“I’ve never felt normal or able to fit inside a certain outline, so that’s why I resonate with underground music.” When it comes to artistic identity, Patrick Rutledge isn’t shy about embracing his place in the world of rap.
The 23-year old producer, rapper and songwriter, artistically known as PATx, is a hip-hop fiend with a taste for stitching together emotionally anarchic verses over eerie trap soundscapes. His songs are brash and full of fuel, while also exemplifying a keen sense of self-awareness. When it comes to standing out, the South Carolina native looks within. Officially released this December, his new album Mesomatic arrives as an embodiment of individual expression and the power that exists when one lives through one’s art.
Among his most notable influences, PATx cites Eminem as an early inspiration for latching onto the idea of going against the grain. “I remember trying to sing along to ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘Mockingbird’ on the radio,” he says. “I was just sucked in by the contrast between his radio songs and records like “Kim” and “Buffalo Bill.”
Rutledge’s affinity for bars with a bigger message runs deep, though those same nonconformist and anti-oppressive sentiments have allowed him to gravitate towards non-rap acts like System of a Down, Rise Against and Adventure Club. While much of his own material opts for more of an alternative-rap aesthetic, the instrumental and emotional tenacity of other genres permeates his work at nearly every turn, often incorporating glitches of noise, abrasive samples, jolts of sonic and vocal distortion – something also represented in his stage appearance, which includes a variety of masks and tactical gear.
From the intoxicating horrorcore vibes on “Bluff” to the hypnotic eeriness of “Casanova” and “Lanc Pt. II,” the songs on Mesomatic are wide-ranging in both their attitude and sound. They evoke the lucid ruminations and social commentary of Control System era Ab-Soul, also channeling the subdued trippiness and lean-laden cloud rap of early A$AP Rocky. The album’s heartfelt sense of urgency, however, belongs solely to its narrator.
The essence of PATx and his commitment to his work can be observed within each nook and cranny of his songs. “I’ve realized how meticulous I am,” he mentions about his creative process. Where producing and writing all of one’s own material presents unique challenges, the rewards are also immensely gratifying. “I’m my biggest critic, but also my biggest fan.” Mesomatic offers a glimpse into the mind of a young auteur finding his voice while simultaneously cleansing his spirit.
Riffs & Rhymes Editor Roberto Johnson caught up with PATx to talk about his new project, musical influences, finding strength in individuality and more. Check out their conversation below.
When and how did you start getting into music, hip-hop in particular?
PATx: Since I was raised in a Baptist church, I’ve always been around music. I’ve been actively making music for going on ten years. I introduced myself to hip-hop during adolescence, so I didn’t necessarily grow up on it, because prior I would only hear the popular radio songs. I fell in love with how gritty and unapologetic it was. Eventually I got my hands on a beat-making program and started producing. From there, I started rapping over my instrumentals.
At what point did it strike you that you wanted to start producing and recording your own songs?
PATx: When I was just producing, it was fun for a little while, but then I started constructing my own ideas for how I would’ve approached a song. After a couple people suggested I try and write something for real, I did. It didn’t really click that I could make a career of it until college, but soon after I started writing [in high-school], I knew I was passionate about it.
You just released a brand new full length record. What excites you most about getting to share this project with the rest of the world?
PATx: I’m most excited for the brand. Some people have been following me for a while and seen the albums, mixtapes, and projects I’ve put out vary in sound. I’m excited that everything is coming together cohesively and I’m finding my niche. I think this project is a good foundation for the experimentation to come and the direction I ultimately want to go in.
Making an album can be a draining process. As someone who produces and writes their own material, do you ever become overly invested or too deeply wrapped up in your work?
PATx: Absolutely. I’ve found myself in other studios more recently and after seeing the work flow of someone else engineering and aiding the process, I’ve realized how meticulous I am. Although I am overly-invested, I do think I’m able to reason well with myself. I’m my biggest critic, but also my biggest fan.
Do you see yourself as a producer or MC first? Do you ever feel as one area of your craft benefits from the other?
PATx: I wouldn’t pick one over the other, but I will say producing is a lot more effortless. For me, it’s a spiritual thing and it just flows out because it’s pure expression. When writing, the process of constructing your ideas verbally is a task and requires a lot of thought, whereas when making music, the instruments articulate those feelings for you.
The sound of your production falls into the sublime and hypnotic sector of trap music, even incorporating some boom-bap. What have been some of the biggest factors in shaping the “PATx sound?”
PATx: I think it’s just that grit that exist in underground hip-hop. The deeper you go, the more unorthodox it gets. The scratchy drums, the low-fidelity samples or melodies, the different cadences or approaches artists take, it all resonates with me.
Aesthetic is a dominant aspect of contemporary hip-hop, on both an underground and a global scale. As we enter the new decade, what direction do you foresee for trap music and hip-hop at large?
PATx: I’m not sure, but I say all the time that soon everything is going to just be alternative. As for trap, I think the need to have something heavier and heavier will eventually get further and further into metal. We’re already seeing the two greet each other, so eventually we’ll just familiarize the two with each other.
I’ve always had 808s, but they’re more demanding when they’re distorted.
As the old adage goes, sometimes less is more. When crafting a beat, when you determine whether or not you’ve gone overboard in terms of adding more layers to the mix?
PATx: It depends on who’s doing the most talking. If there’s more complexity in my vocals, I can decide to enforce that with complexity in the beat, or compliment that with simplicity in the beat and vice versa.
Thematically, Mesomatic centers on emotionally-turbulent and inward-facing commentaries. How does conveying your inner thoughts and feelings onto a record allow you to cope and grow as a person outside of your music?
PATx: I think that’s what I love so much about the underground scene – the ability to fully express differently. I’ve been telling you, but I’ve never yelled it. I’ve always had 808s, but they’re more demanding when they’re distorted. It has allowed me to be very introspective, which allows me to be more vulnerable, which allows others to connect on a different level.
You also weigh into heavy socio-political conversations, specifically on songs like “The Message.” What responsibility do you feel to talk about these subjects through your art?
PATx: I think art is one of the highest forms of expression, as well as the highest sought-out medium for such. I believe we all have a responsibility to speak on things that affect communities, especially the ones we belong to. Whether you like it or not, as an artist you are a representative, and arguably, a spokesperson as soon as you have a fan-base.
Between production, post-production and promotion, there are countless moving parts that factor into making an album. What are some things you’ve taken away from this experience to help better prepare you for releasing more music in the future?
PATx: Marketing is huge. Not only promoting yourself for longer than two seconds, but finding the effective methods and avenues to do so. Also, talking about your art. I have a bad habit of assuming my listeners understand my work and the purpose, when in reality, people will see this hostage or POW-style cover art and not understand the meaning behind it.
Now that the album is out, what does 2020 look like for PATx?
PATx: Intentional. I’m learning to be more calculated and strategic rather than aimlessly doing things. I see growth, I see profit, and most of all, I see fulfillment and happiness.
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Photos by Zachary Quinn McKinley, Zion Shakur and PATx. Follow PATx on Instagram to keep up with his latest news and music. Stream Mesomatic now on Spotify and Apple Music.