Patty Crash was a wild child. After she and her mother emigrated to America from Iceland when she was a teenager, she was kicked out of school and sent back to Iceland.
She wound up back in the United States a few years later. One night in 2004, when she was just 20, Crash went to Baltimore to see The Roots. She ended up on the tour bus after the show and she began rapping with frontman Black Thought and some of the other crew.
“He called me the next day,” Crash remembers. “He said to come to Philly, that he’d buy me a ticket.”
She had been working as a secretary in a public defenders’ office in Virginia. But shortly after visiting Philly, she quit and moved to the Kensington section of the city, a rough part of town.
Soon, her vocals were appearing on Roots’ songs, as well as on tracks by Tyga and Gym Class Heroes. She signed a major label deal and received some signing money. She worked with legendary hitmakers like Dre & Vidal, who produced for the likes of Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson and Usher. And she picked up a manager—Rich Nichols, who also managed The Roots.
“He’s the reason I’m doing music,” Crash says. “He was a mentor to me.”
Things were going great. She was on her way to becoming a pop star—doing Kesha-like stuff before Kesha was a thing.
Then the label merged with another and Crash was lost in the shuffle. She never released her own album. The signing money dwindled, so Crash began waitressing at North Bowl in Northern Liberties, where she still serves today. And then, two years ago, Nichols was diagnosed with Leukemia.
“I was going to quit music,” she admits. “I was depressed. I didn’t want to do it any more.”
So she hibernated.
“Nobody’s seen me in two years,” Crash says.
A young Maryland rapper on the rise named Logic tweeted at her last winter but she ignored him. After he contacted her again, Crash flew to Los Angeles and met with him and his team.
Suddenly, she was back. And in the wake of Nichols’ death in July, Crash was determined not to get caught up in the machine, making music she didn’t believe in. Forget that pop stuff. She wanted to make music with feeling.
In September, she released the first song of the new Patty Crash. It’s appropriately called “New Life.” It defies genre labels, with a jazzy beat, hip hop groove and haunting vocals presented in Crash’s raspy voice. You can almost feel her pain.
“I’m starting to think it was all meant to be,” she says of her ten-year roller coaster ride in the music business.
Her first full album, Born to Fall, will drop one track at a time over the next few months as videos are produced.
“I still think I’m going to be a big star,” the pierced and tattooed Crash says wryly. “It’d be nice not to be a waitress.”