Project Pat: Tenn Toes Deep

posted March 04, 2009 12:00:00 AM CST | 25 comments

Tell a friend (even a fellow Tennessean) youre headed to Memphis, and you can pretty much predict the responses. References to early Three 6 Mafia records and corny Hustle and Flow references are just a few that come to mind off hand. Make no mistake about it, Memphis is distinctly Southern. Which is expected since it borders both Arkansas and Mississippi. What you may not expect to see is the towns influence in unexpected places, like MC Hammers Gangsta Walk-influenced dance steps [click to read]. Understanding it all is about as difficult as trying to wrap your head around the fact that the blueprint for Crunk, Trap and New Orleans Bounce music actually originated in Queens with the Showboys song Drag Rap.

Perhaps no one represents this dynamic better than Project Pat. He arrived to greet this writer with the stereotypical southern rap accessoriesan Escalade on chrome (admittedly more utilitarian than anything, considering his linebacker-like frame), a top row of gold teeth and a fresh pair of Coogi jeans. He exchanges pleasantries, contact information and a free mixtape with our waiterwho instantly recognized him, yet still played it cool. After over a decade of dropping his mix of street tales with a unique delivery that attracts inmates and certified Hip Hop junkies alike, you get the feeling hes seen it all.

Pats glad to talk Hip Hop, especially if it involves the younger generation influenced by the Hypnotized Minds catalogue. Aside from the most recent Super Bowl, and the seemingly endless list of his upcoming mixtapes, Pats encyclopedic knowledge of Hip Hop created by and for those below the Mason-Dixon Line is one of the few things that get him animated. A lengthy conversation over lunch yields what you would expect, as well as plenty of surprises. It turns out that both Pat and the M-Town arent that hard to understand after all.

HipHopDX: People trace whats currently going on in Southern rap back to songs like Drag Rap by The Showboys and Where They At by DJ Jimi. Would you agree or disagree with that?
Project Pat:
Really, that Drag Rap was like a format, cause we was so on it, and there was a dance to go with itGangsta Walking. It was like a beginning for us, and Juicy [click to read] started making different beats with that same format. So he would switch the bass around and add different things and flip it. See Memphis is a black city. Youve got Stax Records and a lot of old Soul and stuff as the influence.

DX: Definitely. And we've heard you over samples from the OJays, Willie Hutch and all kind of classic Soul records
Project Pat:
Real talk, if Willie Hutch jumped out the grave right now, he could instantaneously be mayor of the city, hands down. Its like that. We call it Pimpin, and we love that Bobby Womack and David Ruffin. So we took them old, soulful beats and put it with them Gangsta Walk beats, and thats how we came up with our style. We took that, and we took that scary music like Jason [Voorhees] (Friday The 13th). Thats all Memphis right there; we started that shit. When you listen to Stay Fly, thats Willie Hutch in there.

DX: Yeah, and yall stayed on that I Choose You.
Project Pat:
Yeah, thats Hutch. Dudes took that, and now they got that format. Like Shawty Redd. Shawty Redd [click to read] aint from Atlanta. A lot of people didnt know that. Hes from the north side of Memphis. And Jazze Pha [click to read] and Drumma Boy [click to read] are from Memphis too.

Memphis dudes probably make 50% of the beats down South. Im talking Georgia, Floridayou name it. Drum Squad did Put On [by Kanye West and Young Jeezy] [click to listen] and [Rockos] [click to read] Umma Do Me. Im telling you man, all them scary beats from Jeezys first CD, where hes like, Red paint inside/peanut butter thats Shawty Redd. And hell tell you he got that from us. But we aint trippin. Were glad to be of service. And when we go to Atlanta, dudes like Dem Franchize Boyz [click to read] well tell us, Man we got that off of yall. And Im not mad. Them dudes are doing their thing, and theyre down there getting money.

DX: I need you to clear something up real quick. Way before Crank That and Stanky Legg, you had the Gangsta Walking. Legend has it that there was a club called Studio G, where Paul and Juicy used to spin
Project Pat:
Yeah, I used to be up in there too.

DX: So, they had some dance contest called Last Man Standing, and thats where Gangsta Walking originated from?
Project Pat:
Yeah, and it was wild, man. It would always end up in a fight or somebody would get shot.

DX: So Tear da Club Up isnt just a phrase then?
Project Pat:
Nah, you can ask anybody about it.

DX: A lot of people dont know that you started out in a group, but you made your debut on that Kamikaze album by The Kaze.
Project Pat:
[Laughs] Yeah, I forgot all about that. When I was locked up, me and Paul came up with that name. Three 6 Mafia was already a group, and since groups were so big then, we figured that would be like a little spinoff group. It didnt really pop, but it was alright. I had just started rapping on mixtapes around then, and I mean actual cassette mixtapes, cause this was back in the days.

I had just got out of jail. And to be real, real honest with you, I was still selling dope then. Thats for real, for real. My cousin got out about seven months after me, and we were selling dope, playin [counterfeit] paperyou know checks, credit cards, whatever. We were really out there, and I know a lot of these dudes are out here like that when they first get into the game.

I wont say names, but when I did fed time, I learned a lot of rap dudes were selling dope too. There were two dudes that were twins who used to be with Master P, and they got caught up with that dope.

DX: Oh yeah, Kane & Abel?
Project Pat:
Yeah. And niggas is still out here like that. Thats real talk. Hey man, it is what it is. Back then, I was bringing some of them things back on the plane from California. We done had dope all on the tour bus. When we found out you had to have a search warrant to get on the tour bus, that driver was looking at us like, Man

I aint on that now, because that would be dumb. But at the same time, I understand what time it is. You might be out here rapping, man, but until then, you gotta eat. Theres a lot of rappers in Memphis who did that, and I know it, because I did it. A lot of dudes that were with us did it. Crunchy [Black] was selling syrup and pills, and I was doing the same thing. Thats why when that Mista Don't Play album came out, it said Everythangs Workin. Thats what I was talking about, everything was workIm charging hoes, I got a hoe stealing money out of the cash register, and this was my girl. So I was out there rapping, but everything was work; it wasnt just a song. Thats what I was on. Im off that now though.

DX: On Ghetty Green and all of the albums after, you seemed to be more comfortable on the mic. You started doing that thing where youd draw out your words and say, Hungry like a Hip-po.
Project Pat:
Yeah, the swag kicked in right there [laughs.]. Like Shawty Lo says, I found my swag.

DX: Where in the hell did that idea come from?
Project Pat:
Real talk, Ill tell you when I first did that. Three 6 Mafia had a song out called Wonabees. And I said, So you wanna find-a/nigga with the nine-a After I came like that, I said, So you wanna be a/playa just like me-a/ridin on tortillas/choppin up a ki-a When I came like that, Juicy was like, Where did that come from? You gotta go like that again. That was hard.

So I came like that later with Ghetty Green. Wonabees was from an underground mixtape [Underground Vol. 3: Kings of Memphis], but it was on CD though. It was like a compilation joint with everybody from the label. When I came out with Ghetty Green, thats where that style right there started from.

See Juicy is a producer, and hes the one who told me to spit it like that. I was just rapping about what I knew and what I do, what I used to do and will do. Other than that, I dont get involved in styles and all that. I just do whatever, and I caught on to what niggas liked. So if they like it, I love it. [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs] There seems to be a little bit of a method to the madness though. Most people can tell the difference between so-called gangsta rap and a song like Choices or 528-Cash?
Project Pat:
528 Cash [click to read] is a real song. I was talking about something that really happened in my case. When I did fed time, it was for a robbery. The nigga who let me in the door got the prosecutor on me. Thats why I said, How a plea from not guilty turn to guilty / Could it be that my homeboy turned states on me. He wasnt a childhood partner of mine though. I aint never had no childhood partner. So when I walk into the courtroom, hes sitting right there with the prosecutor. That killed me!

