Papoose: Dream On
On August 24, 2006, his official website announced that he had signed with Jive Records in seven-figure deal, involving both Kay Slay and Busta Rhymes. With lots of media and fan hype, The Nacirema Dream deferred. However, before Papoose could be relocated to the dreaded shelf on Jive a year later, Kay Slay said the artist was a free agent. With over 20 mixtapes in his catalogue, the most recent being this summers Military Grind, Papoose remains ever consistent and always focused. Once known to be tight-lipped about nearly everything, a matured Pap opens up to HipHopDX about how connecting with a teenager led to his deal (and A&R resentment), the early mentors, and about how very soon, the patience will come full circle.
HipHopDX: Your first major feature was on Kool G. Raps album. How did that come about and whats your relationship like today?
Papoose: A friend of mines by the name of J. Swift was working with [Kool] G.Rap [click to read] as a producer, doing tracks and shit. He was just somebody I knew from being in Brooklyn grinding and shit. He knew that I could spit, and he felt what I was doing. I just knew that his beats was crazy but then he was telling me he worked with G. Rap. One day he was going to the studio to meet G and he bought me through. There was some other emcees there and we were all just spitting. And G was listening and was just like Yo and G gave it up. Like I always looked up to G. Hes a living legend. He and I are good. I spoke to him on the phone not too long ago.
DX: In addition to Kool G. Rap, who are some other artists who you looked to for inspiration when you were trying to find yourself as an emcee?
Papoose: For me, it was the true school rappers. [Big Daddy] Kane [click to read], Rakim [click to read], G. Rap, [Notorious] B.I.G., 2Pac, NasI came up listening to them cats man. Those are all high caliber emcees.
DX: You are considered a respectable lyricist in your own right. After releasing over 20 mixtapes, you still manage to keep the lyricism bar pretty high. Do you purposely include that in your process when creating your music? What is your process like?
Papoose: To be real with you, the process of me writing my rhymes involves a lot of different shit...it changes. Like, it honestly changes every time I create something. Thats just how it happens and thats how I keep the creativity and the versatility by switching it up in different rhymes. But overall, its just my reflection of life. I speak about my life experiences, things Im going through, things other people are going through...things thats happening around the world. The only thing I really keep in mind or try to do is just let my life experiences channel through my music. If you really sit down and listen to my music, there are times where youll sit back and feel like youre actually there. I try my best at that. I look up to a lot of poets in that respect. Like, I never really sit down with a pen and paper, man. I did that when I was a kid, but as Ive grown I dont do that. I create my music throughout the course of my day. Me doing what Im doing, out here in the belly of the beast, it may spark a brain cell and lead to creating some music. Even if Im going through something...if I lost somebody or somebody became incarceratedtheres a lot of different experiences that help me create my music.
DX: Youre one of the few emcees left who actually rhymes with a message instead of the more common party, party, party, kill, kill, kill rhymes. Youve done songs about the social injustice of the Sean Bell incident and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Why is that?
Papoose: I mean when it comes to that type of stuff, for me, its deeper than emceeing. Coming from where I come from, Bed-stuy, Brooklyn, I came up hard. I got to a certain point in my life where I got knowledge of self. Knowing where I come from, knowing where we come from as a people. Certain incidents, like you mentioned the Sean Bell incident, me being in a position where I can speak and these kids are listening, like I walk the streets and these kids give it up for me so, Im in this position where now I got people around the world willing to hear what Papoose has got to say. A kid might not look at a [Minister Louis] Farrakhan speak. The kids might not pay attention to any of the important figures or role models we got out here but theyll go around the corner and pick up that new Papoose mixtape and listen to that shit. Certain people around the world dont know whats going on in New York City. They might not be in tune with everything in the media, but theyll pick up a Papoose CD. Me having that outlet and having that voice, I feel it would be foolish of me to just make the party, party, party bullshit. Sometimes I have to shine that light. And to be real, if all somebody raps about is partying theyre full of shit. Lifes not just about partying, lifes about different things. If youre a true emcee, youre supposed to reflect different things in your music and not just constantly speak about one topic.
