When you hear the name, Papoose, there will be a conflicted aura in the room in which you hear it because there will be the people who will probably start busting a gut laughing, and then there will be the others who will look around in confusion and say ‘who?’ Because he’s never released an album and all he had in his legacy was a plethora of mixtapes, and jail time, with an inmate wife, Remy Ma (that’s where you hear the collective ‘ohhhh’). It’s been a very long time coming for this album; I mean, since the first time I heard ‘Alphabetical Slaughter’, that was the first time I heard the reference of The Nacirema Dream (Nacirema is pronounced – Na-si-re-ma). Watching a couple of interviews and reading up on what the title means, it’s the word ‘American’ spelled backwards, and as he put it on Hot97, he sees himself as a reflection of ‘The American Dream,’ which is starting from the bottom (No Drake), hustling your way through the ranks, and coming out on top to be successful. That’s the American Dream, and that’s what he wanted emphasized. Also, there’s the fact that in order for people to live the American Dream, people can live backwards in trying to achieve it, which has a great impact on the everyday person trying to make their way. It’s a solid foundation for an album that has been in the works since I was a teenager, so despite the punch lines (sometimes lack of punch), I’m sure there was something to be said on this album. My expectations weren’t that high, but it was all a matter of listening to see what the album would entail.
The Intro of the album had a bunch of sound bites from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to President Barack Obama, and the common theme was the ‘dream’ – The American Dream, and it’s one that has always been preached about when talking about how to be successful in America. In Canada, we don’t have that, so it’s something to marvel at sometimes. Papoose does his best Malcolm X impersonation by standing on a soapbox and delivering a message about what the American Dream is to him, and the story of his journey. Buckle up, kids, this is going to be interesting.
I felt like I was transported back to 2005 when the beat for Motion Picture came on. It felt like it was on that D-Block style with a bit of Cassidy influence, but with the storytelling of Biggie’s ‘Niggas Bleed.’ This track was pretty raw because it was full of graphic detail (sound effects as well), but it was detailing the life that he grew up with in Brooklyn, and he continued most of that in Mother Ghetto, but went from just an incident to what the whole borough of Brooklyn was compiled of. It’s like when Foxy Brown’s ‘BK Anthem’ came out; this has that kind of appeal to it, especially when you have the sample of Biggie’s Freestyle from The Tunnel. This was a Brooklyn theme song of pride and appreciation, and there’s no borough in New York more proud to represent than Brooklyn (Queens may argue, but let’s be real here).
Speaking of Queens, Mobb Deep having an appearance on Aim Shoot was interesting to hear, because we all know about the ‘beef’ between Havoc & Prodigy, so it really questioned as to when these verses were recorded. Papoose never fails to give the people comedic punch lines like he did with this track, but one of them I can say was pretty accurate “the apple was nothing without me like Steve Jobs”, but the self-proclaimed ‘King of New York’ didn’t have anything particularly special about this song; matter of fact nothing was that special about this track. It was pretty much what I’d thought I was going to hear on this album: Brooklyn pride & punch lines. Thankfully there was an early skit that would break the trend early.
This skit got personal, because there were two kids who were reading off these letters, not to any people in particular, but to diseases: HIV/AIDS & Cancer. When it comes to these deadly viruses, Hip Hop doesn’t really promote (heavily) the importance of getting tested for HIV/AIDS, and you never hear anything about cancer, so these letters brought it down to a personal note, because there are kids who live with HIV because of their parents, and I’m sure many of us have lost a family member or two to Cancer. They’re not exactly ‘typical’ rap subjects, but the fact that there was a skit like this gave me some respect for Papoose for doing it. This skit also served as a great segue for Cure with Erykah Badu, because reiterating the topic of diseases, it brought it to a soulful vibe that no one had heard Papoose on. Pap took on the persona of Cancer, sort of like how 50 portrayed Heroine on ‘A Baltimore Love Thing.’ This is a great song because it brings awareness to common diseases that are particularly easy to detect and avoid, but of course when people are stubborn, they won’t have the particular initiative to get themselves tested, which is a shame. There’s a deep message behind it, and Hip Hop was founded on addressing social issues – well this is a major one, so I salute Papoose for this song.
Nacirema Dream (the title song) emphasizes the whole theme of this album, which in Pap’s case is working hard to get a record deal and essentially flourish from that point on. It comes from humble beginnings and what you’re able to do with those beginnings to translate them into success – that’s what he did, and that’s why he claims to be an example of The American Dream.
