Pardison “Pardi” Fontaine might be one of the best kept secrets in the music industry, and now the hitmaker is officially shifting focus to his own artistry. If you haven’t heard the name, you’ve definitely heard and seen his work. Pardi is best known for penning Cardi B’s 2017 hit “Bodak Yellow,” which has since made Cardi the first female rapper to go diamond.
Hailing from Newburgh, New York and putting on for the city any chance he could, Pardi knows a thing or two about hit records. In addition to contributions on Cardi B’s “I Like It” and “Up,” he worked on Kanye West’s “All Mine,” “Yikes” and “Ghost Town.” Pardi also contributed to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” as well as Meg’s “Savage (Remix),” the latter of which earned him a Grammy award for Best Rap Song.
In 2018, the rapper and songwriter released his single, “Backin’ It Up” featuring Cardi B. The catchy and hard-hitting track became an instant smash in the streets and clubs alike. Last month, Pardi also unleashed his highly anticipated single “Hoop Earrings,” which pays homage to Black women and all their beauty.
It’s safe to say, the hip hop heavyweight has come a long way since ditching his hoop dreams and quitting school to do music full-time. Now, he readies his forthcoming project, with his latest single marking the chapter of a new era.
REVOLT caught up with Pardi to discuss his new music, his girlfriend Megan Thee Stallion being a competitor in the booth, writing for Cardi B, working with Kanye West and much more.
How’s it feel to release your first single of the year?
It’s the first one that’s going to be attached to a body of work in a while. I love to release music anytime I can, anytime I get to reconnect with the people … my fans, my supporters. I like to contribute to the world and put the art out. I was happy to be able to do that. I’m always excited when we get the chance.
What made you name the song “Hoop Earrings”?
I had to listen to the song a few times before I even got a title. It was an older record that I was playing off my hard drive. My engineer said, ‘Yo, that’s fire. You gotta do something to that.’ So, I went back and recorded a verse to it. By the time we got done, I felt like ‘Hoop Earrings’ summarized the whole feeling of the record.
I read somewhere that hoop earrings give girls superpowers and boosts their self-esteem — it’ll make their hairstyle look better and all that. I didn’t even know that at the time either. Hoop earrings embody that time and era when women had the ponytails, the velour sweatsuits, the braids … the whole nostalgia of that time period. That was the perfect title.
Can you touch on the music video? It’s so creative.
First off, I had to go back to my hood. I had to go back to Newburgh and shoot it. Shout out to the people at the beauty shop on Broadway in Newburgh, New York. If you’re ever there, check it out. They so graciously let me use their spot. They saw my vision when I told them what I wanted to do. I really wanted to bring it back to where it started. Even the clerk at the hair shop, she’s in my older videos. I’ve known her for dumb long. I wanted to give my day one supporters that same feel again. Even the record has more of my old sound … more of how I used to attack records. I wanted to bring that whole feeling back on this reintroduction.
What inspired your viral shoutout to Black girls on the track?
I know I made a joke and said it was a poem I wrote in the strip club, right? But it’s really always so necessary. If you go back to any of my videos, I always try to push the envelope. My mom is a Black woman, my daughter’s going to grow up to be a Black woman — she’s a Black girl, and she loves that part by the way. Somehow, miraculously, she got the ‘do your thing’ part down pat, so she knows when it’s coming. It’s always necessary to overdo it, especially when it comes to Black women. It’s not a lot of people that do it. If everybody’s leaning this way, I’m going to go the other way. It’s necessary to shed light because it’s beauty there. It seems to be forgotten or overlooked from time to time, so if I got a platform where I can preach it and give a shout out to the things that I love, that’s what I’m going to do.
Fans love the song and there’s been a ton of positive feedback.
I’m glad that they’re receiving it that way. I’m glad that it’s resonating with people. I done seen the trend with people posting their pictures and feeling themselves — especially to the ‘Black girl’ part. I’m super excited to be a curator of women feeling themselves. If my music can help you feel yourself and get you through your day, I’m good. I’ll be that. I’ll help them play that role.
