RAHSAAN PATTERSON FEATURE
Back in the summer of 2011, Rahsaan Patterson released his masterpiece.
Titled Bleuphoria, Rahsaan’s sixth studio album charts the progress of an artist who had developed from that of a skilled performer and lyricist, to all-round producer, composer and auteur. Unlike on his previous albums, before Rahsaan Patterson created a single note for Bleuphoria there was only silence.
No demo from a black music super-producer that Rahsaan could embellish. No chords or rhythm track to apply his own unique musical instrument to (i.e. his voice), by adding a hook, melody or lyric. Just complete silence. He began Bleuphoria by creating the music from scratch.
Encouraged by successful forays into production on the 2007 album Wines & Spirits - laying the foundation of drum programming and keyboard basslines for two of that albums highlights, the brooding-slop cut Pitch Black and the underrated soul killer No Danger - Rahsaan entered the studio with an already pre-conceived composition or track for his regular co-producers Jamey Jaz & Keith Crouch to work with. And by surrounding himself with familiar collaborators and loved ones, Patterson had the perfect climate to create his boldest, most personal and, in lots of ways, his most honest work. Touching subjects such as his feelings on the spiritual with the anthemic Mountain Top and the soaring God, whilst unafraid to directly reference his sexuality with the “gun show” lyric on the pop-funk standout Ghost - predating by over a year the furore caused when black American singer/songwriter Frank Ocean openly declared he fancied someone of the same sex, via his Channel Orange project.
Like Ocean (it’s possible, that by including Rahsaan’s bff Lalah Hathaway on the epic Pyramids - a hybrid techno funk chillout resembling Bleuphoria’s own, brilliant, Makin’ Love – Ocean was ensuring Rahsaan heard his aural nod) Patterson concocted a sound design without compromising on a daring sonic palette to go with the albums message, incorporating his personal pet sounds; revealing a love for late eighties soul, Prince protégé funk, avant garde pop and early 90’s dance music, adding songcraft and the sprinkling of melody, hooks & heart that nuvo (new wave, electro influenced minimalistic soul) artists such Innosphere & Sa Ra had neglected to include, completing his own defining musical statement - a long player work of art.
If only the unstoppable juggernaut of blink and you’ll miss it, bulletin style, music-at-the-speed-of-life media promo could allow a textured, modern-day soul release to marinate and work its way in.
Rahsaan’s true fans got it, eventually sending the album to an impressive #36 on Billboard’s Album R&B chart whilst voting him 2011 Readers Choice Male Artist of the Year via the same leading American soul music website that had given his album a lukewarm review barely five months earlier.
As a wise man once sang, don’t run so fast.
So it’s with those lyrics ringing in the ears, that we revisit Bleuphoria, nearly two years after it was first released. With an in-depth track by track breakdown, from those involved with, or touched by, arguably Rahsaan’s greatest work to date.
I began the pre-production, playing the instruments myself...
Rahsaan’s Christmas album The Ultimate Gift was the gateway to Bleuphoria. It was after that we had gotten out of all the things we had gone through with Wines & Spirits, after we had lost loved ones. But, God had still given us, really, an Ultimate Gift—it’s like, ‘I’m still going to give you this music, and now go bring joy with it.’ So that really was the liaison going into Bleuphoria.
One day we were in the car, on our way to a show, and Rahsaan said to me ‘Hey I’m gonna play you a little something I’ve been working on’. And he played me some stuff and he was like ‘so what do you think?’ And I was like ‘Damn!’ I wanted to tell him so bad that it was horrible! (laughs) but really, what I actually felt was proud.
Well, the hooks, melody and stuff, Rahsaan has always been the master behind that.
Rahsaan deserves a lot of credit for all the records we’ve created over the years. But this particular one, he had spent some time by himself in his home studio. He was learning how to run different equipment, Logic and Pro-Tools and through his learning process he was also being creative, writing these songs and these ideas. Not completed ideas, but ideas nonetheless and he was coming up with how he envisioned the Bleuphoria record to sound. The sound design came from his sleep – from his brain.