Pimpin Won’t Die continued where Cure left off in terms of evoking an emotional presence in the lyrics. With referencing to Tupac’s ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’, he continues that story by going into what would have happened if Brenda’s baby had grown up and survived. Troubled teen in foster care is something that I know a lot of people can relate to, but it goes a step beyond that and has the little girl growing up to be a prostitute. Much like Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Keisha’s Song’, Papoose similarly takes real life situations and incorporated it with this girl to bring it down to Earth. What I also found interesting was that he took the kid from Slick Rick’s ‘Children’s Story’ and went on to tell his story based off where it left off. It was creative in a sense because he put real life situations from songs of the past – I found that to be a nice gesture to salute Hip Hop.
There were tracks on here that didn’t mean anything at all and it was just rhymes over wack beats, but with the songs that actually had meaningful content, they were listenable and the main reason why I felt that they held my attention more than others. Law Library Part 8 is another example of bringing social issues to the track. In this particular case it has to deal with how law enforcement and the judicial system harass Black people and aren’t so fair when it comes to their treatment. Papoose sounds really boring when he’s not delivering his bars in a certain way, but I can’t fault him for addressing issues. People do have their rights, and often times, they’re violated. Knowing what your rights are and that you can use them to protect yourself is very important, especially in America – that’s a different world, but in any country you’re from, it’s important to understand that you have to understand the law so that you won’t get screwed over. Hip Hop can be educating in a way, this is an example yet again.
I was excited initially when I saw that Papoose had a song with his wife, Remy Ma. I thought it was going to be great, until I actually heard it. It’s cute to have a Husband & Wife song, but What’s My Name was just terrible. It was pretty upsetting, but then again, expectations weren’t on high at all. What’s really interesting is that everyone is using Mavado on their songs or some type of reggae artist (I blame Pusha T). On Top Of My Game sounded like all DJ Khaled all over it, which is why I didn’t care for it, and naturally, Mavado just didn’t fit, so I didn’t understand why he was on it in the first place (Brooklyn is home to a lot of Jamaicans – or maybe just Flatbush, so the Jamaicans may appreciate). What was even more surprising was the fact that Papoose had a track on a DJ Premier beat. I didn’t even know how to feel about that, but I was transported back to the early 90s, and the way that Pap rhymed over Turn It Up, I asked myself: ‘why couldn’t we have more beats like this for this album?’ This was pretty dope all around, and I don’t know if it’s a sign to come that Papoose will be making more albums, but that’s what it seems with this track. It’s aggressive and this is the Papoose I was feeling; this is definitely in the tops for best tracks of the album.
R.I.P was the last track that felt real enough to appreciate because once again, it was bringing it down to a perspective that I could relate to. You have your issues with friends and family, and you lose friends along the way, so it’s about appreciating the people you’re with at the moment and reflecting on life. Papoose took the time to send shout outs to his boys and people who have left his life, so that brought out more authenticity.
What would the album be like if we didn’t get the 2nd part of Alphabetical Slaughter? If you NEVER heard the first one, you should, because that’s where the ‘legend’ of Papoose was created. Alliteration is the main thing you need to understand here, and the first go around, when I was still a teenager, it was really impressive. I must have listened to it over 100 times, because nothing like that was anything I’d heard before. This time around, I didn’t have exactly the same ‘wow factor’, but it’s still impressive to a certain degree. I mean, I couldn’t do that, unless I just took words from the dictionary and recited them alphabetically….unless, that’s what – never mind.
This album was one that had been talked about being ‘one of the best ever’ for over 10 years (or maybe just about that time). Maybe if it was released during that time period, that would have been the case, but now this album is really isn’t anything special. Aside from the fact that he had some tracks that you could vibe with and resonated with your brain a little bit in terms of bringing up the issues, there isn’t anything memorable about it. The hype was real, then it died down, then it completely diminished. I think the fact that people grew up and went on about other rappers to listen to; it hurt Papoose, and people definitely don’t want to hear what he has to say all of these years later. He showed off why people liked him in the first place, tried some new things, and for the most part, it didn’t work, but it wasn’t completely terrible. Would I ever buy this? Not on my life, but there are fans that will think otherwise. The Nacirema Dream became a reality, and that’s probably a nightmare for a lot of listeners, but it definitely wasn’t anything to be scared of, just take some Nyquil and go back to sleep. This is my opinion, this is my review, but for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX