New Jersey rapper Chris Patrick is a testament to the art of focus. Growing up in East Orange, Patrick found inspiration in artists like Lil Wayne and J. Cole, whose 2011 debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, opened his eyes to what rap could be at its best. He connected with Cole’s vision and sought to make music capable of doing the same.
Chris Patrick’s drive followed him as a student at Rider University, where he won first place in the R Factor Talent Show and had the opportunity to open for Travis Scott during his college tour promoting his sophomore album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. After graduation, he worked several jobs before deciding to invest in his dreams. “I heard JID’s ‘151 Rum,’ and I quit my job,” he tells me over the phone.
Whether on the phone or in his raps, Chris’ voice oozes determination. It’s the driving force behind From The Heart, Vol. 2, his latest project, which pits his rap ambitions against outside forces large and small. More than anything, he finds pride in using his growing platform to bring attention to the hotbed of talent located within his home state: “I’m glad people from Jersey know I’m from Jersey when I’m going up. That shit makes me feel good as hell.”
You vent a lot of frustration on From The Heart, Vol. 2. What’s the main difference between Vol. 2 and Vol. 1 of the series?
Off top, From The Heart, Vol. 1 was me doing covers over other songs. I’m hungry every day, but at that time, I wanted to show my versatility. Coming out of 2019, I was feeling a little slighted. I opened up 2020 with some cool shit by dropping From The Heart, Vol. 1. I was on Isaiah Rashad’s “Menthol,” JID’s “Off Deez,” and Summer Walker’s “Playing Games.” I was tweakin’, bro. I was more motivated by my ego and my pride because I felt like I was being counted out.
Vol. 1 captures the inexperience and how naive I was to say how easy I thought this shit was gonna be. Vol. 2 is a whole different person; an individual jaded by the environment he exists in. Now it’s about how to keep my dream, [how] to coexist while I’m being held back by the system, COVID, and everything. How do you manage to become the creative you want to be when you can’t even monetize through the usual avenues: touring, meeting people, performing. How, bruh?
The album’s opening song, “Tired,” starts with a voicemail from a representative from a fake record label and ends with you answering a phone at Geek Squad. Did any specific moments inspire this decision?
For the beginning, I remember I took a trip from Atlanta to LA and [was] specifically talking to a label who was interested in meeting with me about “3 AM” and “Swish.” They were interested in “Swish” because it made the [NBA 2K21 soundtrack] and in “3 AM” because they wanted me to write music like that for other artists. I saw myself as being bigger than just a writer and doing more than just these couple of songs. That intro was basically the conversation we had. They asked us what we needed, and we told them we needed the bread. They wanted to sit around and talk about numbers all day while we’re more worried about the impact. If your music is impactful, the numbers will come.
For the end, my initial day to quit my job was May 31, 2020. I had it marked down on my calendar. Here comes COVID running through, so I’m at the job until November instead. I had no intention of being here that long. After going into a slight lockdown, I was posting raps and trying to go crazy for two months straight. When I went back to work at Best Buy, I was at the job with an AirPod in one ear trying to write to beats. I’d be sitting next to the phone writing and have to answer calls about how someone’s computer’s not working.
Do you feel pressure to conform to what other people want from you?
I felt that pressure up until March. When COVID popped off, and the racial injustice ramped up, that’s when my whole head switched on what I wanted to do. We totally dedicated ourselves to impact. The idea of conforming no longer made any sense. I found the instrumental to Kendrick Lamar’s “Mortal Man” produced by Terrace Martin and made my own version of it. I couldn’t sleep one night, and I had to have penned 150 bars to that shit in the span of three hours.
Moments like that taught me numbers don’t really matter at the end of the day. You could have all the numbers in the world, but people still dying in the world. At least let me give people something they can take from all this shit. Let’s find the biggest way to maximize that and give everyone the opportunity to at least experience it. I don’t feel pressure no more, to be honest.
I always tell the story about meeting JID, but I feel like the Deante’ story is becoming one of my favorites. I formulated the tracklist for [From The Heart, Vol. 2] with my cousin, who’s also my manager, and we were thinking we needed a feature to make it pop. The two it came down to were Deante’ and Kenny Mason. I DM’d them both and got no response but it was cool. Three days later, Deante’ went on Twitter and asked people who he should work with, and mad people tagged me in it. To my surprise, he saw my name floating around and responded to someone who was tweeting about me, saying I was cold. I responded, and he told me to send some records through, and we’d get to work.
I sent him two songs through DM, and he didn’t get back to me. Eventually, he got back to me and suggested he and I write a verse a day. I sent him my verse, and he told me I was cold, but then he sent his, and I was like, “What the fuck?” I specifically told him I felt like the top high school prospect running with the college players dunking from the free-throw line. We did the verse-a-day shit for 62 days straight, and “Typical Shit” came about on either the second or third day. I just knew. Just rocking out with bro and doing something like this, you really get to know someone through their verses. He ain’t no gimmick type person.
How do you feel you’ve grown over the course of the last year?
When I dropped Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Myself, I wanted to connect with people. I felt like it didn’t do that, so I got depressed for a long time. I almost quit music lowkey. I went on a trip with my girlfriend, and when I came back, I dropped a verse over the beat for Kendrick’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” and that shit boosted my confidence. Since that moment, I put my head down and locked in. I feel like nothing’s impossible anymore.
The one way I’ve grown is by finding the desire to be something. I have a lot of people who have been rocking with me for a while, and I just wanna repay that favor. I wanna be able to change lives for my people and for fans who might be listening.
As a New Jersey representative, where do you feel the state falls within the modern rap scene?
Because we don’t have a defined sound, it feels like we either become New York or we become Philadelphia, depending on which side of Jersey you’re on. A lot of people from Jersey also don’t claim Jersey. There’s no pride in the state at all. A lot of rappers I’m hanging around are starting to claim Jersey, and that’s the key because we don’t really have an identity.
I can’t say if I’ll be that person to do it, but I can see there are a lot of people starting to attach Jersey to what I’m doing. I’ve never hid that, but I’m glad people from Jersey know I’m from Jersey when I’m going up. That shit makes me feel good as hell. I feel like I’m a pioneer for that shit. I’m hoping there will be an influx of rappers from Jersey after this. I wanna help put Jersey on the map.
Photos by Brian Cruz.