It was a year and a half before he ever let me hear the rough tracks he had programmed for Bleuphoria himself. But then he called me - I was working with (Brandy’s brother) Ray J at the time - and he said about the Bleuphoria concept and told me what he wanted to do. When I heard what he had, I just said, ‘I get it.’
From that point, he just needed me to help take it to that next level. So even though we’re like brothers, honestly I just love his music, so I said to myself ‘I’m just going to impress the hell out of this dude!’
Before I had recorded anything for the album the title came to me first back in 2006, I had been working on an iMovie after I had taken a trip to Paris and was putting the footage together. I just needed a production company title and Bleuphoria came and stuck with me. From there I had to figure out how it defined me …
"I Only Have Eyes For You"
Rahsaan came up with the original rough of that track. He really wanted to write something else to it, but the Flamingo’s “I Only Have Eyes for You” kept coming back to him, so he just said, “Well, I guess my subconscious is telling me to do that song.”
(Rahsaan sings): “my love must be a kind of … blind love.” I couldn’t get past that.
(former radio host & listener)
For those of us who feel that autotuning is the bane of contemporary music, Rahsaan’s inspired use of autotuning on I Only Have Eyes For You shows us how music and technology can coexist beautifully.
Featuring Jody Watley
Ghost was the first one that he and I worked on for Bleuphoria.
It’s about when you clearly see that a person is taking you for granted and they don’t really get the level of love and support you have for them, and it’s that moment when you tell them “get it together or its gon’ be a wrap, and that’s it – when I’m gone you won’t even be able to find me.”
He brought his laptop in and I imported some music files from that into my studio, we dissected it and built a bunch around what was there. The whole record started with what we were doing on Ghost. So when he and Keith Crouch got together a lot of it was based on this beginning approach that we were building on.
I was tweeting at the studio, about how happy I was to be there, and Jody Watley tweeted “@mynameistoolong What studio are you at?” So I told her and said, “You want to come through?” She came an hour later. No managers, no record companies in-between – she arrived and we did our thing. I always heard her singing Ghost with me.
Rahsaan doesn’t really care what people say, and I definitely relate to that.
Some artists believe, potentially (that coming out), could affect people’s response to their artistry, and could affect urban airplay. So artists who have always been supported by black culture and radio fear that they may lose all that. But you can’t force people to get to a certain place until they’ve evolved to that place. But there are tons of (soul) artists who are gay and tons of females too. But I’m concerned with what I’m doing, you know? And that’s about it.
Featuring Shanice & Faith Evans
I’m very shy; I had one glass of wine...
Shanice, I’ve known since I was 10 years old when she was on (the TV Show) Kids Incorporated with me – I’d worked on some songs for her but she had never got on a record mine. She was mad at me about that, would curse me out in her sweet way.
Prince and Rick James you know ... that hook, the ko-koo, ko-koo part is something Rick James would do, along with (Keith hums the bass line). But even when we were working on Crazy we were aware of the Prince vibe on Bleuphoria. Because I know Prince; we’ve met several times, and I know that if Rahsaan is coming out with something and if my name is on something, he’s going to listen to it – so I was like “I can’t wait until Prince hears this.”
One day I was in a car and I was thinking about Crazy, cultivating visions for this record, and I knew I would love Faith singing the chorus – we had seen each other around town and we had always been cool – so I looked for her, and found her and it was interesting because she was looking for me at the same time to do something on her record.
I am a funkster and the funk level of Crazy is so high right now …. It’s hard for me to say that because I’m a part of it, but I can’t stop playing it, and I had the album for a year before it came out.
Easier Said Than Done
I knew I had to challenge myself. So I started coming up with Easier Said Than Done in the Studio, and minutes after I had the basic foundation I went into the booth and started singing what was in my head. Lyrically it expresses how difficult it can be to leave when you are in love, no matter how much you feel you need to.
