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I Saw Project Pat the Other Night, and it Restored My Faith in the Youth of America

Plus, the ten best hats I saw in the crowd.
February 28, 2013, 3:30pm

The best thing about rap in 2013 is watching aging rappers refuse to age. It’s been fun to watch local stars go from maligned outcasts quietly going platinum in their home state, to very public fixtures in the rap world. It’s been even more gratifying to watch some of them leverage “elder statesman” status into lucrative second (or third) acts. It’s a legitimate trend, led by newly minted superstars Juicy J and 2 Chainz, but bolstered by rappers like Bun B and E–40. Slim Thug puts out a remarkably listenable mixtape every 6 months. I have high hopes for a Trina resurgence in 2013.

(It’s cool that you can go see GZA perform Liquid Swords or see Souls of Mischief do 93 Til Infinity in their entirety, but it also feels short-sighted, like an admission that nobody could possibly care about new music from these artists. That makes me sad! TDE owes GZA and Souls a legacy check.)

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Project Pat is one of these rappers, working to stay relevant in 2013. As Juicy J’s older brother, he made his name by bringing North Memphis hood cred and lyrical finesse to Hypnotize Camp Posse/Three Six Mafia. Line to line he was either a total goofball referencing Hungry Hungry Hippos or a stone cold thug robbing everyone. Like E–40, it took a while for Pattuh to get the credit he deserved for his unique style, stretching words and adding syllables as needed. (And while we’re at it, with the bar set very low for gender equality in rap, he deserves credit for giving women a voice: on his biggest record, La Chat sons the fuck out of him in their back and forth in “Chickenhead.”)

Santos Party House packed out last night (the same night as two sold-out Kendrick Lamar shows uptown). The crowd was rowdy and there were more girls than one would expect. The whole night smashed the low expectations that come with any rap show whose flyer has four names and eight logos on it. Although OG Ron C did not spin (I think?), I really enjoyed the sets by the red-flanneled Hypebeast who did. Harlem native Black Dave ran through a quick set of raps you could throw bows to and his whole crew knew their lyrics. It made me want to actually check his tape out. Atlanta’s Reese was aight, even if his biggest song is unfortunately a remix by “trap” producers LOUDPVCK.

Pat hit the stage some time before midnight in a safety-colored hoodie and flanked by his hypeman/protege Nasty Mane. (Nasty was fully dipped in Vans gear, this was funny even though we couldn’t really decide why). What was immediately clear was how deep Pat’s catalog is. He has (at least) eight albums entirely produced by Three 6 Mafia in their prime, one of which is a double CD, and all of which have more than a few anthemic album cuts. Of course he did “Chickenhead” but he also opened with the lesser “Raised in the Projects.” It felt like everyone knew “Cheese and Dope” even though most of the room was barely pre-teen when it dropped. Pat played a bunch of other people’s songs too. Normally this would be kind of weird, but Hypnotized Minds left a trail of destruction in Memphis; the closest we’ll probably ever get to seeing Crunchy Black and Scarecrow live again is hearing someone else adlib over their lyrics during a Project Pat show.

I don’t know how much recent material Pat did because my memory is kind of cloudy and I haven’t given his recent tapes that much attention. But I do know he did the Sonny Digital-backed “Kush Ups” off the recent Cheez and Dope tape. “Pills, Weed and Pussy” was one of the big songs of the night. Granted, it was on Juicy J and Lex Lugar’s revolutionary Rubba Band Business 2, but it’s enough of a reminder that in 2013 Mista Don’t Play can still make a huge track. But he is in kind of a weird place, career-wise, drifting away from Paul and Juice and into his own lane as a Memphis street rapper. It’s encouraging that young rap fans and aspiring hip-hop operatives (especially in New York!) are excited about him.

BONUS: The 10 Best Hats I Saw At the Project Pat Show

10) No Limit Tank Hat (a lot, I think this got re-issued)

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9) RIP DJ Screw

8) Impossibly Perched Beanie (aka “the Urban Legend” aka “that velcro lean”)

7) RICH

6) DEAD

5) Influential (written in a very professional font)

4) Bout It (different than the No Limit Tank Hat)

3) Murder Was the Case

2) BREH

1) Riddim

And a random shout out to the dude that was wearing what appeared to be high-end Champion gear.

Skinny Friedman was actually wearing all of those hats at once. He's on Twitter - @skinny412