Patty Monroe’s studio session with Cape Town-based DJ and producer Sam World didn’t go so well yesterday.
‘Sam World is a cool guy. It’s just that I’m not in the right space to create music right now,’ Patty tells me after we’ve ordered our hot beverages at a MUGG & BEAN in Cavendish Mall in Claremeont, Cape Town.
She stands out with her blown-out blonde hair, which has somehow become the up-and-coming rapper’s trademark in the music industry. Of course coupled with her fusion of up-tempo beats with rhymes.
I was supposed to interview Patty a few days ago before her performance at the ‘classy’ Coco Night Club in the CBD. I wasn’t allowed into the club because, ‘We have a dress code and shorts are a big no-no.’ Patty’s performance went well, she says. ‘There was just this random guy who was dancing on stage next to me,’ she laughs.
Patty Monroe was introduced to many music lovers in 2015 via her single High Fashion, produced by house music maestro Culoe De Song, who she says she didn’t know until her management made the collaboration happen. Her latest video single Killin’ It, which is currently playing on MTV Base, features Ugandan dancehall artist Bebe Cool. Her previous single Talk received decent airplay.
‘We submitted it to radio, and 5[FM] picked it up and I was like “what the fuck?” They’ve been rejecting my music. It got blasted on 5, dude,’ she says, her face gleaming at the feat of getting airplay on one of South Africa’s major radio stations. ‘My friends would text me and send me voice notes like; “We listening to your song!”’
There’s a certain innocence in the rapper’s demeanor. The person I’m talking to right now is not the animated character who gyrates and raps with a Rihanna-esque confidence on the High Fashion video. This is not the person who rapped ‘I’ll take everything you stood for and I’ll erase it/ You’re old news now, and I think it’s about time for that facelift/ And dunno why they still fucking with ya/ You give wack head and kak anal’ on Talk.
She was one of those kids who would perform at family functions.
This is Megan Steenkamp, a regular 21-year-old Cape Town coloured girl who bears her own woes with the same vulnerability we all do. Megan was born of a white father and a coloured mother and did some growing up in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. She was one of those kids who would perform at family functions, she says. She is a born-entertainer.
Megan had a normal schooling life, until her elder brother gave her a notebook to fill up with rhymes. ‘He gave me this A4 book and said, “When it’s filled you can come to the studio.” Then that was my main goal in life; to fill that book up. Every free period, I would open my book and start writing. Come home, I didn’t even do homework, I would just write.’
This was about six years ago. Patty’s elder brother was starting a hip-hop label. ‘Youngsta was the first artist he wanted to sign,’ she reveals. ‘I was like, “Yo, this Youngsta kid is cool, I also wanna make songs.” So I wanted to go to studio.’
Patty then started performing in and around the CBD. She went on to release an EP, which she would shop around, hoping for the best. When she gave it to an indie Joburg label called After Life Talent, they signed her. After the release of High Fashion, which exhibited the rapper’s strongest trait – her charisma – doors started opening. ‘From there it was just performing around Jozi: exposure, exposure.’ she recalls. ‘All of a sudden all these people I used to see on TV I’m chilling with them. And I’ve just been making singles and this year I plan to put out a full body of work.’
‘Patty was the first ever nickname I got.’
The ‘Monroe’ – on her moniker, is appropriated from Marilyn Monroe. ‘It’s not about her [per se], I just admire that whole vintage time period,’ she explains. ‘Patty was the first ever nickname I got.’
The Patty Monroe character knows exactly what she wants. The video for High Fashion, for instance, she says was meant to be a white screen backdrop video. ‘These are papers. These are fucking papers,’ she says of the colourful rectangles on the video’s backdrop. ‘Because it was just a blank space and I thought how do we turn this into Patty’s world?’
She was still wet behind her ears, trying to find herself, trying to set herself apart. She and her team thought throwing some raps over a house beat would do the job.
