Growing up in the inner-city of Toronto allowed multi-disciplinary artist Patrik Kabongo to learn and experience a lot of what informs his work. Over the course of his life, he was able to build on these concepts and ideas. He would eventually move to Montreal and further discover the things that make him the artist he is today.
Now, he’s a multi-faceted musician that is more talented than ever. He writes and performs high quality raps, while being heavily involved in almost all other aspects of his releases.
In this exclusive interview, Sidedoor spoke to Patrik Kabongo about his early relationship with music, as well as how he was able to grow into the artist and businessman he is today. We also spoke about his single “LIMELIGHT,” which was inspired by the unfortunate arrest of Pooh Shiesty.
The single explores how Patrik feels about a story we’ve heard too many times before; the story of a young black artist, used and exploited by the system, just it to happen over and over again.
Sidedoor: Could you tell us about your early life and how you first got into writing music?
Patrik Kabongo: I was born in Montreal and raised in Toronto. I’m one of six kids. My parents are of Congolese descent and moved west in 1989 – first to America, and then Montreal in 1990. Growing up, I had just been really fortunate through the unfortunate events in my life. For example, I learned English and French at a really young age. My dad’s a French teacher, and a teacher as well. So, we had an educationally built environment, that just gave us the aptitude to be intelligent at a young age.
I also had to be more responsible at a young age, due to personal experiences that were a little bit detrimental to our family. So, from eight to being a preteen, I didn’t have the most common upbringing – but I think it’s a beautiful story and its a part of who I am as well.
I have a twin brother, who is known in the city of Toronto as one of the top basketball players. And I’m just a very grounded family guy.
Around four or five years ago, I moved to Montreal from Toronto because I wanted to get into a new transitional space to create and just kind of grow outside of my natural environment. I grew up in downtown Toronto at Queen and Spadina, so I’m a downtown kid, for life, you know.
When I was in university in 2012 is when I started freestyling and rapping over house beats with my DJ at the time – and we just created this movement at school, which began X10. Later, X10, kind of developed into the agency that we have now. We’re trying to create a landscape that brings authenticity and organic understanding to the independent music game.
S: We know that X10 is a big part of everything that you do, can you talk about how that started and what it evolved into?
PK: Of course. The brand itself started in 2012, when I went to university in Quebec. I moved with nine guys, and we had this big crib, so we started calling the house the “10 House”. The house was this duplex where we would have events every month and people would come to our place and rock with the whole vibe that we had.
It was cool because that’s where the model comes from. All of us came from different facets of life. You had a couple of guys that came from Ottawa, guys that came from up on the East Coast, and then you have me from the projects of Toronto – but we all just meshed together and had so much in common.
After that, years passed, and in 2019, my management and I decided to create an agency, because being in this game, you kind of get to see – whether it’s popular artist or unknown artists – unfortunately they get screwed up in deals.
I would say there’s a lack of independent literacy that’s there. You have independent artists that don’t quite understand how to make money, and they’re sold this idea that streams are the only avenue to get that. For me, I was fortunate, because we collaborated with a music club called Coalition Music, and they kind of gave us a little bit of a game and we kind of just ran with it.
So now, we run services for independent and signed artists. We run marketing plans for them, pitch music to different people, and just want to embrace and continuously empower people to really stand up on ownership.
For myself, I’ve been able to do a lot of things like the collaboration with TikTok and have also been able to dot things like sync licensing with music. If I signed to a record label, and I’m only looking at the marketing budget, it might be a good option, right? I might say, yeah, these guys can really help me do good, but if you don’t understand how to do that groundwork yourself, how do you know you’re not going to get gypped in a certain aspect of where that financing can be put? Now I know, for myself, I can recognize when I get an audited report of where my money’s being spent, because, you know, I’ve learned to do all of that as well.
S: Before all the business stuff, do you remember when how you first became of fan of music?
PK: It’s almost an unbelievable memory – I think I was four years old. With my dad, everywhere we drive, there’s music playing. There’s this one band – this Congolese band and I memorized one of their songs at a young age and they helped me fall in love with music. I think it was the instruments that were being used, the vocal tones, the keys.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, but there’s this organized chaos, sometimes in music. You can recognize it and it sounds good. Sometimes you fall into this place where you wish you would have written it – or made it yourself. I look back and think of that song a lot. I’m like, man, I wish I would’ve wrote that song – and that’s what made me fall in love with music.
Eventually I also fell in love with the art of songwriting. This might sound like the weirdest thing but growing up, I didn’t listen much to rap at first. I used to listen to pop music and just appreciate the words, you know? As I got into rap, I started realizing – oh, you can use words like that, you can say things like this – I thought it was dope. Back then, I wasn’t as good as a songwriter as I am today. I’d say the last three years is really when I developed a strong, strong, strong pen, you know?
