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The Immersion: Papoose & Learning to Love the UnderdogPosted by Dharmic X on 07/05/12 | Filed under Features, Opinion, The Immersion
I was no exception to this. One of the first games I purchased with my Playstation Portable (PSP) was EA Sports’s Madden NFL 2006, a game with a soundtrack that boasted MCs such as Tech N9ne, Chamillionaire, Stat Quo, and Bump J. But my favorite song off of the soundtrack came happened to be “Born to Win” by New York City rapper Papoose. The song had an anthemic quality, thanks to both the beat and the uplifting lyrics. Pap’s flow was crisp, and I appreciated the rhyme scheme. I ended up using the song for a project in my eighth grade English class, and eagerly spent time trying to find out more of his music.
There was probably no bigger Papoose fan in the entire city of Boston for the next year. Sure, he had developed a decent amount of buzz for the quantity of mixtapes he had been steadily putting out, but most of my friends tended to know him only from the memorable "Alphabetical Slaughter", a blistering display of alliteration that very few MCs have attempted (let alone succeeded in making a record out of it). I had gone beyond that, appreciating the guest verses and industry freestyles he dropped such as his verse on Busta Rhymes’s “Touch It (Remix)" (complete with a mind-blowing extended metaphor involving the five boroughs of New York City and his fist) and his freestyle over “What You Know” (“I put the ratchet to the Statue of Liberty’s head, because I killed the city then I resurrected the dead.”).
One of my favorite songs he’d put out was a joint called “Victory 2007” (separate from the freestyle he did over Biggie’s “Victory” record). His mastery of flow was on display there, highlighted by the last 40 seconds where he absolutely spazzed out over them. But there was more to Pap than just style; his bars contained a lot of gritty realism and wisdom, which I was starting to realize came in short supply from his contemporaries.
The buzz was swelling for Papoose, complete with the now infamous $1.5 million dollar contract from Jive Records, and I was eagerly anticipating the Nacirema Dream. And almost as if on cue, we were blessed with this banger:
By the time “Drop It” came out, I was more than aware of the legacy that Dr. Dre had created over the previous twenty years, and to hear him lace Pap with his signature booming bassline was chilling. The flow on this song was more deliberate, but the Brooklyn native was spitting some real shit on the track, with a first verse that was as cinematic as the instrumental itself. “Suicidal bombers in and outta Laguardia, Governor Corzine he ain’t scared of the mafia.” What’s incredible about lines like that were that they were actually rooted in fact at some level: Pap was referring to former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who had been CEO at Goldman Sachs and the now-bankrupt MF Global. Meanwhile, the third verse was crisp and blunt, with jewels such as “Rather close my eyes before I let these cops close my cuffs,” and “You can call me what you wanna, I couldn’t give a golden fuck; I’ll take these pennies out your loafers punk.”
The guest verse from Busta Rhymes was spot-on, and served as a great contrast in terms of delivery. Of course, this comes as no surprise to anybody, as Busta had been doing this since he was with Leaders of the New School. For all of those reasons, “Drop It” was constantly on repeat in my headphones, but sadly, the song never gained traction, and so "The Nacirema Dream" has remained shelved. But every time a new Papoose record comes out now, there remains a lingering optimism that we will hear that debut album from him sooner rather than later, similar to how we heard from Saigon with his "Greatest Story Never Told".
Papoose was the start of what is now my rabid fandom for the MCs that are often forgotten when discussions regarding who the hottest rapper is break out. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog with a chip on his shoulder and a unique story; maybe it’s because my story is no less unique. But while I gravitated towards Papoose’s talent and ultimately, his music, I lacked the perspective to appreciate just how difficult the industry made it for him to get his name out there, let alone just how easy it was for him to get swallowed up in Jive’s system. I had been introduced to the underground without even knowing what the term “underground” meant.
(DJ Dharmic X is the host of This Culture Never Dies, 11PM-1AM Saturday on wnyu.org. Fans and haters, can follow him on Twitter and check him out on Facebook.)
See Also: The Immersion: Black Star, “Definition” & Discovery Through Ignorance