeah and when I told all the producers I was working with about it, they all felt it. I’m already working on Cheez-N-Dope 2 and Mistah Dont Play 2, the album. Cheez-N-Dope was like the equivalent to Ghetty Green. Cheez-N-Dope 2 gonna be like the first Mistah Don’t Play; people gonna be like “DAYUM”. Then my new artist Nasty Mane gonna be coming for heads.
As an artist who’s been around for a while, do you find it easier to relatively maintain your subject matter or to change it as you grow in your personal life?
Pat:You shouldn’t deter from whatever got you established. The thing is, you have to stay up to date even when you’re maintaining who you are. You gotta work with young producers. Like right now in 2013, I couldn’t say I’m riding on Daytons ‘cause nobody’s riding Daytons nowadays. I could say back in the days I did or maybe it could come back into style like these kids walking around with high top fades (laughs). Or, for example, nobody says “Crunk” anymore, they say “Turn Up”. If I said crunk people’ll think I just came out from a long prison sentence. So yeah, keep your subject matter but keep up with the times.
Well now things are kind of making a shift from hardcore street culture to being more about all-inclusive partying.
Pat:Right. Everybody wants to get high and party. I’m peeping that with young cats. Nobody’s tryna shoot up the club and rock icy watches. Muhfuckers ain’t rockin’ no platinum out here like that! Nobody cares about dressing, looking cool, nothin’. They all wanna get fucked up! Black, white, asian, whatever.
You seem to really open to working with a lot of younger artists. How important is that for an OG to stay connected to young guys in the game?
Pat:It’s a young nigga game out here. You can’t beat ‘em. You gotta respect them. Even my little boys are running around singing Wiz and A$AP Rocky. The key is staying connected with these young producers, though, because they have the sound of today. If you’re working with an older producer you’re more than likely gonna lose out unless they have younger guys under them.