DX: Through the course of you taking you music to from the streets to the mainstream, you managed to link up with Kay Slay. With him being a sometimes outspoken individual and you being a more reserved and serious type, howd you two get along when you first met?
Papoose: When we first met it was a little bit of an ill situation, because I was trying to get him my music and with him being who he is, he had a lot of motherfuckers coming at him with their shit all the time. Its hard to decipher whos dedicated and whos not. And I recognized that when I was out there trying to get him to play my music. I mean to make a long story short, there was a confrontation between us when I first met Slay. But once he seen I was really about it, he locked in, man.
DX: So what role does he play in regards to you as an artists and the creation of the music?
Papoose: Hes Streetsweepers Entertainment and Im signed to Streetsweepers as an artist. Our relationship is hes like a big brother to me. Its bigger than just making music with us.
DX: So its not just business, hes more of like a personal mentor?
Papoose: Slay is one of the only people that give up and coming artists an opportunity. The industry is so much of a secret society and closed doors that its ridiculous. Slay is the opposite of all that shit and, at the same time, hes in the game. Around the time I met Slay, I wasnt into Hip Hop. Well, I was always into Hip Hop, but I just wasnt doing it for a living; I was in the streets. A situation happened that made me want to get serious about my music. When I got out of that situation, luckily, I was in a position where I could make that turn into the music scene. And I know the format of the game, the format of the game is the motherfuckers thats already in dont want anybody else to get in. So I was listening to Slays shows and Im actually hearing artists that are new artists. That shit blew my mind. After that I was like its a wrap. Im good now. For me, it was always just wanting people to hear me. I knew once they heard me my music would do the rest. But Slay was a blessing in my eyes, man.
DX: After linking up you two ended up signing a much publicized deal with Jive Records. We all know that it didnt work out, but what was the defining moment in dealing with the company that let you know thats not where you wanted to be?
Papoose: Basically when we came in, we made sure there was a guaranteed release clause in my contract. We knew that labels have notorious habit of signing artists than putting their projects on the shelf. Now some artists dont mind being on the shelf as long as theyre on a label, but me and Slay had bigger things in mind. When we came to the table, we came as an entity. People already knew who Papoose was. So, when we did the deal we made sure that clause was in the contract. When it came to the point that they started bullshitting and leaning more and more toward putting me on the shelf and dropping my album whenever they feel like, we contacted our attorneys to exercise that option in our contract. But there was a bunch of bullshit going on. I got singed by the owner of Jive. The A&Rs and all the other people were hating because I didnt go through them. They only eat by bringing in talent off the street then milking the talent like a cow. For example, if their artists have a photo shoot and theyll have their cousin take the pictures. Or theyll book a studio session. The session costs like $500 but theyll write it up as $1,000 and make $500. Or have you deal with certain producers, so they can add their fees. They couldnt do none of that shit with my project because we did everything in house. We're our own bosses. Like the only reason I even got signed was because the owner said his kid was a fan of me. So thats what made him seek me out to want to sign me. At the time there, was a lot of labels reaching out. Interscope wanted to sign me for like $700,000, Def Jam was offering some bread too, but Jive was offering the most money, so we went for the money. It worked out with us on top, 'cause we left with the money and the music. A lot of people was hating, man. They really hated the fact that we did the deal straight with the owners. They were purposely doing or not doing whatever they could to delay my project. But it all worked out for the better though.
DX: So there are no regrets in regard to your career as an artist as far as how that worked out?
Papoose: Right now my aim is bigger than that. What I got in the works right now is going to shake the ground when it drops. What Im about to do I feel like nobody is doing right now. I really dont give too much details about it right now, but the announcement will be made real soon. Im about to make a real power move. Im coming for you niggas, so I hope youre prepared for it. The Nacerima Dream album is coming properly. The fans are going to be proud. I hear the fans complaining, theyre always saying, Yo, when you going to drop the album? But I appreciate you waiting for me man. The fans know Im not an idiot and everything is strategic so that announcement is coming real soon.
