Interview – Patra

Back in the ’90s, Reggae music reached peak international popularity. Finding mainstream success with arts such as Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Capleton, and Terror Fabulous… the queen of Dancehall would have to be Patra. One of the most prominent Dancehall performers, Patra took the world by storm with her top selling 1993 debut album Queen of the Pack. Following up in a big way in 1995 with Scent of Attraction, an album featuring the unforgettable cover of Grace Jones’ “Pull Up to the Bumper,” Patra was a name everyone knew. Talented and full of energy, Patra also rose to the top thanks to her unification of Reggae, Dancehall, Hip Hop, plus R&B.

Fast forward to 2023, Patra is now back to reclaim her throne as the queen. For those who might have missed, Patra has taken some lengthy reprieves from the spotlight over the past two decades. A bold move from the star, Patra decided that personal spiritual and emotional growth far outweighed anything else. A very intelligent woman, she is now stronger than ever before mentally and physically as she returns with her latest single “Gimmi Way.” An inspiring story of finding peace of mind in this complex world, Patra recently took the time to talk about her journey in music, the importance of balance in life, plus a whole lot more.

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music for quite some time now. Sustained a good deal of success during the ‘90s with hit singles – both in Pop charts and Dance carts – how would you describe your journey as a performer and singer?

Patra – For me personally, I think I was born with a gift as a singer. I started out in the church, also in school, with family members, friends in the community, and also in youth clubs. I realized I was a natural singer already. The DJ part of it is what we call Dancehall type vibes, and that is what I learned along the way… because I started out singing.

Music has always been a journey for me. I think it’s not only a gift from God, but it is something that allowed me to express myself, not only as a woman or someone from the Caribbean, but it transcended. My musical journey has always been about good quality music, but also creating the history part of it; the dynamic of how our culture is and selling that to the world. It has also been making sure people understand and know that there is a huge Caribbean crowd out there and Jamaica has its own unique flavor when it comes to music. I was just in a place where there was so much talent. The journey has always just been to make sure each time I do it, that I do it right.

Cryptic Rock – Right, and be true to yourself.

Patra – Yea man. And do quality music; not just doing it for the sake of doing music. I can’t find myself doing that.

Cryptic Rock – That makes sense. Your style has always been a fusion of different styles including Reggae, Dancehall, Hip Hop, Pop, and R&B.

Patra – Yea. (Laughs) It’s everything. That’s what I say about the music, it’s universal. The culture that I take to the world was like a journey because I realized how much the Hip Hop and R&B community gave me so much love. It was so easy for me to infuse. So, when I decided to start thinking about collaborations… we would think about people like Yo Yo, Aaron Hall, Christopher Williams, Salt N Pepa, and so many others that I’ve worked with. It was so nice to know that it’s so easy to blend; it is just like an African vibe, if you know what I mean.

It was so natural, it wasn’t forced, but I recognized when I was out at the time, in certain ways it was male dominated. What I decided to do was break that, to let women know – it’s not male dominated, it’s 50/50 here. So, all we have to do is good quality music… it’s not a competition. We all stay in our own lane, and once we do that, that’s when we can capture that magic moment. It’s a beautiful thing.

Patra – Queen Of The Pack / Epic (1993)
Patra – Scent of Attraction / Sony Legacy (1995)

Cryptic Rock – And it makes for the best music, like you said. That is what matters most in music.

Patra – Yes it does. Then of course you have to have that personality with the music as well. One thing when you’re doing music is you can’t be fake. You have to be able to feel what you’re saying and express it. That’s what I love about the ‘90s… you’re either going to have good quality music, or you’re not. (Laughs) I’m so happy I was in that era where I know what it takes to create that quality type vibe that lasts a lifetime; it is not something that people can just listen to and say, eh. It’s a beautiful thing to have good music.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is. As stated, you had success during the ‘90s, but you decided to take a break from music for a while. You went off to study and grow as a human being. What was that time like for you?

Patra – It was like one of the most beautiful things. When I decided to take that break, I knew it was going to cost me a lot, not only financially and with my fans (not that they would go anywhere), but also with the people that I worked with. For me, it was beautiful to do such a thing. I had to be brave to make that moment happen and make it a reality. I wanted to be in control more, but not only that, I wanted to understand more of what was going on; I didn’t want to feel like I was just being led.

At the same time, I was being treated so well in-between. It’s hard sometimes to see things, but for me, when I decided to test the pulse of human beings (people that I’ve worked with), then you get to see a whole different side. What I chose to do was to become more spiritual, plus stronger mentally and physically. In other words, it was not a church thing; I just chill and speak to God one on one. He told me the time was not yet.