So that Ghetty Green album was what I was either doing then, or had just been through. Now Mista Dont Play was what I had just stopped doing and what I would do. And I kept that format from then on. I just kept rapping about what I will do and how a nigga will somewhat handle it out here. But I took this new album, Real Recognize Real, back to those Ghetty Green days.

DX: One thing your fans like is that you talk about the consequences of these acts also.
Project Pat:
I make story raps too. But I always try to tell it so it will come off real. You have to talk about how you might go to jail. That stuff really happens.

DX: And even though the raps can be simple, even repetitive at times, your music has always appealed to us self-proclaimed rap nerds.
Project Pat:
A nigga from the streets wants to hear about struggling, going in and out of jail and all the stuff hes going through. He wants to hear what the business is, because he can relate to it. This is truth for him. You hear people talk about being in jail before they was rapping. But Ive been in jail before and while I was rapping. Im not bragging on it, but just be true to what you do. I aint gotta say nothing or fabricate about dope and guns.

A lot of dudes I grew up with were foot soldiers when we were little, but now theyre OGs. So theyll tell these young dudes, Pat? Thats my nigga. I knew them before they was Crippin or before they was a GD. Theyll still be legit, goon dudes, but I just knew them back then.

DX: Obviously its nothing to glorify, but because of that, the prison crowd shows you love also. You could probably go platinum off of just selling albums to the people locked up in 201.
Project Pat:
Yeah, 201 has horror stories. And I could tell you a bunch of em cause I stayed in thereOh my God. The longest time Ive been in there for one bid was probably two years. But Ive probably spent a total of threemaybe three-and-a-half years in there going in and out. Ive been to 201 three times since Ive been rappin.

For some strange reason, every time I did time, it was the hardest time. The first time I ever went to jail they put me in a federal prison unit. When I went to jail they started me out in Memphis, then they shipped me to Beaumont, TexasBloody Beaumont. Man it was off the chain down there; theres a lot of Blood niggas down there on that compound. They come out of Galveston, Texas and Little Rock, Arkansas. Its wild as a bastard down there, dog! And Mexicans? Every Mexican gang you can ever dream of is down there.

Beaumont was a disciplinary joint, so they went hard. And if you were a snitch, kill yourself. You couldnt live on the compound and be no rat. Ask anybody who did fed time about Beaumont. They didnt even have to have done time in there, but they know about it. Alfamega [click to read] was in Beaumont. Me and him talked on the phone, like, Man I heard you was in Beaumont. And I told him, Yeah I was. In population.

But its all good though. Like I said on Back 2 Da Hood, A wolf wont mess with a wolf. A gorilla wont mess with a gorilla. I was up in Greenville, Illinois and they had some real body snatching niggas out of St. Louis up in there. Old heads were like, Pat, we love you man. Keep rappin. These rats and fake niggas are out here, and youre in population. We heard you was down in Beaumont keeping in one hundred.

DX: That sounds like some serious stuff.
Project Pat:
Thats anybody though. You have your people that youre cliqued up with. Most of the blacks stayed cool, but we stayed getting into it with the Mexicans. Dog, it was so sick down there. The first night I got there, they killed a nigga right upstairs from me. But niggas was seeing me with two knives, and they knew what it was, because they had them too. So they would call back home like, Dude is a real dude. We just went on lockdown, and hes right here with us. I mustve took 1,000 pictures.

DX: See, that will make you want to do nothing but rap.
Project Pat:
Yeah, Im cooldont wanna do nothing illegal. Just let me put these mixtapes out and Im straight. Its another side of the game doing that fed time. That joint right there messed me up. You gotta have a strap.

DX: So what do you think creates that mentality?
Project Pat:
Thats the mentality of a street nigga. A street nigga dont think hes doing nothing wrong. Hes thinking, I aint killed nobody or accidentally shot no babies or nothing like that. The police could catch him, and he might be smoking some weed. Now he doesnt have any dope on him, and he has a gun on him, but he aint messing with nobody. So if the police pull him over, theyre the ones messing with him.

