[Nov. 6; Be Absxlute]

There’s something introspective about autumn, as you reflect on one year and anticipate the next. As Patrick D. Mix Jr.—known to the rap universe as Pat Junior—silently sat on a stool at CAM Raleigh one gloomy Sunday evening in October, that introspective moment found its soundtrack. 

With the showmanship and attention to detail that have become staples of his brand, Pat had gathered his fans for a preview of his new album, I Thought I Knew. Attendees were given wireless headphones that played the album as they walked around the exhibition room, which was lined with paintings by Malaysia Lipscomb that represented the themes of each track.

I Thought I Knew is Pat’s second full-length studio album, following 2016’s Learning to Live (in a Day), though he’s released several singles and EPs since then. They showcased ideas and sonic experiments, but I Thought I Knew finds Pat as honest and self-reflective as he was on Learning to Live

At that time, Pat was starting his full-time musical journey after being laid off. Facing the choice of whether to dust off his résumé or pursue his bliss with music, he chose the latter. Now, he’s an experienced professional musician, and I Thought I Knew is his best work to date. 

Pat is always in the studio, as you can see in his Instagram stories, designing his own sounds for music production, an involved undertaking that has elevated him to a magnificent height. It’s something that many hip-hop producers leave to audio engineers, who sell bundles of WAV files catering to a certain palette.

But Pat and his business partner, Justin Pelham, started a sound design company, Pelham & Junior Co., which has taken off meteorically in the past year, earning praise from social media influencers and placement on the Big Sean single “Overtime,” produced by Hit-Boy.

Every kick, snare, and sub on I Thought I Knew was made in-house, with Pat laying down exceptional bars on top. He dissects his insecurities, facing them head-on and accepting responsibility, not just pointing a finger at those who have wronged him. He shows vulnerability: “I’m the strong friend that you should check on,” he confides on the lead track, “I’ll Admit.”

The album follows the arc of Pat’s journey, starting low, but with a steady, optimistic rise through each track. He takes us through his friendship insecurities, his past heartbreaks, and dramatic episodes from his youth, seeking inner peace amid it all.

On “Spice Adams,” the album’s high point, Pat flexes a little of the muscle that people love from past singles like “S.O.T.B.,” but it’s the only track with that kind of energy. Afterward, things calm down into an R&B vibe with “Summer Breeze,” featuring Cyanca, whose calming voice on the chorus, mixed with soothing synth pads, creates a timbre that’s impossible to not rock your body and smile to.

In the last track, “Conversations with My Pastor,” Pat wraps up the whole journey, saying, “I thought I knew about myself, man, until I saw my ugly shadow for the black stains.” 

But he also expresses joy that he can now welcome new friends, with gratitude for his pastor and, most important, his wife’s advice for getting through his dark thoughts. It ends with a beautiful piano solo from Pelham—a theatrical, emotional climax. If this is what Pat is putting out only two albums deep, then the trajectory of his future will be something to behold.