Words by Mercia Tucker
Photography: Anthony Bila
PatricKxxLee is the kind of artist who immerses himself so thoroughly in the process of making music that the outcome is as accurate a reflection of his quintessence as it could possibly be. His leap into the music world a baptism by fire, his upcoming album is titled Diary of an Arsonist because “it’s the story and the outcome of the day I set my life on fire, which is the day I decided to drop out of college and that’s what this album’s gonna be about.”
Born in Zambia and having moved to SA when he was six years old, Patrick stumbled across a love for hip hop when his cousin, who was on babysitting duty but needed to leave the house, locked Patrick in his room to prevent him from wondering off. “He locked me in the room, and all there was was this CD player and inside was a G-Unit CD so I played it and I had nothing else to do but listen to G-Unit. I spent the whole day listening to this album and I just started memorizing the lyrics. And that’s how I started rhyming, I used to just memorize lyrics.”
He began writing rhymes when he was in primary school and graduated to performing the fruits of his pen-labour in secondary. Referred to Fruity Loops by a friend, he downloaded the software and messing around and creating his own beats was the natural progression to his artistic curiosity. “As soon as I opened that program, from then on I’ve just been making music every day. For eleven years I’ve been making my own beats, I’ve been recording myself, I’ve been mastering myself. It’s a naturally trained thing.”
He considers himself a ‘true artist’. “I’ve been making music for a very long time and I would describe myself as a true artist because my process has gone long beyond just tryna make a dope song, it’s a 360 view of what I’m tryna portray, what I’m tryna put out. It’s a full embodiment. The artwork, the pictures, the clothes, the videos, the song, everything had to tie in seamlessly. I’m able to see the end product from the beginning and the songs are the building blocks towards that, as opposed to me going in just tryna make a dope track or a hit song. I try staying true to my art by staying true to myself.”
With Lee being a shortened version of his second name, he joined it to his first with the double-x as a stage name because, as an avid gamer, when playing PlayStation a double x is a double jump and he wanted “to show people that I’m double-jumping one step higher than everybody else.”
Patrick also has synesthesia, “a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another” as defined in The Free Dictionary. His takes on the form of being able to see sounds and it manifests itself “in the form of geometric shapes, electrical currents… I record in the dark all the time because it’s easier to see in the dark. It’s like a bunch of geometric shapes connected by the electrical current that basically circles around my head like a satellite, if that makes sense. Sometimes I’d see two red circles, parallel to each other, connected by some form of current and that whole structure would spin around and sometimes duplicate at a fast rate. It’s some real weird shit.”
Having asked him previously what he’d describe his sound as, and expecting the usual ‘trap, hip hop, soulful’ response that’s generally given to that kinda question, he took me aback by saying “a dark cloud in a misty forest. I’d say it’s atmospheric.” Confused as to what that could possibly mean, when he described how he sees sounds later, the puzzle pieces seemed to fit.
Not focused on machismo, his music is particularly introspective and soul-baring. Having taken a while to hone in on the particular sound that worked best for him, he says “As I got deeper into it, as I had more to say, it was my escape. I was making music to escape from a lot of bad shit that was happening in my life. When I decided to take everything I was going through and put it in the music, that’s when I found out what I wanted to say. The beauty about music is that it’s a blank page for you to paint any type of image. There’s certain things that I wouldn’t say to people but I can say it on a song.”
Growing up his dad would always play music around the house. “I’d fall asleep and wake up listening to music” he says. His personal influences are thrown as far as punk rock and as wide as gangster rap. “The fact that they had the confidence to speak so straight forward about the shit they were doing” he says of gangster rappers “I took from that the power of just stating what it is and being forward and just putting your life out there and just being 100% honest, be it good or bad.”
Some of challenges he’s experienced in the industry include “tryna get recognition for your work and tryna get paid for your work because I’ve already had a ‘legend’, a South African legend not pay me for the work I’ve done on a platinum album” and also the general frustrations of growing in the music industry.
His upcoming debut voices a turning point in his life. “Me dropping out of college was the starting point of a certain realization that I wanted to take my life into my own hands.” His poignant musical offerings thus far a glimpse into that crossroads, Patrick’s musical catharsis is a journey that we hope leads him to artistic deliverance.