DX: Is that what happened to you in 2001?
Project Pat:
Yeah, but then the feds picked the charge up. So thats why I went down from 2002 through 2006. And I had a felony robbery charge before that. Whats crazy is, thats how a street nigga will think. Youll sit here and think, But youre breaking the law? But street niggas have our own lawsthats the code. So when the police pull you over and say the weed is illegal, youre like, Huh? This aint no pound. Im not selling no dope, this is just to smoke. So in his mind, the police are harassing him.

DX: [Laughs.]
Project Pat:
But see the reason why we think like that, is because its niggas out here kicking doors in and killing babies. If you know theres other people out here robbing folks and raping hoes, youre thinking, What the hell you messin with me for? I dont have no cocaine on me. Go find one of these young niggas shootin on folks. Im not hurting nobody. If he tells me the gun is illegal, Im thinking, What the hell is wrong with you? Youve got a gun too, dont you? Its a messed up mentality, but thats just how we think.

DX: Thats crazy, when you put it like that
Project Pat:
Theres been so many times, when the police pulled me over. I remember they pulled Juicy over, and caught him with guns in the car like,

What you doing with these?

Hey, those are for protection.

Hmmm. We aint lookin for you. Go on about your business.

And then they threw the guns back in the car. They didnt give him a charge, because they knew he needed the guns. Thats a real policeman, and I can deal with that. But let them catch you with the dope. Theyre gonna take the dope, and theyre gonna take your money. And theyll ask you, What do you wanna do? Do you want this back, or do you wanna go home? You see them same police out here, and what are you gonna do?

DX: Alright, lets shift gears a little bit. Street nigga shit aside, Hypnotize Minds has always been independent businessmen
Project Pat:
Yeah, we done sold a million records. I look at the game thinking, I done sold a million records when I was in jail in 2001. It aint a lot of people who can say that. I was blessed in that situation, but it really happened. So I thought about it, and I seen dudes doing the mixtapes. When I came out in 2006, I shouldve been making mixtapes then. But Sony wasnt thinking with the mixtape mentality. They were thinking, Make a song and were gonna put it out and make it hot. Then itll be on.

DX: And this was right around the time Sony absorbed Loud, right?
Project Pat:
Yeah, Loud Records was that company. If I had got out and still been on Loud, they wouldve told me, Man we gotta get about three mixtapes on you first, then were gonna drop the album. See Loud was smart. They know about the street and promoting that type of music. When I got out, I was thinking it was like back in the days, where you make one song, get on the radio and start poppin.

What I did was sit back and start peepin. In 2007 and the top of 08, I said, You know what? Its the mixtapes. Ive been out here messin with Sony and fooling with Koch, but it was all about the mixtapes. And a dude from Koch told me, Man, you need to get out here on some of these mixtapes and put some verses together. Thats how you get hot.

DX: What caused the move from Koch to Asylum?
Project Pat:
Koch is cool. I mess with Koch, and theyll get you on the radio. They took Dont Call Me No More, and I didnt really make that as a single. I just made that to be making a song. I noticed that when I was with Sony too, when I made Good Googly Moogly too. And those are cool for maybe second or third singles, but I wasnt on it like that.

The thing is though, I aint making no more of those songs. I got a few now that I aint even trying to write, cause Asylum will be the main oneactually, the thing I like about Asylum is they let you put out what you want to do. Theyll give you that time to get that buzz going.

DX: Now that downloads and ringtones are taking a piece of the pie, does that time in the independent game make it easier to adapt?
Project Pat:
Oh yes. I just got off the phone with Juicy, and we were talking about how things are just like they were when we first started. We already know what to do, because weve been in this position before. Whats so easy now is that weve sold millions of records before, but Three 6 Mafia aint really done any mixtapes. They saw me doing the mixtapes, and now theyre about to get on it too.

Juicy J has a new album coming out called Hustle Till I Die. We always messed with underground people coming up. So now weve got a girl from Memphis coming out named V-Slash; Ive got her on the Dutty Laundry mixtape. I got some young niggas out of Memphis too. People still want that underground, street shit.