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Are there any women artists who inspire you?
Shit, I be with one every day that fucking inspires me! [Megan Thee Stallion] is fucking amazing. To see what she does — and on such a high level. Her dedication, her focus, it’s fucking phenomenal. It makes it that much easier to talk about. I’m literally surrounded by great examples. She’s a special one.
Can we expect a Pardi and Megan banger?
Ask her (laughs)! Ask her if there’s one in the works. I know we could come up with something, especially between the two of us.
To be in the studio with your boo — that’s everything!
Yo, she’s a competitor though! It ain’t even hunky-dory cool, she wants to compete. It ain’t even all peaches and cream like you think, but she’s great.
You’ve mentioned your strip club outings together. How often are you there?
Only when she takes me. Only when she wants to go. I be chillin’. That’s her — she loves that (laughs).
How much money are y’all throwing when you do go out?
You know me — I’m getting up there in age, I like to chill. She likes to go out and do that, but I be there to support her.
I saw somewhere that you passed up a warehouse job, but did you ever work part-time jobs?
Hell yeah. When I left school, the first thing I thought was, ‘Alright bet, I’m going to do this music, but I gotta get a job.’ The first one was this warehouse where you move the pallets or the inventory from the truck to wherever. They were paying $17 an hour. To me, that was elite money at the time. ‘Bet, $17 an hour? I could do this, no problem.’ I go there for the orientation, and the guy that’s giving the tour says, ‘Yeah, I was just like you guys 10 years ago, taking my orientation, and now I’m the executive manager.’ No knock to him but I said, ‘This motherfucker’s been here for 10 years?! I can’t be here for 10 years.’ I didn’t want to get locked in nowhere that would knock me off my focus. I really hauled ass. I never made it past orientation. I never went back again.
You were a baller, too. How good were you on the basketball court?
Listen, I tell people like this: I always played and I always started. I was never a benchwarmer. I had a scholarship to the school I went to. Basketball was always natural. I was always good, but I felt like I wasn’t gonna be the star. I wanted to be the star. In my music, I get to take all the shots. When it’s me and the microphone, I get to make something that didn’t exist. It’s just me in there, and I get to do whatever I want. That’s really why I leaned more toward music after a while.
How has your journey with being independent in the music industry been so far?
Independent feels good. It’s definitely a thing to be proud of — to be able to put out your music and own it, put it in spaces you want to. I grew up listening to people talk about it all the time — from Prince to JAY. I remember it being in the back of my head: ‘If I ever get the opportunity to own my music and put it out at a high level, I’m going to do so.’ So, it was great for me and I encourage anybody that can. We live in a time and a place where you have the resources. You can do what you want to do and express yourself, so why not take that shot on yourself? Everyday, bet on yourself. Everyday you wake up, take a bet on yourself. Risk something for you. Do that. No matter what your passion is, put some time into it.
Let’s talk about your songwriting work for Cardi B. How are you able to enter into a woman’s perspective?
She’s my dawg. She’s super creative, too. Being in the room with other creative people, y’all easily going to vibe with each other. That’s what people don’t get more than anything else — I’m creative. I’m good at arrangement. I’m good at picking instrumentals, arranging instruments and sound. I’m good at putting visuals together, as you see in my own videos. You don’t get into these rooms without people respecting your eye and ear for certain things. That’s me overall. I’m an overall creative. That’s how you get next to a Ye — by just being able to see things and put things together. Cardi’s family, so that was super easy.
Did you think “Bodak Yellow” would become the groundbreaking hit that it is?
Shit, I don’t know. When stuff happens like that, you can never really prepare. You never know what it’s gon’ be — but Cardi was such a big star already and such a big personality, so it was only a matter of time before the world took a loving to her. Shout out to her.
You mentioned Kanye West. Can you bring us back to the “Violent Crimes” studio session?
