North Carolina isn’t exactly considered a hub for hip-hop, but my question is why not? Little Brother, King Mez Rapsody, Kooley High and more have made a considerable dent in hip-hop culture. Who’s next out of North Carolina? P.A.T Junior. The emcee and producer has been putting in work for a while now, dropping tapes and beats for the masses. So what happens when he takes all his talents and couples that with the stories of life? We get Learning to Live” (In A Day)his debut album.

pat juniors learning to live
Photo: Taken & edited by Rich Griffis

Our introduction to P.A.T Junior is through “Wake Up,” and in it, we get the thesis of what this record is going to contain. The beat is relaxing at first, Junior spends it waxing poetic with metaphors like “Master of Disguise (the skies), iCloud my feelings.” In the beginning of the verse, Junior speaks of his own troubles, and in the second verse he transitions to speak to the listener. Junior relates to life tripping you up and falling into negative thoughts. He understands how trust can be broken, causing you to shut everyone out. All that sounds pretty heavy, but when put behind three different soundscapes and change-ups in flow, your ears will be perked for what’s next.

Two-part tracks open up a world of possibilities for artists, and we’re starting to see more and more take advantage. P.A.T Junior comes through with “The Dream/My Apologies (Pt. 2).” It begins with horns in the background behind a moody bass line. In a discussion with his wife, Junior is trying to stop the petty arguing. But like all relationships, we encounter problems and issues. After seemingly stepping past those issues through romance, we’re met with “Inception.” The transition is swift and isn’t as jarring as the previous one, but we have the conflict between Junior and his wife escalate. The couple goes back and forth with Junior trying everything to bring them back to bliss. The song ends, alluding to the cycle of fighting and making up, knowing they’ll be back in this spot soon.

What makes Learning to Live accessible and easy to listen to is how Junior relates to the issues a lot of us are facing as adults now. In “Half Wxlves/The Mask,” Junior takes a new spin on and dives deeper into the wolf in sheep’s clothing philosophy. The first part of the song talks about wolves in sheep’s clothing, but touches on how dealing with them can cause you to question your own circle. As the track goes to “The Mask,” Junior flips the script and speaks on his own disguise. However, this mask isn’t to deceive anyone but to hide his emotions from those who prey on them.

Although lyrically P.A.T Junior is guiding us through the trials and tribulations that life brings, it’s the small cohesive production team that adds color to the album. Justin Pelham, Daniel Steele and P.A.T Junior himself created the soundscape through 11 tracks (and an outro produced by Slums). The production never settles, it takes influences from many genres, including soul, trap, jazz and more. Background vocals and hooks were placed intentionally as interludes to ease the listener through the sometimes emotionally heavy content. It never comes off as forced and fits into many different pockets of hip-hop music.

Learning to Live really is a journey through adult life, relationships with a lot at stake, the black experience and so much more.

My only gripe is that for an LP, it clocks in at a little over a half hour. At the same time, in a music climate where we’re on one hype train before we bounce to the next, Learning to Live is jam-packed with content to analyze. Junior’s bars are witty, clever and enlightening on every track. From the production to the myriad of diverse guests, P.A.T Junior and his team have created something special and has me looking forward to what’s coming next from the NC native.

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