DX: It seems like mixtapes are filling that void that Rap City and Yo! MTV Raps left behind.
Project Pat:
We from down south man, and Ima put it to you like this. A nigga can be brand new, and make nothing but mixtapes. Youll have to pay some of these deejays if they dont know you. But, guess what? Youll be so hot in the streets that they can put out enough mixtapes and just get that show money. Aint nothing wrong with that. Youll see dudes down here making $8,000 a show and theyre not even on yet.

DX: Why do you think it switched up like that?
Project Pat:
Down here in the South man, were stuck in our ways. And were gonna keep it for a minute. New York gave it away because they didnt let surrounding areas get on. You had dudes from Boston who were banging. And New Jersey is gutter as a bastard. They couldve kept the game longer if they hadnt have been so selfish.

See, down south, we aint trippin. Wait till Arkansas gets on. Ive met so many dudes from Arkansas that can put it down. And one thing about them is if a dude aint a real, stand up, street nigga, people down there wont back him. Florida is doing their thing, and we aint trippin. Theyre talking about that dope, that money, hoes and them shiny cars. Lets make it happen. Down south, we got the same style. But our swag aint the same. A Memphis dude wont have the same swag as a Miami dude.

DX: Theres a generation gap between the first generation of Southern artists, and some of the younger cats making music related to dances and ringtones. How do you balance that?
Project Pat:
After listening to OJ Da Juiceman and Gucci Mane [click to read] and them, I said, You know what? Weve gotta keep this thing street. TV took the music away from the streets, but everybody still on that street music. Stuff still goes down in the streets, but the mainstream, theyre not dealing with it no more. They not taking no chances. But after seeing what happened with those singles, I cant have it no more. I gotta make some bump. Dudes now think the street music is everything. That street music is almost becoming extinct, so when some of it finally drops, dudes is like, Man, I gotta have it.

Thats why I dropped that Dutty Laundry CD, cause I knew I had to go on and make something happen. The only people who can come out after Gucci drops, are dudes that aint nobody heard about. Man, Gucci is gonna cut a lot of heads when he comes out. If you aint made your mark by then, you just might not make it. Gucci and OJ are what the streets are talking about right now. Its like Batman and Robin.

DX: So when you see independent artists like Gucci or OJ doing their thing on the mixtape grind, does that remind you of the early Three 6 Mafia days?
Project Pat:
Oh, for sure. I was listening to Gucci in like 06. After I started hearing him, I said, Gucci aint sold a million records nationwide as far as in the stores. But hes probably sold a million mix CDs. If one sells 20,000 and another sells 30,000, all that starts adding up. And before you know it, hes probably got a million or even two out there. That means hes just building his resume up, and if they promote him right, hell be set.

But, them my niggas right there, and they bumpin. I saw how Gucci was coming with the styles and the swag. Almost anybody can rap, but Gucci had that swag. Real talk, I already had a swag. So I just reinvented mine, and came through another doorwhich is these mixtapes. The younger generation mightve heard some of my older albums, but they were like, Well, whats he got out now? Everybodys on mixtapes, so I did one with DJ Scream, and then I did another one with DJ Trap out of Johnson City, Tennessee. I did one with DJ HeadBussa out of Tampa, Florida. I did another one with DJ Big Biz up in Canada. You already know about the one I did with Dutty Laundry out of Chattanooga, and Im doing one with DJ J1 out of Atlanta. Im working on one right now with Trap-A-Holics, and Im finna do one with Michael 5000 Watts. Those are both gonna be monsters. Ive got two songs with Uncle Murda [click to read] from Brooklyn that I just finished playing in the car.

DX: What? Project Pat and Uncle Murda?
Project Pat:
Yeah, I like him. Ill tell you something, hell come up cause hes from the street, and thats what people wanna hear. His raps are just retarded, and hes on straight goon time.

