Marco Patterson has worked hard the last several years building awareness of independent musicians in Jefferson City.
As the sole proprietor of Jefferson City's Bluehouse Studio for five years and now leading that same producing and music engineering charge for Grithouse Music Group, Patterson has recorded songs and albums for numerous local artists that range from country to jazz, including Jefferson City hip-hop artist and rapper Reace Yung's recently released album "Unlucky Me."
He has also hosted public showcases for many of these artists at Mid-Missouri venues including The Mission, both highlighting their original music and raising money for important local charitable organizations that support autism and veterans.
Now, known in the music world as BlackGrits, Patterson is bringing even more awareness to local independent music by making history with his own original hip-hop creations. Released this summer, BlackGrits' first official album release, "Paradox 88" came in at No. 3 on the Billboard's Heatseekers chart for new music, making him the first independent hip-hop artist in Mid-Missouri to break the Billboard music charts.
"By hitting the Billboard charts I am able to show other artists in the local area and in small towns that we all have the ability to achieve goals bigger than ourselves," he said. "This should be able to motivate everyone working on making some strides in this music game. My success and hitting the billboard isn't only for me, it's for everyone who is striving to be better musically."
Patterson's musical influences started at an early age, growing up in a household "that expressed every emotion in the form of music," he said on his Facebook page. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Patterson's parents Darlene and Derrick worked hard as cooks in The Peabody Memphis hotel, but also had a full-fledged studio in their apartment, often hosting fellow musicians in to jam, record or practice.
Derrick performed a lot of gospel and jazz and was a keyboardist with a popular band, while Darlene did a lot of vocal work with local bands and sang in local church choirs.
"It was nothing to see a whole brass band, recording (at our home). I couldn't sing," he said with a laugh. "In church, if you can't sing, you automatically assist in other roles. I tried being an usher and that didn't work out."
Patterson's love for music, particularly hip-hop and rap, became a passion where he would regularly take two ADAT tape recorders and loop various samples from vinyl records. His parents saw his talents and interest and arranged for a church deacon to take him under this wing, learning to record sermons, work the mixing boards and develop his skills in the audio engineering department as an apprentice for about two years.
He was also rewarded with a drum machine that progressed his music aspirations to the next level. With help from his father, Patterson learned how to sequence and arrange gospel and jazz music.
While in high school, Patterson delved more into producing music and frequented local studios, including Jaxx Records and 20-Strong Records that primarily molded his talent. Memphis producer Jah taught Patterson to properly record and mix-down music, and BlackGrits' style formed through influences including Carlos Broady, Teddy Riley, Blackmilk, Madlib, Timbaland and RZA, he said.
Patterson then joined the Missouri National Guard, retiring as an E-5 after six years of service, sticking around Jefferson City and earning a degree in criminal justice administration from Lincoln University.
Even though he put his own music on the backburner for a while, it was his fiance, Brionna, who encouraged him to work on his original pieces, seeing the real meaning in it.
His first release, "Paradox 88," has a "dark and romantically comical content" as Patterson describes, also stating "it is meant to be an outlet for those who wish to listen to something different." Many of the 10 songs on the album have three means, he added.
"For example, 'Levels,' is a lot of movie titles and song titles, the majority being from kung fu movies. It isn't profanity; it is about what you think you are hearing. It is a total flip. That is where you get the paradox," he said.
Other songs on the album include "John Wayne," "Boujiephisticated" and "Yall Mad," which includes verse that relates to his best friend's uncle who was shot. He has already made a video for "John Wayne" with plans to make other videos from the album early next year, including "If I Could" that is about losing loved ones. In that video, Patterson hopes to incorporate an angel crossing over to help loved ones, seeing a kid on a swing and a mom pushing the child with a flash to the kid getting hit by a car and an angel still pushing the kid (who is not really there) on the swing.
"It's all about going back and 'if I could' being by your side," he said, noting all the songs were recorded at various parks in Jefferson City.
The album is a precursor to other projects BlackGrits has scheduled to release this year. "Mongoose" is a hip-hop and abstract album, while "Devon and Marty" has a lot of instrumental music that touched on a time when Patterson worked through depression.
"That one has an emphasis on mental health," he said. "'Tastes Like Purple' has a pop party atmosphere, but also addresses domestic abuse. It is a roller coaster."
Finally, "Letters to Delane," is an ode to Brionna and relates to moments BlackGrits has experienced more recently. Other projects include comprising a Christmas album he would like to produce in October, incorporating many genres such as country, pop, jazz, hip-hop, reggae and more into one lively album filled with Mid-Missouri independent artists.
"It will be funny, cool, original and great to work with a variety of artists," he said. "Who knows, we could turn out a Christmas classic."
After Patterson releases his albums he plans to prep and shoot videos for his songs. He also will produce additional albums for artists, such as Yung, whose recent album also hit the Billboard Heatseekers chart for new music at No. 2 in mid-August, and Latoya Wilson and Robin Nicole, the latter who was featured on "Paradox 88."
As a member of the American Engineering Society and two-time winner at the Southern Entertainment Awards, Patterson plans to hold a seminar this fall showing local independent artists how to hit the Billboard charts and why that is important.
BlackGrits will continue to host hip-hop and rap showcases for artists, including a new artist showcase planned for Aug. 24 at The Mission, one of his favorite venues.
"Jenny (Babcock) at The Mission has helped kick off that trend of supporting independent artists. I would come with written plans and Jenny is one of the few that isn't trying to exploit artists. She doesn't charge them to perform, but hosts events to support us. She hosted a rap battle there for us two years ago and it was packed," he said. "I have these soul artists, jazz musicians, awesome singers — it all connects and they will be here Aug. 24."
Patterson plans to organize more artist showcases raising money for charitable causes, like his annual Memphis in Missouri that supports Autism Speaks and Welcome Home Veterans in July in Columbia to support Welcome Home, a community to support homeless veterans. He also would like to organize a children's night at The Mission to foster youth's talents and step back in the community working with youth in the music realm and socially. Bottom line, he wants to get independent artists from Mid-Missouri recognized now and in the future.
"I am in music for the love of people," he said. "Music is the middle of a big boom. With no label, the city can empower their own artists. We don't need a major label. Independent artists have that unity in my opinion."
For more information about BlackGrits, visit facebook.com/blackgritsonthewall, blackgrits.bandcamp.com/releases and @MemphisGrizzy on Twitter.