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Artist Feature

Rahsaan Patterson

The passage above plays in a loop in my head as I wait for Rahsaan Patterson (Rah to his friends) to arrive at Casbah, the Moroccan-themed café where we’re meeting to talk about Bleuphoria, his latest CD. That potent snatch of lyrics sums up both the high-wire aesthetics of the new disc and Rahsaan’s approach to his entire career (itself a gift within the gift of life): taking high chances in this divine dance. Bleuphoria, whose sonic tapestry ranges from the retro club funk of “Ghost” (featuring the divine Jody Watley) to the avant-Broadway spiritual “Mountain Top” (featuring the great Tata Vega), has been my soundtrack for weeks, pushing me out of the realm of on-the-grind journalist into that of unadulterated fan. It’s one of those gifts that true artists routinely bestow on the faithful, justifying our love, reminding us anew why we’ve taken them into our hearts and ceded real estate in our spirits to them. With Bleuphoria, coming almost four years after 2007’s cult favorite Wine & Spirits and three years after his acclaimed 2008 Christmas album Ultimate Gift (played year-round by the devoted), fans are getting synthesis and evolution of all that’s come before – leftfield experimentation, centerfield grooves, and soulful meditations on inner and outer space.

Longtime fans have watched Rah grow from the skinny, wide-eyed boy with the big eyes and bigger voice on the classic children’s show “Kids Incorporated,” to one of the most influential yet underrated soul men on the planet. (His career is riddled with paradox and irony.) We’ve watched him sport blonde-streaked hair and cutting edge fashions while strolling through European-set music videos, and then hung on to his every note in clubs and concert halls around the globe as he, shorn of hair and clad in the simplest of gear, bled out in song – joy, pain, longing, despair, ecstasy. We’ve kept track of the Who’s Who of talented folks he’s written & produced for and with (from pop diva Brandy to fellow under-sung MVP Van Hunt), with whom he’s collaborated (Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway) and of the icons who have sung his praises (the great Chaka Khan) and ushered him into the hall of the greats. All of that comes to glorious fruition on Bleuphoria, an ‘80s-tinged collection comprised of his trademark gorgeous ballads (“Goodbye,” “Miss You”), head noddingly hypnotic mid-tempo tracks (“Stay With Me,” “6 AM,” first single “Easier Said Than Done”), funk-drenched club grooves (“Ghost’), and genre-defying studio experiments that pay off in a couple of career high-points (“Crazy,” “Mountain Top.”) While being rooted in the classic principles of melody and poetic lyrics, and while gently laying bare the influences of everything from ‘80s electro to vintage Prince and Michael Jackson, Bleuphoria pushes Rahsaan to dig deeper as singer, songwriter and producer. It’s the sound of personal fears being conquered and artistic growth unfolding – beautifully.