Rahsaan Patterson's career is proof that an artist can be progressive while firmly based in gospel and R&B traditions. After a 13-year period entailing a co-starring role on Kids Incorporated, songwriting triumphs with Brandy's "Baby" and Tevin Campbell's "Back to the World," and other activity behind the scenes, Patterson finally made his solo major-label debut with a self-titled album (1997) that started an unbroken streak of moderately successful, stylistically adventurous studio recordings. He has flashed his dynamic and soul-piercing tenor voice, as well as his production and arrangement skills, across a consistently high-quality discography highlighted by independent albums such as After Hours (2004), Wines & Spirits (2007), and Bleuphoria (2011). While his LPs have been separated by two to eight years, Patterson has been sought regularly as a collaborator and remains an active performer. His 35th year in the entertainment industry coincided with the release of his sixth proper studio album, Heroes & Gods (2019).
Originally from New York, Rahsaan Patterson began singing in church during early childhood. He entered the entertainment industry and moved to Los Angeles once he was cast as "the Kid" in Kids Incorporated, a music-oriented children's television program in which the main cast performed contemporary hits. Patterson co-starred in the first four seasons, from 1984 through 1987, and recorded albums with the group. The show's first breakout artist was Martika, whose self-titled 1988 debut — including the number one pop single "Toy Soldiers" — featured Patterson among other Kids Incorporated cast members as backing vocalists.
Signed to a recording contract with major-label RCA, Patterson began working on his first solo album in 1996 with Les Pierce, Keith Crouch, and Jamey Jaz all heavily involved. In a Billboard feature published that November, writer J.R. Reynolds used adjectives such as alternative, progressive, and organic in describing the artist's approach to R&B. A couple months later, Rahsaan Patterson was racked, and as a moderate success established a consistent pattern that has continued throughout Patterson's career. Promoted with the charting "Where You Are," a sweet ballad, the LP peaked at number 48 on the R&B/hip-hop chart. The term "neo-soul" entered the music biz vernacular beforehand, but it didn't catch on until later in 1997, after executive Kedar Massenburg applied it as a marketing term for Kedar Entertainment artists Erykah Badu, Big Bub, and Chico DeBarge. Rahsaan Patterson no doubt would have been a fit for that label.
Between album releases, Patterson appeared as a collaborator in varying capacities on albums by Ray J and Jody Watley. He also co-wrote Chico DeBarge's "Give You What You Want (Fa Sure)," which charted around the time he also issued his second album, Love in Stereo. Its biggest hit, "Treat You Like a Queen," seamlessly joined classic and contemporary elements like few other singles at the time. Pierce and Jaz remained on board, while Van Hunt (a few years ahead of his solo debut) co-wrote and co-produced one third of the songs. It reached number 51 on the R&B/hip-hop chart.
Although the gaps between his album releases widened across the 2000s, Patterson remained consistent artistically and commercially as he recorded for Artistry Music (with Dome as his European label). Five years after Love in Stereo, Patterson returned in 2004 with After Hours, his funkiest and livest full-length. A full band backed him on highlights such as "I Always Find Myself" and "So Hot," ranging from a swampy, Voodoo-style groove to a hybrid of circa-1979 Rufus & Chaka Khan and Slave. Three years later, Patterson covered much more ground with Wines & Spirits, a set that within the space of three songs moved from the euphoric contemporary soul ballad "Feels Good" to "Pitch Black," a dread-filled number falling somewhere between spiritually conflicted Prince and early Cure. Emotional and stylistic breadth also characterized the 2011 album Bleuphoria, which featured appearances from Kids Incorporated alum Shanice, Jody Watley, Faith Evans, and kindred spirit Lalah Hathaway. As with the MCA recordings, all three sets placed somewhere in the middle of the R&B/hip-hop chart, with Bleuphoria the first to crack the Top 40. Likewise, Crouch and Jaz remained deeply involved, with many other longtime associates making smaller contributions.
Patterson ended an extended break between solo albums with Heroes & Gods. Released on Shanachie in 2019, Patterson's 35th year in show business, it mixed traditional and modern R&B, mature pop, and house music with extensive help from Jaz and additional input from Hathaway and Broussard, as well as Rachelle Ferrell, and Joi Gilliam. Although it was his first album in nearly a decade, Patterson was active all the while with touring. ~ Andy Kellman