“Do you remember those Kemp’s ice cream buckets?” says Patrick Adams when describing his initial foray into music. “I took five of those, grabbed a pair of drumsticks, and found some space around the house where I could make some noise.” That’s how it all started for Adams, who recalls that he was eight, maybe nine years old at the time.
Born and raised in South Minneapolis, Adams was literally a stone’s throw from the old Central High School. He had several older cousins who were musicians, which inspired his own interest. Those cousins included Robert Brown, Jr., a classmate of one Prince Rogers Nelson at Central during the mid-1970s.
“Everybody called him Bobby,” Adams explains. “I remember him telling me about conversations he had with Prince in school, the plans they both had to make their way in the world through music.” And when Prince’s debut album “For You” was released in 1978, Adams remembered just how proud and excited everyone in the neighborhood was.
“He was one of us. He made it. Maybe we could too.”
It was around that same time that Adams was entering Central High himself when his father surprised him with his first real drum kit. At 17, he was playing in a band with Bobby, who’d signed to City of Lakes Records. Before he knew it, Adams was keeping the beat on a hit that was in heavy rotation in clubs across the Twin Cities.
Released in 1983, “Make You Mine (Tight Jeans),” which co-credited Adams on the arrangement and featured Denise Blaylark on vocals, is nine-plus minutes of pure funk that deftly captures what the Minneapolis Sound was all about. Forty years later, as Adams says himself, “It’s still bumpin’.”
As graduation drew near, Adams had a decision to make. A standout athlete at Central, he was considering scholarship offers to play college football. But he ultimately decided that wasn’t his calling.
“I’d put so much time and effort into this craft by then,” recalls Adams, “plus the idea of going out on the road, meeting girls. I said to myself, “‘Yeah. I think I’ll do this music thing.’”
Adams played in a couple more bands locally, but by the mid-80s he’d seen enough to know that bands break up all the time. “I didn’t want to be caught on the outside looking in.”
So he began to think about how he could chart his own course in the industry and remain self-sufficient at the same time.
He taught himself to play other instruments, nurtured his singing voice, and constantly studied songwriting, not to mention the art of both production and performing. “I even learned to dance,” he chuckles.
Around the time he turned 21, Adams made his way to Los Angeles, where it didn’t take long for him to find work.
“I just loved it. I settled in Baldwin Hills. Beautiful weather every day. I was driving a nice car. Had a nice place. It was the life.”
In addition to working as a session musician, Adams was programming beats, adding samples, and providing background vocals for a number of artists in LA’s emerging rap scene. One of those artists was the late LaTasha Rogers, known professionally as MC Trouble and the first-ever female hip-hop artist signed to Motown.
Adams returned to Minneapolis in 1989 for the birth of his first child. He soon found himself on the set of Prince’s 1990 motion picture Graffiti Bridge, performing as a member of George Clinton’s “Funkestra.”
After running into an old friend he landed yet another gig, this time with Morris Day, who was preparing to record his latest for Warner/Reprise.
“I saw James Bryant, who I’d known from the neighborhood, played basketball with, seen many times at First Avenue,” says Adams, “He worked with Prince for years and then he went on to work for Morris. He introduced us. And Morris hired me as a songwriter.”
He contributed two songs to Day’s third album, 1992’s “Guaranteed”—the ultra-funky “My Special,” and the equally soulful “Deeper.” Yet it was another opportunity, one that he couldn’t have possibly seen coming, that kept Adams busy for the remainder of the nineties.
On April 4, 1992, for the first time in 41 years, Minnesota hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four. And unlike the 1951 edition that played in Williams Arena, upwards of 40,000 fans descended on the Metrodome, one of whom was NBA legend Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.
Monroe, who began managing his own record label before retiring from basketball, heard one of Adams’ demos and reached out to schedule a meeting before arriving in Minneapolis. Monroe signed Adams to his own deal, and in addition to recording so much material over the years, he spent the better part of the decade working and producing artists on the East Coast.
“Earl allowed me to stay here in Minneapolis. But I frequently traveled to New York, New Jersey to work on these projects,” says Adams, “Got to work with so many extraordinary musicians, producers, engineers. And Earl, he’s the godfather to one of my daughters. That’s what he’s meant to me and my family.”
‘If I Ruled the World’
After 20 years or so in the music industry, Adams wasn’t sure he wanted to continue. “I didn’t want to do the same music as before,” he reveals, “so I started writing gospel songs. This was my way to express how God was speaking to me.”
He also got married, joined the church, and became deeply involved in the ministry. For the most part, he put music aside altogether to focus on his family and his community.
In 2010, Adams and his ex-wife started a youth sports program called Warriors Elite Basketball. “As we were raising our own kids, we came across so many others that didn’t have the same opportunities. We wanted to give something back.”
During the ensuing years, however, Adams thought about getting back into music. So, sometime in 2017, he went back into “the lab” as he calls it, revisited some of his older compositions, and began writing new material as well.
In deciding the new direction he wanted to explore, Adams started to think about his many influences from James Brown to Prince; Stevie to Sly; Slave to Earth, Wind & Fire; Chicago to James Taylor; Teddy Riley to Babyface; Patrice Rushen; and even jazz great Ramsey Lewis.
“Growing up, a lot of artists were recording six, seven, eight, even 10-minute songs,” he notes. “I was interested in doing that myself. And I was looking to capture a particular feel, take a particular journey. And I wanted it all to be instrumental.’
The result is “Ear Slap,” a five-song EP that is a melodic, eclectic blend of jazz, soul and funk that has a smooth feel, but “still slaps you all up in your ears,” laughs Adams.
In 2023, he also started his own label, Groove Productions. One of his latest songs, “If I Ruled the World (Change of Heart),” is an ode to his Southside Minneapolis neighborhood in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. “If I Ruled the World” is an impassioned, stirring plea for peace, love and unity.
Adams’ new music is available on all streaming services. To learn more about this artist, visit patrickadamsmuzic.com.