Stay With Me
I was at home coming up with some music on the Harpsichord… and usually when I’m working with Rahsaan, maybe there’ll be a day where he comes in and before we start working I’ll just play what I’ve been up to or whatever and he’ll let me know if he likes it. I use the clavinet a lot, but there’s something about a harpsichord that’s so pretty but it’s still edgy, so I just built around it. I wanted the chords to feel heartfelt, with a drum sound that was as hard as ever. I didn’t even think Rahsaan was going to like it. But he just gravitated towards it straight away. We started recording the song right then and there. Then whilst Rahsaan was working on his backgrounds, with my headphones on that’s when I came up with the bridge. When I work on music I definitely want to be original, but I imagine there are people in the room that would love it. And the people that I would want to get a response from would be my uncle Andrae Crouch (you know those chords of his?) myself & Rahsaan. The night we did the horns is probably the silliest that I’ve seen Rahsaan ever in my life. He was doing the robot and everything… we were laughing so hard. We had to give the session up because we couldn’t stop laughing.
My favourite on Bleuphoria. Stay With Me is vocally and lyrically exceptional and offers a luscious combination of Rahsaan’s vocals, which explode with emotion, and lyrics that convey passion, vulnerability, and urgency, which all add up to a new Rahsaan classic.
(ILLUSTRATOR & LISTENER)
That tune had me crying on a packed train going home to Essex. Not a good look. Rahsaan caught me totally off guard with it.
Love will make you put pep in your step ... happiness. Then songs like Miss You come in and Goodbye comes in, because like in a lot of relationships, they are not always uphill.
That was the one that struck a chord; it just came together quite effortlessly. We put work into it and a lot of care, as we do with anything, but that one was inspired, both emotionally and spiritually.
A lot of people identify Rahsaan to Chaka but there is a heavy, heavy, heavy Prince influence ... I mean HEAVY. And Goodbye, the Prince thing? I didn’t even have anything to do with it.
We just had this kick drum that was going and I was playing chords on the Rhodes or something similar, I had taken a few different keyboards, because we knew we wanted a sound that had somewhat of a Prince-type of feel from his Eighties days - the Purple Rain record - because a lot of it is inspired in that part of our psyche. But we didn’t even think about it too much; it just worked wonderfully.
Musically, all of my inspirations propel me into my tomorrow. So even though one can hear references to the 80’s or 70’s on my album there’s still a current stream of consciousness that’s present.
When Rahsaan was singing the vocal to Goodbye I was going through a divorce ... yeah (laughs). And as he was singing it I felt as if it were me in there singing. When he came out after he had finished, I froze. It struck a nerve - you can hear his emotion. Of all the times I’ve been producing its one of the only times I can remember getting choked up to that extent hearing somebody singing. He’s always wonderful, but sometimes he’s just extremely connected to God, I think, and that was one of those moments.
I’m a very nostalgic individual in general and I’ve always been a fan of (string arranger) Clare Fischer’s work with Rufus & Chaka Khan, you know Stranger To Love & one of my real favourites Slow Screw Up Against The Wall, I consistently feed on songs from the past - which allows me to be present in my now.
The album was very much informed and inspired by love, and to me love resonates as blue more so than red. Which is what I mean by Bleuphoria and I guess depending on the relationship you’re in and the levels of intensity, it’s very deep and can be quite melancholy, and you can delve further into the areas of how infinite love really is. And then of course is the euphoria of what comes from being in love.
Feat. The Andrae Crouch Choir & Tata Vega
The energy that was in the studio that day was fantastic. We all felt it.
Whatever was written was way beyond just coming up with a song. It was like, “Oh, my goodness, God is in the room and the choir is here,” and Rahsaan and I are looking at each other like, “Can you believe what just happened?”
I had prayed in my mind, “Lord, please have Tata Vega be at least in the choir.”
The other thing was Rahsaan was producing my uncle’s choir while my uncle’s arranging ... that’s big. That’s big.