Ye is one of the dudes I’ve admired my whole life, my whole career coming up. I used to listen to the make a toast joint on College Dropout (“Last Call”), where he’s talking about getting his deal over and over and how people slept on him. I used to go straight to that track and listen to the talking part of that story. That’s definitely somebody that’s always inspired me, someone I’ve always favored in this music industry. That was another surreal moment for me. For him to hear what I was able to do, to see things that I was putting together and wanting to involve me with his project — that was surreal. Being from Newburgh, New York, that was a surreal moment.
You met Ye through Pusha T right?
Yes, I did. I wanted Pusha on a record — matter of fact, he probably still owes me a record. But, I hit him up like, ‘Yo, I got something you should get on.’ He’s like, ‘Yo, I was just talking about you!’ I said, ‘What you mean?’ He said, ‘Ye was just asking about you. He’s asking me if I knew you. You mind if I put you on the phone with him?’ I’m like, ‘Hell yeah! Put me on the phone.’ I wound up having to do a show but as soon as I got back from the show, I got a text: ‘Yo, this is Kanye. Can I call you?’ I text him back like, ‘Hurry up, before I call you my n*gga! I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.’ He called me, told me that he was admiring what I was doing. He wanted to get my perspective on the album. Before I knew it, we was out in L.A. Linked up.
Did you learn anything from being in the studio with Ye?
One thing about Ye: ultimate confidence. Ultimate confidence in yourself. A lot of people are seeing that in the documentary now (jeen-Yuhs), but he always had ultimate confidence in himself. In that confidence, it’s not to say he’s never going to be wrong, but he’s okay with making a mistake. That’s a part of the process because even out of the mistakes, you’re going to get something good. That’s one thing I was always able to take away from him: be confident in what you’re doing, and keep going.
What does your creative process look like in the studio? Do you write?
Most of the time, I don’t write. Most of the time, it’s mumbles that turn into words unless I got a subject matter on hand and then I can go from there. Most of the time, I let the melody choose where we’re going with the record. I get in there and freestyle it until it starts hitting.
What are three things you need in the studio at all times?
Water, gummy bears — the Black Forest ones, too. Those are top-tier. There are other top-tier gummy bears but if you’re asking for my preference, Black Forest are the ones. The third thing I need, if I’m not by myself, I gotta be with other creative people … people who are contributing to the whole energy.
I want to touch on fatherhood. How old is your daughter now?
My daughter’s five. She’s getting big, so big. She tells me what songs to put on — I could play her a record and say, ‘You like this one?’ She’ll be like ‘ehhh.’ She got her own opinion now. She’s making up dances, she’s doing everything.
Can we expect her on a record?
The funny thing is, she do be recording. She gets her iPad and puts her headphones on. She’s amazing. I love her to death. She’s gon’ be a star in her own right, for sure.
I was going to ask if she’s going down the music path!
She got records on my hard drive. If she hears me in there recording, she’ll definitely come in there and want to be on it — especially if I got autotune. If I got autotune on, she wants to try it out. She wants to freestyle, all of that. I know she going to land somewhere in stardom for sure.
What else are you excited for?
Man, I’m excited to get y’all some more music. That’s it. I told people this year, I’m putting out some music. I got a couple other projects that I’ma let y’all see about, but I’m really excited to share this music. I know it’s been a minute. I know people have been asking and waiting, so I can’t wait to give it to ’em.
What can we expect from your project?
‘Hoop Earrings’ is the warmup. ‘Hoop Earrings’ is, ‘Yo, I feel like making music right now.’ I’m expressing myself. I feel like people really liked it, but it’s definitely more on the way.
Any new goals for yourself at this point in your career?
Yes, absolutely. I got this project coming out. I’m starting another project, and I’m going to be on a show this year. I don’t know what show it’s going to be. I watch a lot of movies. I watch a lot of series — Amazon, Hulu, Showtime, I watch those all day. I’m going to be on one of them this year. I guarantee it. I can’t wait to get my feature on one of these shows.