For years, “What ever happened to Patra?” has been one of the great mysteries of dancehall music. The “Queen of the Pack” had a run of crossover hits in the early and mid ’90s including “Romantic Call,” “Worker Man” and “Pull Up to the Bumper,” but after her sophomore album Scent of Attraction in 1995, she essentially disappeared from the scene. (Though she did release two, very below-the-radar albums in the 2000s— 2003′s The Great Escape and 2005′s Where I’ve Been) Recently, after turning up on the bill for a show at BB King’s Blues Club in New York City, we learned that Patra was back in the studio, working on a new album and plotting a comeback. Last month, Tiffany Rhodes of bad-gyal spandex label Butch Diva invited us to meet the elusive singer, whom she’d landed as a model for her fall line, as they prepped for a catalog shoot at Tiffany’s studio in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. In one of her first interviews in years, Patra spoke with us (wearing the transparent lace shirt you see in these photos) about everything from her iconic braids and her fashion choices to her days as the “female Shabba Ranks,” her departure from the music business and what she’s been up to all these years. Patra isn’t one to give away secrets, though. She might be on Twitter now, but this is one lady who values having an air of mystery about her.
BEFORE you get into the interview, though, we’ve got a web-exclusive, 1:35 snippet of Patra’s new single “Bad In a Bed,” produced by Rellee Hayden and the A-Team. (Right now you can only hear the full thing–which debuted on MTV Radio’s syndicated Weekend Countdown this past weekend–on Sway in the Morning on Sirius XM’s Shade 45). True to her roots, Patra takes it back to the early 90s dancehall era, the tough throwback rhythm (sounds a bit like “Chase Vampire” updated with rock guitar) making the perfect vehicle for her Shabba Ranks-meets-Grace Jones vocal style. Stream below and read on for the exclusive Q&A.
LargeUp: You really owned the braids look, and I see you still have it going on. Have you always had them?
P: No, I have my undercover look but now that I’m getting ready to come back out, I get back in character. Because people love everything else but they will always love the Patra braids.
LU: What did you think when you started to see other people pick your look up in the ’90s…
P: Great. Sometimes I want to get my hair braided in different countries and, because I’m coming, there’s no braids left. I was in Japan and every girl was braided out. It makes you keep it an irie and cultural and natural thing. It doesn’t matter what color or race you are, you can braid your hair because braids is just a natural vibe. Its tourist-y, laid back. You can feel like a Ras if you want. I use it as my link to my African culture. Jamaica is full of Rastafari. We do our thing differently so that’s how I maintain that African culture and then I put the dancehall to it to make it Patra style.
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