S: Do you know what it was in the last three years that shifted things for you in terms of song writing?
PK: There are two things. I was experimenting with music, and I put out a song called “Motive,” which a lot of the guys I grew up with loved – and a lot of different people loved it, but then my core fan base, they – they didn’t really like it. They felt it lacked the thing that made me, me. So, when I had that moment, I was really, really sad, man.
I was really asking myself – without being too down on myself –do I really want to keep doing this? Do you think you have the ability to keep doing this? Do you think your diverse enough in sound to be able to do it?
Then I took a lot of time to pray, I took a lot of time fasting, and all these different things. Then, I wrote “High End,” which was crazy, like right off the rip, you know? It gave me the opportunity to do the TikTok thing and that was kind of an eye opener for me. I realized I’m not the artist that’s going to put out a song every week, I’m not going to be the artist that’s putting out a song every two weeks, or every three weeks. I’m the guy that’s going to put a song out every month, and I’m going to have a video for you to expose yourself to it.
I think it kind of goes back to where you’re talking about in terms of the quality of art. That’s when I knew there’s a specific pace that I need to follow and adhere to, and that’s going to be my success story. So yeah, I’m very happy that the feedback I got from my other song wasn’t what I expected. It humbled me, and it made me want to work harder and that’s where I’m at now.
S: So, let’s get into the new single, “LIMELIGHT.” We saw that you said the Pooh Shiesty incident sparked your inspiration for the song. We would love to hear more about what you felt when you he heard the news, and then maybe the conversations or discussions you had with yourself or the team.
PK: The reason I was inspired off the Pooh Shiesty situation is because I was just following the story, you know? You have this up-and-coming artist – and it’s odd because this is a story that we’ve seen a million times – it’s just, I don’t know. There’s something about his story that kind of triggered me and put me in a weird place. It was like, I wonder at what point, us, as young black men, are going to see the game for what it is: Exploit, exploit, exploit, exploit. Then, when you’re in a situation in danger, [they’re] like, “really sorry, man, but you should have thought about what you’re doing.”
Labels are marketing this guy’s life story that unfortunately has these occurrences that are a detriment to his freedom. So, you know, it put me in a weird place where I’m like, man, I wonder if he had people around him that said yo, we know you’re like that, but you don’t have to be that anymore. You know what I’m saying? Make your money and we’re gonna surround you with as much discernment as possible.
And for me, I know that sometimes you’re so close to what you know that it’s hard for you to detach yourself from it. But I was very lucky that I had a lot of OGs and a lot of mentors that told me, you can go down this path, for sure, but is that all you have to offer? And I think Pooh Shiesty has a lot to offer that we weren’t introduced to yet, you know what I mean? So, when I saw that story, I thought of the title “LIMELIGHT.”
And I thought to myself, this is exactly what happens to young, black, popping artists, you know? It’s the same story, they highlight an artist for now, then boom, boom, boom, and then they’re stripped from the limelight. Then they’re gonna find another person that they’re going to put there, and then that person is gonna get stripped from it, then another person is gonna get there and same thing.
I find that my music is like that. I find a lot of times when I’m writing music and putting out stuff, I love to express these messages the most. So, shout out to Pooh Shiesty for inspiring me, and I hope he’s doing well where he’s at. It’s just an unfortunate situation, but I’m happy that I was able to really these feelings in the song.
S: You also mentioned that you’re getting ready to put out your debut album. How did you decide you were ready to flip that switch and what do you hope to accomplish by doing that?
PK: That’s a good question. It’s funny, because I was gonna drop another mixtape, but then when I started working on “LIMELIGHT,” I just told myself that the maturity of that sound is where we got to head moving forward. So I just said, at this point, let me just start the album.
I’ve been conceptualizing the album for the three years and have been having hidden, private sessions with different creators, and I’m gonna keep doing that all throughout the summer.
But yeah, I feel at this point that I’m in a place where I’m very confident in what I’m putting out, and I’m also really excited about the music that I’m putting out, so I thought what do I have to lose, you know?
As far as expectations, I have a lot of expectations. I have the expectation of getting nominated for a Juno and getting awards for different things and just continuing to get sponsorships from brands that we mess with heavily.
I personally believe I’m an important voice in the Canadian hip-hop game, you know, and I think this album is gonna give an opportunity for people to finally realize, yeah, he’s up there – and he’s up there because the type of music he makes, no one else makes.
Patrik Kabongo’s single “LIMELIGHT” is available on all streaming platforms now, and he has assured us that he’s very excited about what’s to come. Be sure to tap in with the artist on socials and be on the look out for more from Patrik and Sidedoor.