The song was recorded at a slower tempo. ‘It wasn’t even called High Fashion,’ she says. ‘It was much sexier, it was called Bone.’ She laughs mischievously at the song’s previous title. ‘The chorus went something like, “Patty wap give the dog a bone/The kitty cat wanna give this dog a bone.”’ Megan transforms into Patty Monroe for a few seconds as she swings her waist sensually in her seat while rapping, like she does on her videos and performances.
‘The current chorus was actually the outro,’ she continues, ‘I was just messing around. At the end I was just like, “Patty boom boom, Patty boom boom, you wanna eat it up like mwa, mwa, high fashion, high fashion”. And then we were like that’s going to be the chorus actually. Then we sped the song up to like 130-whatever BPM. And then all of a sudden I was this Cape Town version of Azalea Banks.’
Patty’s career took off. ‘Let’s just reminisce, let’s have a throwback,’ she says as she scrolls down pictures on her iPhone, showing me her great moments. There are pictures of her with Cashtime Life’s Ma-E, Wizkid and EmTee. Another with Okmalumkoolkat, who she says she would kill to collaborate with.
‘Busiswa came up to me,’ she beams. ‘She was like “I love your track”.’
There are pictures of her at YFM, Cliff Central, Goodhope FM, the MAMAs (MTV Africa Music Awards) in Durban, and another of her in a Happy Socks advert on the door of a shop at the V&A Waterfront shopping centre. Her face brightens when she gets to a picture of her posing with house singer Busiswa. ‘Busiswa came up to me,’ she beams. ‘She was like “I love your track. I love your style. I love you.” She’s such a fan.’
Earlier this year, the singer gave Patty five minutes during her slot at the Wits Freshers’ Braai, where K.O., AKA, Uhuru and other stars were on the bill. She scrolls to a picture of her performing in front of the crowd – one of those shots taken from the stage, making the artist look like a deity being worshipped by thousands of people, hands in the air, faces glued to the stage.
The rapper never forgets to give credit to her label every time she mentions an accolade of hers. She speaks more of ‘we’ than she does ‘I’. Her team is responsible for most of her connects. Having the Durban-based producer Sketchy Bongo produce Talk, her collaboration with Bebe Cool and her numerous TV and radio appearances are among all the moves credited to her management.
She tries to illustrate how hard it is for coloured musicians in South Africa.
But the journey hasn’t been all-good for Patty. ‘If you think about it, what coloured person is doing their thing on the 5FM and Metro?’ she asks rhetorically, as she tries to illustrate how hard it is for coloured musicians in South Africa. ‘Besides Jimmy Nevis, because he’s singing about love. Nobody else. Nobody. Even I’m having a tough time getting in.’
Our chat takes another sharp turn, as Patty tells me that being all over MTV, magazines and blogs doesn’t equate to a fat bank account. ‘[My family] are very impressed [with me doing what I’m doing],’ she says. ‘But at the end of the day they are like “where’s that money? You need to take care of your mommy.” And I understand that, I’d like to be able to take care of my mommy.’
‘You can’t pay your bills with experience and exposure.’
‘And that’s the thing about this industry: it’s always exposure, exposure, exposure. And it’s killing us. You can’t pay your bills with experience and exposure. And I don’t wanna sound like a dick or asshole but it costs money to be alive. It costs money to look the way I look, it costs fucking money to wash my hair, dude. And they just see it as “We putting you on, we putting you on”.’
The music industry is a blessing and a curse to Patty; ‘I’m only 21 but this life I’ve chosen is stressful and amazing at the time. Like I’m always thinking “what am I gonna do if [radio stations] reject me now? I worked so hard on that song”.’
Patty is more than halfway done with her album, for which has no release date and title yet. It will include all the singles she has released and new songs she’s currently working on. Listen to Patty’s latest single Messi, produced by electronic producer, Muzi.
Follow Patty Monroe on Twitter @MissPattyMonroe