Album: The Nacirema Dream
Label: Honorable Records / InGrooves
Release Date: 3/26/13
Papoose entered the rap game on Kool G Rap’s Roots of Evil album in 1998. Fifteen years later at age 34, he has finally completed his debut album. Papoose enlists the accompaniment of Mobb Deep, Erykah Badu, and DJ Premier among others including his incarcerated wife Remy Ma on The Nacirema Dream. Although Pap has never before dropped an album he has put out a great deal of music throughout his career. With 28 official mixtapes, 8 official singles, 23 music videos, and countless freestyles under his belt this album hardly serves as a debut.
Most of the album sounds like it could have been recorded in Papoose’s Jive Record Days in the early to mid-2000s. A few tracks are current in subject matter, but not in sound. It has its high and low points and has undergone many changes over the years. Artists such as Kanye West and Pharrell were cut from the album as Pap decided in the current hip-hop climate an authentic New York album was needed. The range of topics approached on the album is broad. The extensive twenty track album has a little bit of everything from radio and club songs to vividly realistic tales of the ghetto as well as touching tracks addressing personal issues all brimming with punchlines an metaphors, which although are sometimes corny, entertain throughout.
On the intro Papoose sets the stage for the album and explains that the title is Nacirema (American spelled backwards) Dream instead of American Dream “because a lot of people think backwards.” The first track, “Motion Picture,” may sound familiar. I was surprised to realize I knew all the words to the first verse immediately upon hearing it. I believe it was used as a freestyle around 2006. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it is a quality verse that tells story and it was good to hear it completed on the track over vibrant theatrical production.
Some of the strongest tracks are “Mother Ghetto,” “Aim Shoot,” and “6AM.” all of which are consistent with Papoose’s mixtape sound. The Ron Browz produced “Mother Ghetto” is a poetic look at life in the ghetto with the message of taking pride in where you come from adding to Papoose’s hometown pride is a sample of Biggie’s classic question “Where Brooklyn At?” taken from a live Funk Flex freestyle featuring Mister Cee, Biggie and Tupac. “Aim Shoot” features verses from Mobb Deep and samples Lloyd Banks’ “See Me Bright” lyric “…it spit longer than Papoose” as the hook. Pap, Prodigy, and Havoc boast about how they will restore what the New York rap game has been missing; Straight out the big apple, it’s Papoose and the Mobb the apple is nothing without me like Steve Jobbs.” “6AM” features Jim Jones and Jadakiss with Ice-T on the hook each telling a story holding true to the theme of waking up to the police knocking on your door.
The title track, “Nacirema Dream,” has the obvious theme of following your dreams. It’s sort of Papoose’s “Started From The Bottom, Now We Here” story. It’s an uplifting motivational track about reaching for your goals no matter what stands in your way. He exemplifies that the American dream is attainable but takes hard work just as Papoose’s dream to put out this exact album came true but not without its obstacles and set-backs. “Pimpin’ Won’t Die” starts off as an extension of Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got A Baby.” Pap tells his story of what happened to the baby from Pac’s classic song. The story then turns into an expansion on Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” and combines the two so that the young man is now pimping the baby from “Brenda’s Got A Baby.”
Papoose strives to educate while entertaining. On “Cure” produced by Buckwild and featuring Erykah Badu, Papoose creatively raps from the point of view of cancer and AIDs and is dedicated to his grandmother. “Law Library Part 8” continues Papoose’s famed series and is an extremely current track with important educational subject matter. It addresses the issue of “Stop and Frisk” and the rights that the policy is impeding. The subject matter drastically switches from the serious informative track two of the albums singles. “What’s My Name” is a light fun record featuring Remy Ma on which the couple goes back and forth at each other with allegations of cheating and gold digging. The track samples The O’Jays “For The Love of Money” under Papoose rapping “I got the hardest chick in the game singing my name.” “On Top of My Game” features Mavado whose vocals help break up the consistent rap sound of the album thus far.
On “Turn It Up,” DJ Premier’s production, scratching, and cuts are more fitting with the sound of the album than most of the other beats on the project. More of this classic production may have created a more genuine vintage quality which would have added to the overall sound of the album. The use of auto-tune on “Get At Me” produced by and featuring Ron Browz leaves the track outdated in a less classic sense than some of the other tracks. “Where I Come From” featuring Dada Stone, Odog, Manson, Kino, and C-Brown of Thugacation isn’t exactly a strong point either, but it speaks to Papoose’s loyal nature represented by the project in that he wanted to include the people he came up with on his first album.
The project comes to a close with “Alphabetical Slaughter Part II” which picks up where Kay Slay cuts Pap off on part one. He runs through the alphabet rapping Z to A on the same production as Part I, although beat is meant to sound as if it were reversed. On this track as well as a few others the concept seems greater than the execution. Papoose’s ideas may be better than the actual quality of his lyrics in some cases, but it is refreshing to hear something different. His songs are not about how much money or swag he has.
As Pap mentioned at his listening session, he has worked on this album his whole life. He spent a lot of money on his samples, put a lot of thought into his features, and a lot of work and passion into the project without being influenced by what is currently selling or what other artists are doing. It is authentic Papoose. It is good to see an album many thought would never drop hit the shelves regardless of how it is received. It gives hope to hip-hop heads that other long lost albums such as Detox may materialize. The self-proclaimed “King of New York” may not have proven himself as the best New York Rapper with The Nacirema Dream but it has demonstrated his loyalty to the classic New York sound.