DX: You built an impressive following with just your street sold mixtapes so a lot of people were wondering why not just go through a label like Koch or Babygrande to get the album out?
Papoose: The only reason why we even bothered with any label is because there was such a high demand for me to be signed. We was our own entity already. We were already a machine. I was already doing world tours when I came over there and still doing them all off the mixtapes. Im going to keep it real with you, I knew there was a format or blueprint or whatever you want to call it that everybody is supposed to follow. You know, drop a mixtape, get signed, drop an album. When I was doing my mixtapes I felt like I changed the game because not only the quantity of the mixtapes, but the quality. People always said my mixtapes sounded like albums, and those mixtapes took me around the world. It put me in all the same things as all the artists who had albums out. I feel like I put a lot of work into that material and I feel like I changed the game with that shit. People will definitely respect the move Im about to make. A lot of people go to Koch and Babygrande and all that, but theyre not doing it how Im about to do it. When I make this move theyre going to respect it.
DX: So are you saying youre going through an indie label?
Papoose: All Im saying is when that announcement drops everyone will respect it.
DX: When things like the situation with Jive happen artists usually either evolve and improve to be better prepared for the next opportunity or just fade into the background. You obviously havent faded away so how would you say youve changed?
Papoose: When I first came in, I was fresh off the street straight from Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. As far as the industry is concerned, I feel like Ive changed for the better. Back then, I just had that street mentality of if someone violates they have to get dealt with. Thats just how it is in the street. And Slays the one who warned me about that shit. He was like, Yo, the industry is totally different. Even he had to learn that 'cause if you notice, Slay has toned it down over the years. You dont really hear Slay bugging out on cats the way you used to. He was schooling me to that when I first came into the game. Through him, I learned that the streets and the industry are two different things. As I was starting to shine and grow as an artist there was a lot of hate and there were certain incidents that happened and I felt like I let those incidents get in the way and I wasnt supposed to do that. In the streets, you violate, you get dealt with. In the industry, these industry dudes want no parts of that. Theyll rap about it and promote it in radio and on video, but they want no parts of that. They dont want anything to do with anyone who has that mentality either. So learning that definitely made me more effective in the industry. My talent draws a lot of envy and jealousy and when they directed their energy towards me I just reacted but I know how to deal with them now. So my biggest change is definitely me separating the streets from the industry.
DX: In this industry loyalty is rare but you have been supporting your wife Remy Ma, while shes incarcerated. What is it that drives you to face that situation and still try to maintain a career?
Papoose: I never got anything easy in this world, man. Im the type of person where when shit gets thick and times get hard, I wont turn away and run like other people would do. I have no choice but to deal with this or any trials or tribulations that come my way. I deal with it by being myself. I follow my instincts and everything I do I do it from the heart. I dont do it for the cameras or publicity, none of that shit. I do what I got to do, man. I wouldnt be able to look at myself in the mirror if I didnt man up to the situation. I just take it one day at a time man. [Remy Ma] [click to read] is a strong person man and shes going to be alright. She was turning her negative into a positive, and when youre shining you got to watch the people around you. You just got to watch who you surround yourself with because they want what you got. You got to be conscious of the fact that some people will do anything to walk in your shoes. But back to answering the question, I just take it one day at a time. Real people do real things, and Im basically doing what I would want to be done if I was in that situation.
DX: So besides your dedication to lyricism, what is it that separates you form all other emcees?
Papoose: You see how these dudes get one record and theyre running around like theyre on top of the world? They get the one bubble gum record that pops then when the album drops they go wood. I never wanted to fall victim to that and thats not what Im known for. When you see Papoose you see a catalog. Im known for being consistent. Now people want to be none for that one record and thats not good. All the all time greats were lyricists and when that album drops its going to count man. Watch.