The things that I learned by just taking this time off was to be at peace with myself, love myself, love God, love my family, and I love people so much more…  I could not pay for that. It is only when people say to me, “Oh my God, Patra, I haven’t seen you in a minute.” For me, it felt like last year. (Laughs)

Here I am, still taking care of myself, I’m in a comfortable place mentally, and I had to go through a lot to be free from paperwork and all those things. Everything worked out properly just from praying and keeping it diplomatic. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful things I think anybody can use. Because once you forgive, you have relieved that tension. What it does is renew what spirit was in you as a person; and now you have a beautiful angel following you. Therefore, you can always see negative things from a distance. That cleansing that I’ve gone through is one of the most beautiful things.

I love talking about this story, because I didn’t know how tired I was until I took a break. (Laughs) I’m laughing because it’s true. It’s a beautiful thing to go through things… it’s how you come out in the end. When it wasn’t my time to do anything, I just stayed away. I just relaxed and I enjoyed nature. Now I’m 100% fit, and I’ve taken twenty years off my age. I don’t know what the lord has done for me, but I’m not complaining. I’m teaming up with people who were there before who actually believe in me. I’m just so excited to be back!

Cryptic Rock – It is great to hear. It is also compelling to hear about the time you took off. We all need to step away sometimes to grow as people. Spiritually is very important, now more than ever in this modern world.

Patra – Yea man, you have to know when to take yourself away. I didn’t know it would have taken so long, because you have human beings that run things with an iron fist, but there is no one who can stand against the power of prayer, respect, and dignity… these are things that cannot be bought. The beautiful thing about my career is, the way I left it, that it still remained the same. I know there are things going on, but the way we do our thing, it’s a no-brainer. My fans are always there, they just need to know I’m okay and I’ve come out good on the other side of it.

I could have come back a long time ago, but the spirits said, no, not yet. I have started to do a lot more things. I’ve done huge projects that you’ll be able to see in a few months. One of the biggest things of my career has to do with film. I also have my own cooking show and own my own restaurant (Chateau 7). Chateau 7 will be reopening; because I was finishing up the album and I had to take time out to make sure I had a good quality product. Now that I have a good quality product, and am delivering the goods, I’m complete.

In life, it all depends on how you look at it. If you are a doctor, nurse, or teacher… when they go to work each day, they see it as a job, and they want to do it to the best of their ability. It’s the same way I’ve approached the music business. I approach it as a business, but also as a job that I should take accordingly once I’m doing it. But once I’m not doing that job, I should be able to put on my flip flops, my jeans, a t-shirt… and just go sit down and chill where I’m not so overwhelmed with anything that is material. Those are the things I’ve learned along the way and I’m so thankful.

It’s a beautiful thing, I cannot express it enough to my fans to let them know it’s sometimes good to be by yourself; because that is when you actually find yourself. It might take a long time, but it’s such a beautiful cleansing. It cannot be bought. Get some sunlight on your body, exercise, try to eat healthy as much as possible, and if you have to have people around you, have the right people around you, think positive, and meditate. You can’t be so caught up with what is surrounding you… because then you are going to lose yourself.

Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. Many of us can relate to that… especially with the constant bombardment of technology. There are so many distractions and so many things that can be negative energy in our lives.

Patra – Exactly. But you see, if you are a leader, then you lead. If you’re not, then you will be led. The beautiful thing of a one and one relationship with God, mentality and physically… is you don’t have to go to anyone to do anything. Once you start changing that pulse, that part of your brain that needs attention, then you become whole with yourself. I want people to love themselves; especially women out there. Please, love who you are. You don’t need anything more than your mind, heart, your whole body, and your family. You have to focus and love who you are. It shouldn’t be so difficult, because how you treat yourself is how you treat others.

Patra – Pull Up to the Bumper / Song Legacy (1995)
Patra – The Great Escape / Charly Records (2003)

Cryptic Rock – Completely, positively agreed. Which leads us to the present day with your brand new single “Gimmi Way.” This is a very energetic and fun song. Is this a sample of what we can expect from a new album?

Patra – While I was in production, a good friend of mine came in named General Degree. He produced this record; he is an artist as well. He also laid back, not all up in people’s faces… but he is very successful. He reached out to me to tell me, “You have this bad rhythm and we should work on an idea which has a statement that has nothing to really do with the album.” I said to him, “Yo, since I’m working on this material – with the way the lyrics are set up and how the rhythm is – it is just to let my fans in to see the vibes/energy and how in the music business there is not so much love and respect like back in the day. So, how about we do this song “Gimmi Way”?

That is how the song “Gimmi Way” came up. Of course, you know I’m also the Queen of the Pack, so I can also get rough. When I say get out of my way, that’s what it means… just to let them know, okay, I’ll be coming out soon. It’s a beautiful thing. “Gimmi Way” is about happiness, feeling good, and it’s a positive thing. You can sing along with it; you can also just dance to it and get a vibe on while you wait for the record I’m going to come out with.

