Meet Pardison Fontaine, the New York Rapper Putting Newburgh On The Map
Pardison Fontaine is having a very good day. The Newburgh, New York, MC is down from Orange County for the day taking a few meetings in NYC. He just spent the past hour-plus in the studio talking music and sipping Hennessey with none other than Nas. Still buzzing from the Henny (and the convo), Pardison (or Pardi, for short) hit the Mass Appeal lounge to talk a bit about how he went from spitting bars in the ’Burgh to spending a bright winter afternoon building with QB’s Finest.
MASS APPEAL: So you were just drinking with Nas. That’s not an every-day thing.
Pardison Fontaine: Definitely not. It’s a great experience. A check off the bucket list.
Had you met him before?
Nah. I’d seen him once, but I’d never gotten the chance to actually chop it up with him. And for him to tell me that he fuck with my music is dope.
Right? That’s a very small circle.
Yeah, yeah, I’m probably like one of a good thirty people walking around, like, Nas likes your music. And I heard it directly from him, so I’m amped.
Congratulations. You’ve been working hard to get there.
That’s a fact!
Can you talk a bit about the work you put in to get to this place?
I mean, it’s really crazy because they say you really like work ten years to be an overnight success. I mean, in this day and age, that might not necessarily be true, but for me, definitely true. I feel like—Damn, I’ve put in a whole bunch of work. So to see it all come through now, it’s like, Yo. Finally. And I’m happy it’s here. I’m grateful, but I know I deserve it.
Do you feel like it was just an accumulation of stuff, or was there one thing where you felt the wall had finally broken through and you were like, ‘Now we’re going to get what we deserve?’
I mean, every day the grind is the same, you know what I mean? But I feel like, for whatever reason, it’s all about timing. When your time is right, I think it happens for you. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing? You’re working hard? I think it’s going to happen for you. And I knew it was going to happen for me, but I feel like it was just one of those things along the way— like, yeah, finally.
For people who don’t know you, how would you describe your sound and what you bring to the table?
I mean, there’s a bunch of people that don’t know me. I’m brand new to a lot of people. But I feel like the thing about my music that really connects with the people is that it’s relatable. In a hip hop genre and culture full of Lambos and Bentleys, I feel like I connect with the nine to five workers. I feel like I connect with the people that still in the ‘hood. I connect with the dreamers that’s trying to get out the ‘hood. I feel like I’m that voice. I mean, I don’t know about y’all, but I feel like I know more people that got jobs and trying to make it out than people that got Lambos and Bentleys. So I really connect with the people. I’m their spokesperson.
When I listen to your music and you watch your videos, and it feels like that New York that everybody talks about that they want, but can’t seem to find.
It’s crazy even to hear that, because everybody says New York, New York, and they say Brooklyn, Bronx, Harlem—and I’m not from none of those places. You know what I mean? I’m from upstate. I’m from Newburgh, New York so for me to [fill] the void, and for me to be outside the spots that people been looking, it’s crazy.
How far outside of New York is Newburgh?
About an hour and 30 from Manhattan.
You’re not near Albany?
No, and that’s another thing—it’s so close and still not known by a lot of city people. Like “Where the fuck is Newburgh?” We’re not that far!
But I mean I think, whatever, man, New York always changing. There’s less and less regular—more and more everyday people living in the city. Everybody is fucking crazy hedge-fund managers. There’s a lot more Lambos in New York right now than there probably were like 15, 20 years ago.
Like a lot of the southern guys, I think they’ve been able to move because it’s a more relatable narrative.
I think that’s my advantage, because I’ve been out in New York. I’ve been in North Carolina for a number of years. I played ball. That allowed me to travel and see different places. But Newburgh in itself is one thing I get a lot of that experience from because it’s not New York City. New York City has the big success stories.
Even if you break it down to the boroughs, you can see like, Fab came out of Brooklyn. I’m from a place where nobody made it from, so we’re still waiting on one. A lot of the stuff that we aspire to get, we’ve never seen physically. A lot of people haven’t seen that. They don’t know that it’s actually obtainable and tangible. I’ve been allowed to see more, but I’m here relating to the people who haven’t.
Can you talk about your basketball career?
