If I Fail Are We Still Cool? | Patrick Paige II Takes Flight with New Album
Evan Dale // May 24, 2021
When Whisper (Want My Luv) rose from the tarmac on March 1 this Spring, so did expectations of Patrick Paige II’s forthcoming album. Its secondary leading single was a super-collaboration of who’s who in a modern neo-funk quilt capable of spurring non-kitsch soul plane anthems – Paige II himself, producer Allen Love, R&B crystal Durand Bernarr, band mate and outlandish talent in his own right Steve Lacy – evoking a sense of wonder towards what was ultimately to come from a larger exploration of its sounds. And now that we have just that just a couple of months later, If I Fail Are We Still Cool? isn’t only ultimately unexpected, but ultimately laughs in the face of its own title, a triumphant success from top to its 17-track bottom, still 40,000 feet high. No failures here, from the Los Angeles native, native, too, to The Internet and all the era-defining groove the supergroup of now established stars in their own rights brings to the conversation. The man is ultimately as enigmatic, after all, as one expects when The Internet is brought into the conversation, and If I Fail Are We Still Cool? bleeds of his broad-ranging indefinability with a particular focus on Paige II’s hip-hop oriented soundscape.
At a macro scale, Patrick Paige II is a masterful curator of the grey area. He’s just too talented to dabble in anything short of nearly everything. An instrumentalist – bass in particular – a producer, a rapper, and a singer, Paige II does it all with more fervor and long-striding musical gait than just about anyone specializing in only one can say about their own skillset. And in result, surrounded in life and in music by an elite patchwork of friends – some in The Internet, some, like Thundercat, honorary members of what it means to be a part of timeless musical curation – Paige II’s sound is a complex mosaic of his past, his present, and an all-encompassing musical future sure to be influenced by what he’s doing right here, right now.
En route to its May 21 release, and along with the audiovisual masterpiece that is Whisper (Want My Luv), three additional leading singles helped to craft the stylistic bookends of what was to come. First, came So They Say – a rap-heavy, riff-driven mellow anthem detailing through lyrical dynamism the introspection of reasoning why it is that things unfold the way that they do. A softer, more thought-provoking edge to Paige II’s rap leaning exploration of the grey areas he so fluidly explores, So They Say comes to stand as a point of calm and introspective clarity in a project that though always thought-provoking, makes use of the track’s mellow moment amongst an oft-hype lineup. In juxtaposition of its softer tones, If I Fail Are We Still Cool?’s third leading single, Big Plays, carries a bigger energy into frame. Riding a more traditionalist bass-heavy, addicting hype-hop beat, the track is an undeniable banger, as high-energy and fit for the party playlist as it is for soundtracking a trip to the gym. And then, Good Grace. The final release before the album itself, the single is another wild change of pace and opportunity for laying out the frameworks of Paige II’s range. Story-oriented, poetic, jazzy, and soulful, Good Grace now stands in the middle of the project as one of its unparalleled moments of both creative and thoughtful genius, capable of pulling a listener fully into the immersive world of Patrick Paige II, all the while exploring yet another point of stylistic flexibility.
But truthfully, through its 45 minutes, that knack for immersion and fluid flexibility is something that defines If I Fail Are We Still Cool?; defines Patrick Paige II as its creator; defines its creator as one seemingly always exploring self-reinvention with one hand firmly on the album’s aviatic theme and the other on his affinity and knack for a hip-hop oriented exploration of his myriad inspirations. Both points are unexpected. Both are welcome.
For the former, If I Fail Are We Still Cool?’s loose yet always present adherence to airplane adornments, from flight attendant announcements like in the project’s opener; to actual track names like Runway or 40000 Feet, where the hints are less subtle, but the vibes are acutely tuned; to the visuals for Whisper (Want My Luv) that we’ve already talked about too much here; to the album artwork itself; the energy is elevated by way of a plane throughout. And though the thematic discourse is one that’s well-travelled in music’s past – think particularly of SiR’s immaculate 2017 November that was more of a light-years spanning R&B trip through the solar system by way of a spaceship intercom – what Patrick Paige II brings to the tray table is something ultimately independent that ties the wide-range of his musicality akin. It’s a proven method, and one that he perfects across the media that If I Fail Are We Still Cool? brings in tow.
For the latter, there are a number of preconceptions that arise when Paige II’s name is pulled into focus: slappy bass, funky riffs, soulful vibes, a D’Angelo influence. But, akin to the rest of The Internet, when Patrick Paige II explores his solo route, he does so necessarily removed, yet always tethered to his bandmates by way of their also feverish solo independence. Think of Syd’s silky R&B deliveries that highlight baby-making playlists and get anyone listening at least a little hot and bothered. Think of Steve Lacey and the retro-nuanced Summertime anthemics of 2019 breakout, Apollo XXI. Think Patrick Paige II and his hip-hop orbiting explorations of soul, of funk, of R&B, of their eternally widening grey areas. And then just appreciate the album for what it is: a masterful exhibition of bars, vocals, production, instrumentation, storytelling, thematic discourse, and ultimate genius by way of exactly that.
If I Fail Are We Still Cool? What a joke. Of course we are. Patrick Paige II’s new album may just be the furthest thing from a failure that we’ve heard all year. Just in time for a hot Summer, we're definitely cool, and its wide-ranging scope will soundtrack it all.