DX: Thats a random combination. How did you two hook up?
Project Pat:
I heard him on a mixtape rapping over A Milli. It was probably like 10 other dudes on that song, and I dont even remember who they were. And these were industry dudes. But Uncle Murda came on there and started rappin, and I said, Who is this nigga? This nigga wangin! He was talking about being in the street and talking about them pistols, and I said, Whoo!

So I started asking around about him, and dudes were saying good things about him. When I got to New York, I got up with Kay Slay and J Grand. Ive got some people in New Yorkdudes in the street from Brooklyn that I know. If you wanna know something about somebody, youve gotta go to their city. And they were telling me, He shot on niggasgot a murder charge. Niggas shot on him, and he was robbing out here.

That made me like him even more. Kay Slay gave me his manager, Hoods number, and we got him on the phone right there. So when I talked to him, he was like, What? Nigga I know you, fool! We got two monsters together, and I did the hook for both of them. So Im gonna take them joints to Trap-A-Holics, cause Murda is known up north in New York, Connecticut and Jersey. Im about to get out here, man. I gotta get that, and I gotta finish this one with Michael Watts. I used to be in Dallas every week doing shows. Its just a younger generation, but they know who I am. A lot of the younger dudes coming out of Dallas like Tray-D want me to do songs on their albums.

DX: Sometimes the racism in the South is so obvious. I drove past a state park dedicated to KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest on the way here. Does that climate force Southern artists to be more unified?
Project Pat:
Well, I dont think that really plays into it. As far as the rap game, were the last to get our shine. You have to understand that we sat back and watched New York and the West Coast get theirs first. We was like, Man, they just aint hearing us. Its like we aint nobody. So rest assured that now were greedy, and were gonna keep it. Were stuck in our ways down here. And, no offense to anybody on the East Coast, but we just aint trying to hear that right now. I dont care who you are.

We like a certain kind of flow, and we like when dudes flow to the beat. We came with Crunk, we came with Snap, and now were on Trap. And were gonna be on trapping for minute, casue we were always about that. Go back and listen to some of that old Master P, and youll see what Im talking about. The Crunk sound came in, but if you look at Geto Boys and stuff like that, we was trappin from day one.

DX: With the exception of todays interview, a lot of the stuff you and Juicy talk about has mellowed over the years. Do you attribute that to growing older?
Project Pat:
I had this partner I used to run with. He had a daughter when we were about 18. And I told him, I always had a daddy. But you got a little girl now, and thats cool. So when I went to break into this house, he was like, Oooh let me go. And I told him, Nah dog, you cant go. Somebody might be in here. And since youve got a daughter, you cant be getting caught up. I told him we canceled that one, but we really didnt. But I had to do that, because it was hot out there.

I used to dodge him a lot after that, and he thought I was acting funny with him. He wanted to go on the robbery that I got caught up in and went to jail for. I explained it to him, and when I was behind bars, we had a little talk like,

I didnt tell you what I was getting into, because I didnt want you to get caught up. If I had kids out here, I wouldnt be doing this bullshit.

But man, you got a momma and a daddy.

Yeah, but Im trying to help them out. You got a daughter, and if you go, then shes got nobody.

If a dude wont take care of his kids, he aint no real nigga if hes around you. If his kids are out there hungry and starving, and hes giving you money so yall can buy dope, get high and mess with hoes, why isnt he doing anything for his kids? The cross is coming for you. If hell cross his blood, hell definitely cross you.

I never had a big brother, cause Im the oldest. But my cousin was like my big brotherhe was like two years older than me. His babys mother died, and he got custody of the kids. Thats what a real nigga does. Im in the process of getting custody of my boys right now. My babys mother went to jail for child negligence. And the day we go to court, Im getting custody of both of my boys.

For a while I didnt have any kids. But I got two different girls pregnant at the same time before I got locked up. Then, when I got out, [my sons] were three years old. I said, Man, Im not gonna do that stuff no more. Im not going back to jail; thats over with. The illegal game was a wrap. And I know I made the right decision.

DX: Do they know what you do for a living or have they ever listened to one of your albums?
Project Pat:
Oh yeah, theyre six now, so they know. They try to rap and everything. They know whats up.

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