Basketball, I was always good. I was always good enough to start. I never had to worry about minutes. I never had to worry about nothing like that. I probably started my whole career, like even before I left college. I went to a D-2 in Delaware. That’s when I left and decided to do music because the one thing about basketball—I was never the breakout star. I was always starting, but I wasn’t the star. I felt like with my music I was able to be the star. Even if you check my records now, I don’t got that many features, because if you like my shit or you hate it, I wanted it to be because of me. I want the credit for my records. That’s why music was the perfect platform. I got to express how I felt. I got to make what I wanted to make and it allowed me to be that guy.
And how did you come to the music?
I feel like it was numerous things that tied me into it. Like I come from a music background, my father sings. I was in church early. I was in choir, all of that. But the thing that really pushed me into rap—I was in North Carolina when like the whole snap music shit started to pop off. So it was like a bunch of bubblegum rap shit. I’m like, ‘Yo, if they making money off of this, I know I can get in here and make some.’ So that’s what really pushed me to sit down and really try to make music.
Yeah, that makes sense.
I’m like Soulja Boy out here killing it right now. He’s on the radio? No—I can do this.
So you said you left school to kind of take it more seriously. When was that? Was that like two years ago, five years ago?
That was, what? Four years ago that I left school and decided to do music full time. I mean, I realized that the best-case-scenario with ball, I might go overseas or finish and get my degree and get a good job.
But at this time the music had been a growing passion and I knew I had the ability to be special. So I didn’t want to live with no what-if’s or what could-have-been. You know what I mean? I didn’t want none of that. So I had to take the opportunity to leave school and pursue my shit. So yeah, I had to leave school and really pursue it—because I didn’t want to be a what-if. Like, what if I would have tried this? I couldn’t live with that regret.
Props to you for that. A lot of people don’t do that.
I mean they say fear stops a lot more dreams than failure ever will. A lot of people have a fear, and I was scared too. Like, imagine being on scholarship, calling your mom like, “I’m about to leave here and try this rap shit.” Coming from a house that doesn’t even like rap—you know what I mean? So it took a lot. It took a lot. Everything I ever knew was ballin’ and school and shit like that, so to leave everything I was comfortable and familiar with to do this music thing was a big step. But I knew it was in me.
Yeah, look at you now.
I had some drinks with Nas, so I’m pretty sure I made the right decision.
Plus your videos are sick. Is that all your team?
A lot of the treatments and stuff, I think of, and I got a couple people that I either met through school that was doing their video thing, so we link back up. The city got a bunch of creative people. And the aesthetic of my hood hasn’t been seen before. I think 90 percent of my videos have been shot right in Newburgh. Small city, but the rest of the world hasn’t seen it. So when I put it on camera, it’s like, “Oh, what’s this?” It has that feeling to it, you want to know more about it. So I mean, it worked to my advantage. But yeah, I come up with the treatments myself and we put them on camera.
And your team is mostly guys that you know from Newburgh?
Yeah, everybody. That’s what I told people. I’m doing these videos with $200, and that’s just to pay the camera dude, buy a bottle of Hennessy—that’s it. The girls that come, they come in off the strength or for free. The places we using is free. Imagine what I’m gonna do when I get a budget, I get a bag. I’m gonna make motion pictures! But right now is no budget, straight off necessity and creativity.
And for people who don’t know Newburgh, like can you talk a bit about that community and what it’s like and what it’s like growing up there?
The tone of the city: I mean, I felt like we had so much overlooked talent. I feel like it’s a town full of “almosts,” that almost could have made it or could have did this or should have did that. I feel like it’s the overtone of the city. It’s small. I think the population might be like 28–30,000 right now. We’ve got one high school, one hospital, so that’ll give you the feel of what we talking about. Like everybody knows everybody—you know what I mean? Growing up there, I mean, it was great for me. I played ball; all my friends played ball. It’s great. And now that I’m doing this music, it’s great to see, like, I got the support. The whole town is behind me. Everybody wants to see me do well. And I know it’s partially because nobody has ever made it from there. When I say nobody, like for nothing. Like we don’t have a comedian, a singer, athlete—nothing that we can really relate to. So everything I’m doing is like the forefront. I’m pioneering a lot of shit.
How close does the city feel? Do you make it down often?
I mean, it’s close enough to get to, but it’s like, I’ve got to plan it. It’s about an hour and a half. Like I’m going to the city, I need this, I need this. It’s still long enough for me to plan it. And how many times have we jumped in the car to come to the city, like to be to a club at 1:00? We not leaving the club until 4:00. Now you got a two-hour drive back. You’re not getting home until 6:00. Don’t stop and get nothing to eat, because now you’re looking at 8:00. So it’s a journey. To see my shit travel from Newburgh to the city, so now I’ve got people like, “Oh, nah, nigger, my man in Brooklyn was playing this shit and he didn’t even know I knew you.” To see it travel down there is big!
