Hey, You’re Cool! Joseph “JP” Patterson
“Grime, UK rap and young black people in general are popping more than ever right now”
UK’s grime music scene owes a lot to Joseph “JP” Patterson. Since the days of the genre flooding pirate radio and underground raves, Patterson has put his passion into supporting the culture. The London-based journalist has covered the genre in an authentic way, also carving out an impressive career for himself, which includes contributing to outlets like Complex, MTV and The Guardian. These days he’s documenting UK rap via his own platform, TRENCH, which seems increasingly necessary in a year in which “Man’s Not Hot” is one of the summer’s biggest viral clips. JP took some time to chat with MASS APPEAL about his come up and future plans.
You’ve made a career out of championing grime music. Which artist made you fall in love with the scene?
I used to hold club nights and I’d regularly book Tempa T because of his live energy. He knows how to shut a rave down. Aside from him, lyrically, I’d say Trim and Durrty Goodz are up there in terms of favorite grime acts. Early-to-mid 2000s Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Skepta as well. I like their new stuff, and always support it, but those early days—the pirate radio sets, especially—was what I was all about. I’m into my road rap heavy as well, and have covered that extensively. MASS APPEAL readers should definitely check out Youngs Teflon, K Koke, Blade Brown, obviously Giggs, and the newer guys like J Hus, K-Trap, Reeko Squeeze, and 67.
Was being a writer always an ambition of yours?
Not at all! I got into music journalism by accident. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by people—friends and family—who get money on the streets. A lot of that hustling spirit inspired me, but in a completely different way. Most of my friends didn’t really understand the writing element at first, but they rated the idea of me chopping it up with some of the country’s biggest lyricists. And it’s weird, because I never studied journalism or did any higher education, I’ve always had the same said friends and never mingled in that industry world. So I feel my approach to journalism is a lot different to most people covering what I do. I see things from a different perspective.
What has been your career highlight?
Before launching my new publication TRENCH, I’d say probably getting a job at Complex UK. When I started writing in 2007 and really started to study journalism for myself, I always told myself that I’d write for Complex one day. I literally went from holding raves to starting a blog to pitching to major publications. I had no formal training in how to write a feature; I taught myself from the ground up. So I got knocked back from a lot of big platforms at the start, because my writing wasn’t up to standard—I was a complete novice. But after about two or three years, my pitches started to connect with places like Mixmag, The Guardian, The Voice newspaper, and I eventually got headhunted by MTV UK Online to look after their urban sections in 2010. So since 2010, really, I’ve been on this writing thing professionally.
I joined Complex UK in 2014. My old editor at Super Super magazine, Steve Slocombe, he reached out to me after years of no contact as the mag had shut its doors in 2012. He asked me what I was doing and, at that point, I was living in Wellingborough, which is in the countryside, just freelancing for places. Steve asked if I wanted to head up the music channel for a publication that was about to launch in the UK and it was amazing to find out it was Complex. God’s timing is always right! So I’ve been at Complex UK since 2014, and I’m still there to oversee the content creation as Senior Editor. But I have just launched TRENCH, a new online platform dedicated to British underground/youth culture. It launched literally a couple of weeks ago and the reception has been out of this world! Super overwhelming.
Tell us about the vision behind TRENCH and why it’s so needed.
I came up with the TRENCH concept a year ago, with the help of Laura “Hyperfrank” Brosnan—a fellow writer who I’ve worked with in this scene for over a decade now. We’ve been in the trenches—still are—we’re in the pits, getting stuck in what’s really happening in our scene on a daily basis. Grime and UK rap and just young black people in general are popping more than ever right now and so many major platforms have got it wrong when documenting our culture. So TRENCH is here to fill a void. Our content is up there with the big titles and we feel that—because we’re actually involved in these scenes, even more-so on a personal level—we can give readers an authentic insight into our world and do it in the right way.
What’s been the secret to your overall career success?
Faith! Faith in God. Faith in my work. Faith in the subjects I promote and document. Without faith, you won’t get very far in life. Carrying myself in a certain way has got me certain places, too. I’m a humble person in general, and I think people respect that. I’ve also never had to have an interview for any media role that I’ve had, because people already feel like they know me from my online presence. It’s all about building a brand for yourself, a good reputation, and people respecting what you bring to the table.
What do you think is lacking from music journalism in 2017?
Unique voices. A lot of writers sound the same. For me, it’s all about showing personality in your writing. Even if you’re writing up a Q&A with an artist, you should always put a bit of you into that piece. Readers want to know about the writer interviewing that artist, too. But it has to be done in a way that you don’t take any limelight from that artist or subject. Weave yourself in all the right places; build up yourself in your writing. It’s just become a little too formulaic for my liking. My favorite writers for a long time have been Jesse Bernard, Yemi Abiade, Aniefiok Ekpoudom and Kieran Yates. Definitely go and check those guys out.
Why do you think grime and UK rap is so misunderstood in the media?
I think it all boils down to who’s documenting it. If you have people with an understanding of the culture in seats at these media companies, then there wouldn’t be so many errors. It’s that simple. I wrote a piece for Complex about this last year, and it seemed to connect with people on many levels.
You once said that U.S. rap never felt completely relevant to you. Do you think UK grime and rap can be relevant to the average fan in the U.S.?
I respect American rap music a lot. I grew up listening to the greats! But there was always that disconnect: I didn’t know the boroughs rappers spoke about, and I never really experienced the levels of flossing they spoke about on wax. So that was the disconnect, for me. With UK rap and grime, it’s easy to relate if you’re familiar with the surroundings they’re talking about, the slang and what not. Look, if grime can be relevant to Drizzy, then I’m sure it can be for the average rap fan [laughs].
What does the rest of 2017 look like for you?
A complete TRENCH takeover, 2017 and beyond!