Patrick Adams on the Importance of Shedding Labels
The iconic producer explains why moving forward is of the utmost importance
From discovering a teenage Leroy Burgess to writing, producing and arranging disco and ’80s R&B classics like Inner Life’s “I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair)” and Fonda Rae’s “Touch Me (All Night Long),” Patrick Adams has been an integral part of New York dance music history for over 30 years. His prowess as an arranger and experimental approach took boogie to strange new places, prefiguring house music and providing inspiration to New York’s hip-hop generation, including Nas and Eric B. & Rakim.
In this excerpt from his interview with Dâm-Funk on the monthly RBMA Radio show Glydezone, Adams describes why he chose to keep moving forward, rather than consolidating his gains in a specific genre and going for mogul status.
Listen to Dâm-Funk presents Glydezone on RBMA Radio here every third Friday at 4 PM EDT.
The reason that I did not wind up where Russell Simmons is or where Jay Z, which I very easily could’ve done, was because number one, for me, it’s not about the money. Never was, never will be.
I got tired of fighting the system. It is what it is. In the ’70s, Record World Magazine used to call me the Prince of Soft Soul music when I was doing Black Ivory. When I left Perception Records, for a period of time, it was my skillset as an arranger. I was doing arrangements for Aspectrum and The Main Ingredient and blah blah blah, and getting a lot of songs recorded. I was making $10,000 a week. I was 25 years old and making that kind of money. The old guys, it was like they were finished. I was one of a very few who could do string and brass arrangements that actually added value to a records. That’s what it was. After a while, I became everybody’s doctor.
When the death of disco happened, I didn’t get the memo. I was in the studio working.
A record company would have a record that was a good record, but it wasn’t quite... “Call Patrick,” you know? I did a posting on Facebook a couple of months ago talking about how fortunate I was that in my life, I have met people who had resources or access to resources and they were special people, like a Jerry Greenberg, who ran Atlantic, or Marv Schlachte, who did Prelude. What happens is, they would see how passionate I was. They would also acknowledge my talent and they would then make those resources available to me, and then they got out the way. That’s a very deep thing. Following that line of going from soft soul music and then I’m doing all these arrangements but I’m not getting the production work, because they’re like, “He can’t do dance music or funky music because he’s doing the soft soul thing.”
[I transitioned with] Keep On Jumpin’. The Musique album was an outburst of frustration on my part because I’m tired of people telling me what I can’t do and I knew full well I could. I was just trying to go totally left field on everybody, which is why you take a song like “Keep On Jumpin’” where it changes keys so much. Then, coming out of there, when the death of disco happened, I tell people, “I didn’t get the memo. I was in the studio working.” I didn’t know that them crazy folks out there in Chicago had declared disco dead. That’s what led to things like “Keep in Touch (Body to Body).”
I mean, look, I tell people, I’m a producer. If you ask me to do polka music, I’m going to give you a great polka record, because that’s what I do. I make great records. When all of that was over and I took up residency at Power Play Studio, was what kept me in the loop, because I’m still seeing what young people are doing, I’m still hearing. Plus, it allowed me to trade information with other people. Power Play was like a fantastic experiment.
I tell a story of how when Rakim first came in, I’m trying to record him with a 414 or a regular vocal mic. Like, Rakim is a hell of a rapper. Compression limiting, it wasn’t working. Pop filters. Nothing worked. Once again, out of frustration, I said, “You know what? I’m going to use that bass drum mic. If this microphone can record a bass drum, I know it can take his voice.” What really was nice about is you notice the lows. When Rakim would rap into that and you compress that, man, it was right in your face live.
They asked me to produce them. They came into the studio, they had no idea what they were doing. I’m not going to say they had no idea – I mean, obviously, their choice of loops and Rakim’s writing goes without saying. Salt-N-Pepa and a whole bunch of other stuff that went on, if I had wanted to claim and organized at that moment in time, yeah, I would’ve been the great mogul in the ’80s and ’90s, but I wasn’t about that. In one sense, I didn’t want to get tagged again, because then we would’ve come out of there, “He’s a rap producer. He can’t do New Jack [Swing].”