I’m originally from down South, but I know people who grew up in Brooklyn that would tell me like, “I never went to Manhattan.” That always blew my mind.
I’m like, how did you not go to Manhattan?
Like it’s right there. I love Manhattan. I know I’ve touched it enough in every part, from the slummiest fucking strip club to the fucking booshiest restaurant in Manhattan.
So what’s the rest of your year look like? We’re early, it’s still February 2017. I’m sure you got the year mapped. What’s happening?
Oh, well “In the Field” is doing so great. I’m happy with the reception. And I plan on doing at least two or three more visuals. And then, like, shaking the world with the project. I feel like my first project was so underrated because I was new. I didn’t have the audience or the platform that I have now, that I’ve been building. People that know my shit, love my shit. So now that I’ve got this next platform for this next tape to come out, I’m gonna try to make it a classic.
Do you have a target for when the tape will be out?
I don’t because I had the tape done that I could have released and been working on… I’ve got enough content to be working on a second and third tape, but I’m so focused on making this one a classic and I’m getting new producers and stuff that want to work with me. Like I was online for all my shit, but now I’ve got people that’s in-boxing me because they want to work. So I’m taking all this and just making the best material possible.
In terms of the records that you’re looking to do on this tape, is there a type of sound or a type of vibe you’re trying to catch?
I want to keep it the same. I want it to feel like me. I want it to feel like my current situation. I want it to feel like my city. And I want to give it that hunger and diversity. You know what I’m saying? It got the hunger and it got the diversity, but that’s why I want it to sound like where I come from. I think that’s what people is really feeling because it’s not a story they’ve heard before. My story is different than a lot of people. It’s really laced with me, like me just knowing the records that’s on it now. It’s laced with my life.
Are there three artists that you really study or think about trying to pull inspiration from, that come to you off top?
hree artists that I pull inspiration from?
Yeah, like is there somebody that was just on repeat when you were 13?
Ah yeah, it’s crazy because DMX is like one of the reasons that I rap. When I was like probably about —I’d say about maybe 12 or so, I found this Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, cassette tape. Like I said, I was in church every week, maybe four or five days a week. I wasn’t even allowed to listen to rap until I was like 12, 13— Shit, I used to record the radio and play hip-hop through that. I used to wake up on Saturdays and record shit. But this DMX tape I had found, I was playing that over and over and over. And it really resonated with me as a kid. I’m like, “Yo, he’s talking about some real shit.” Still to this day, I know that word for word. So that was one of my real inspirations to this rap thing.
Kanye. Especially early Kanye, he was a bridge in the culture between the Common Senses and the Beanie Sigels. You didn’t have to be all the way this or all the way that. You could rap about other stuff. He’s somebody else.
And I look at artists like Jay because of how he was able to just stand the test of time. Like when he came out in ’96 I felt like he laid down the foundation for everything he was. I’m like, all right, what made his records resonate with people the way they do? What gave him his longevity?So those are the lot of people I look at, especially career-wise.
Anything we didn’t touch on you want to say that you feel like is important to get out there?
A lot of people ask me about the St. Lukes thing, because I always wear it everywhere I go. And I say it in my songs. So they were like, “Yo, what’s this St. Lukes thing?”
OK, so… what’s the deal?
Basically, like I said, the town is a small city, they’ve got one high school, and we’ve got one hospital. When I first started making moves in the city and I was performing in different spots, certain friends wouldn’t come to my shows or my performances depending on where it was at, because that’s how divided the city was at the time. Like if you was up top you didn’t mess with these people over there. There was just beefs all over.
So basically the one thing that we had in common, being it was a small city, was the hospital that we was from, St. Lukes. And everybody, no matter what side they’re from, or how old, whatever—if you in Newburgh, chances are you was born in this hospital. So I used that as like a real way to unify the city. Everybody can stand behind it. It ain’t about me; it’s bigger than me. So that was big. It bugs me out when I see like people from out of state buying the shit. It’s like St. Louis and California, buying St. Lukes shit. But that’s where that came up, basically.
So that’s a part of your life as well?
My daughter was born in St. Lukes. And it’s like everything I’m doing is for the next generation of kids that’s coming through the same high school—just giving the city a new life, basically. In the hope that like, yo, we could really do some shit out here.