Rapper Jordan Patterson, also known as WilliamGold, has established quite the presence in the Champaign-Urbana community through his artistry and advocacy. Not only did he open up for EarthGang when they performed at Foellinger Auditorium earlier this year, but he also enjoys working with local artists and causes.
After long anticipation, Patterson released his debut album, “Asleep With the TV On,” on June 5. The idea for the album emerged when he attended graduate school at Ball State University in 2017, but it took some time to develop it fully.
“It was up and down with me trying to get my sound and feeling confident with the music,” he said. “It feels nice to finally have a project out.”
Jazz, outside of hip hop and R&B, is one of Patterson’s favorite genres because of the musicians’ ability to improvise even though some notes might sound out-of-place.
“When you’re improvising, every note’s not going to be perfect,” he said.
Patterson noticed that when listening to other people’s music, he felt like excellence was the only thing some had in mind. Realizing that making music doesn’t have to be flawless, he decided to embrace any imperfections that might arise on his album.
“The reason why I love music production, particularly dealing with music that’s raw and humanistic, is because you can hear the imperfections,” he said. “Perfected art is great for radio, but I’m not super interested in it.”
Keeping that in mind, he came up with the title, “Asleep With the TV On,” as an apt analogy of music being like TV. A handful of people review music before it reaches the masses, just like for television shows and advertisements. However, when you’re asleep, nothing matters in an altered state of consciousness.
“I wrote songs based on what I was feeling in the moment and wasn’t concerned with a central theme,” he said. “I wanted everything to sound like its own story.”
While some artists struggled with the hindrance of music production due to quarantine, this wasn’t the case for Patterson. It made things easier. His brother, Donavon Patterson, known by stage name ARKTIC, is the co-producer of “Asleep With the TV On” and is featured on the album’s song “What Do You Want.” Once he came back home from his freshman year at Columbia College, both brothers sat down and wrote the rest of the album in a few weeks.
“My brother knows my sound and was super interested in helping my music grow as much as I wanted to help his music,” Jordan Patterson said. “I became much more locked into the recording of the album.”
The other feature, Karena Tse, on the song “Panic…” took only ten minutes to record.
However, the album’s release came during a sensitive time for America. Artists on social media were put in an awkward position of promoting their work in light of protests against police brutality and racism, which Patterson was concerned about when promoting “Asleep With the TV On.” But, as a Black American, he has experienced racism before, which has influenced his writing since grade school.
“I started developing skills as a poet at a young age, and my early writings in college were primarily about racism and injustice,” he said. “I wrote pieces that made people uncomfortable, but for me, it was real.”
Occurrences of racism in Patterson’s life pushed forward his writing process, and, though he doesn’t protest as much as others do, he encourages people to express themselves through music. On June 6, he and others drove a mobile recording studio bus called “The Hip Hop Xpress” to local black artists who freestyled verses about social injustices. The verses will be compiled on a full track soon.
“I think there’s such a creative lane for people, especially black men and women, to speak about the things going on through music,” he said. “It’s one hundred percent as important as those protesting on the streets.”
Last August, Patterson assumed the role of the new “McDJ,” but the pandemic made it impossible to continue. Now, he and his brother hope to build a production business called “TheElemntz” that focuses on developing a personalized relationship between artist and producer.
“We want to make it so artists around the world can tune in to the producers we have on our team so the artists can have personalized music and, in turn, the producers can have a platform,” he said. “As producers, composers, and musicians, we want to start building a name for ourselves here and in other communities.”
Patterson is also working on another album, but, just like with “Asleep With the TV On,” he’s more focused on writing things that feel real to him.
“It can be challenging when you’re your biggest critic,” he said. “Instead of making music that I believe people want to hear, I’m finally making music that I know I love and sounds great to me, which I hope others will enjoy too.”