Cryptic Rock – That is very exciting to hear. “Gimmi Way” is the first single from yourself in nearly a decade. So, an album will follow soon?

Patra – Most definitely, but first of course we are going to have dropped one or two singles first. The most beautiful thing that I want people to know is that I have the Reggae part of the album wicked, the Dancehall part of the album wicked, and also the R&B/Pop/Hip Hop thing. So, I made sure I covered all areas so that way nobody will be disappointed. I am also using my Jamaican accent on it to make it even better.

Cryptic Rock – Fantastic. And will there be some touring as well?

Patra – Most definitely. A lot of things behind the scenes have been set up. I am so excited about that, but one thing I can tell you about for sure is my first performance in New York City in a good while. It’s going to be at the Barclay Center on the 16th of June with me, Shabba Ranks, Capleton, Barrington Levy, Yellow Man, Mad Lion, and Little Vicious. It is real quality ‘90s music. I’m coming out to do my thing for the people.

Cryptic Rock –That sounds like an amazing show.

Patra – Definitely, the lineup is over the top! I’m so excited about it. I also have not seen Shabba in person in so many years; so, it’s going to be a really good thing to see him. Just to be in a lineup like that, I know exactly where my roots are… and I know where I belong.

Cryptic Rock – It seems like many positive things are unfolding at this time for you. 

Patra – Yes, I’ll also be in Atlanta on July 4th too. Fans can check me out on Instagram. They will be able to see what is going on there.

Cryptic Rock – People should go ahead and follow you to get updates. A lot has changed within the music world in the past two decades. Is it very difficult to be an artist in today’s day in age?

Patra – No, it’s not. There are people who are doing their thing, and I’m doing my thing. Pertaining to what is going on now, what I’ve seen changed mostly, is the technology. Back in the day we had no Facebook, no IG and all of that stuff. It’s a different platform; so, people can just go ahead and do what they are doing.

I see it as a platform sometimes so that my fans can see what I’m doing simply. Like if I’m picking fruit from a tree or exercising and all to encourage them and all that. For me, yes you can hear the change in the music, but to each their own. I’m old school, I see that enhancement, but I don’t get distracted by what’s going on. Things and times have changed, but for me, I’m going to use the technology for what it’s worth.

Cryptic Rock – Makes perfect sense. Use it for the right reason, and it is very good to not let yourself get distracted.

Patra – Yes, most definitely. There is a new generation, they are doing their thing. What I’ve realized with this generation as well – going through so many emotions, stresses, and responsibility – when they say Patra, “how do you look like that?”… I tell them because I’m aging differently. When I was younger, I was so tired and exhausted. So, they all have to go through this phase.

This same generation is the same generation that are going to eat it up if you give them good quality music. They have emotions, feelings, and a lot of things they are going through. For example, Bob Marley can never get stale… every generation has to love Bob Marley. You understand? It is also what’s in the mind. You have so many big stars out there now doing music that you don’t see them on a day-to-day basis killing social media, but they are ones who are actually moving the unit.

That’s the whole important thing of what’s going on – to each their own. Everyone has to do what they see comfortable. Like me now, I wouldn’t be able to put out more than an album in a certain time period. I couldn’t be an artist that just keeps putting so many songs out. It wouldn’t make any sense to me… because then I would get lost in my art. Other people can do it though.

Patra – The Continuation / LGN (2014)
Patra – Patra – Gimmi Way (2023)

Cryptic Rock – Right, to each their own. Everyone works differently.

Patra – Yes. Not only that, but when you respect the art, you have to treat it with care. That’s how I see it and it’s very important.

Cryptic Rock – Exactly. Last question. Since you have such a diverse approach to your own music, what are some of your personal influences?

Patra – When I was growing up of course it was so difficult to know how music influenced me; because as I told you when I was younger, I was singing. Most importantly was Tina Turner though. I loved her attitude and her voice… she was born to do this. Of course, we grew up on so many here in Jamaica like Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, etc. There are so many stars in Jamaica that it is sometimes hard to break away to some international space. For me, from a female standpoint, it has to be Tina Turner. Also, I love Grace Jones. I remade “Pull up to My Bumper” and I love that song.

When I was growing up though, it was Tina Turner… that’s the person that I loved. I didn’t want to be Tina Turner, but I wanted to be confident… and that’s it. She has the energy of a Jamaican woman as well. When you are dancing in Jamaica, the attitude has to be in the face; it’s the whole emotion and reflects how you move your body. It was so easy for me to say, okay, I’m a Jamaican girl going out there, and I’m just going to take to the stage and do my own thing. I love it and I love her a lot, she’s an amazing woman.

Patra 2023 Tour Dates:

6-16-23 Reggae Love Fest Barclays Center Brooklyn, NY

For more on Patra: Instagram 

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