Keith and I were in the studio deciding it would be cool if his uncle arranged some of the chorus vocals, and Tata Vega, who my father used to play when I was a kid - Get It Up For Love and Just Keep Thinking About You in constant rotation – came through and sang with the choir. So me and Keith are in the booth while they’re recording their part and right before they finish I look at Keith and I’m like, “We gotta go out there and we’ve gotta ask Andre what it would cost for Tata to sing some adlibs, and if I’ve gotta pay for that shit out of my pocket I don’t give a fuck. I’ll do that shit because I need her on this motherfucker.” So sure enough, they finish, the choir starts wrapping up and getting their clothes and stuff and leaving—purses and things—and as we’re walking out to go ask him, Andre’s already telling Tata Vega to come up to the microphone and sing. So it was all just divine, authentic & special.
After the album was done, Uncle Andrae got a copy of it. So he called me and said, ‘I’ve only called maybe two people in my career and told them how incredible their album was... and you’re one of them.”
Facebook Message Following An Interview With Echoes Magazine
I am familiar with the Art Of Noise tune Moments Of Love, you referenced that song in conjunction with my tune Goodbye but I’m thinking maybe you meant the tag ending of Makin’ Love?
The end part, we did that later on in the studio. Rahsaan had bought a new keyboard, he was excited about it and he played this chord and was like, “Should we do it?” Because we were supposed to be working on another song, and it was going to be an interlude, and I was like, “Yeah.” So I took the drums and I reversed it, and the way I put it together I just chopped it in the middle of that song and it went somewhere else.
Feat. Lalah Hathaway
Rahsaan Patterson would be my ideal listener. I have a great deal of respect for him, particularly in the way that he crafts a lyric around a song.
Who decides which song goes on which album? Well… he actually already had 6AM for his record, and I went to the studio one day and we just worked on that song. And then for my record I called him, because I was trying to finish writing If You Want To (from Lalah's brilliant Where It All Begins). So his record came right before mine. But a lot of times we’re hanging out and I’ll say, ‘Do you hear something here?’ and he’ll say, ‘Do you hear a melody here?’ And that’s how that goes. We make a lot of music together; we hang out a lot, so… we laugh a lot the whole time that we’re working though. We’re working on some music now.
The first song that came for Bleuphoria.
The most personal song for me on the album.
During the past several years that Rahsaan, Keith and I have all worked together, we have had many conversations about life, god and love. So I know that Rahsaan is a very spiritual person. In one of those conversations, Rahsaan told me that, “God is love.” And I know that he is convicted in the love that guides his artistry. I can understand why he would say that “God” is very personal song for him.
I can’t even indulge in a conversation with someone who is of the belief that God is a man who is sitting above the clouds (laughs).I can’t even have that conversation
The basic track was recorded at Paramount Studio B. As an engineer it is my job to make sure everything works when an artist walks into the studio. I was setting up a keyboard for Rahsaan and testing the connections to make sure it was getting to the computer and ready to be recorded. I began playing a few chords to make sure everything was working. At that moment, Rahsaan walked into the studio and said he liked what he heard me playing. He began humming a melody. We then quickly recorded the keyboard progression and the melodies he was humming, but that’s why I really enjoy working with Rahsaan. He lets his creativity flow naturally.... his music is not contrived.
When you evolve and move forward it’s not so easy for everyone to make that adjustment as quickly as you do, as the artist, so I’m very well aware that there will be many people that say “what the hell is this?” when they hear Bleuphoria. But my answer to that is, this is my art, this is my evolution – this where I’m at right now and this is what I’m communicating. And a lot of times I think people need to consider that even though they support music and they look to artists for pleasure or escapism, sometimes they dislike a record because they feel they can’t relate. If they’re not in that space they don’t like it. But in the same way that a friend calls to vent, or to just talk and express what they’re feeling, sometimes you just don’t need to answer. My idea is that sometimes, people should just listen…