They say that time is a healer. However, for Brooklyn rhymer Papoose time hasn’t been the kindest of souls. His official arrival on the scene back in 2004 came at a time when records were selling and rap was the toast of the commercial market. With 50 Cent then the hottest thing out, Papoose’s buzz trumped that of the G-Unit General’s with ease. Appearing on every hot record at the time – notably the all star remix to Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It” – there was no stopping the kid. With a reported $1.5 million deal on the table too, all that was left to do was drop the album.
Having always been titled The Nacirema Dream (Nacirema being the word American backwards), problems arose for the young upstart when he and mentor DJ Kayslay decided to remake the album due to his unexpected commercial popularity. Instead of releasing the album as it was, which tailored more towards his mixtape roots – he won a Justo Mixtape Award for Best Underground Artist in 2005 – he succumbed to the requests of collaborations with the likes of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Time went on, perfection began to take over, and then Papoose in 2007 packed his bags and left Jive Records citing A&R issues.
Today finally seeing the light of day, The Nacirema Dream is a surprisingly good body of work with momentary dents.
While it’s not the epic Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ album fans were originally expecting, lyrically it’s stood the test of time well – and besides the bang bang style of rap that he and Uncle Murda made popular eight years or so ago, Pap dons his thinking cap on a few joints and brings real life social issues to the forefront of peoples minds.
“The Cure” stands out as one of the strongest aforementioned subject matter-driven offerings. Spitting from the perspective of both cancer and AIDS, Pap gets his Osmosis Jones on traveling through the human body before describing the hurt and torment that comes as a result of such unfortunate illnesses. Although Erykah Badu claims to have not given permission to use her vocals on the song, it’s one of the better records she’s been featured on as of late. Lightly sprinkled with a delicate helping of soul, the soothing backdrop combined with Pap’s educational sentences takes listeners to school.
Continuing with his mixtape-made instructional series “Law Library,” Papoose drops “Law Library Part 8.” Standing at only two and a half minutes in length, the idea of the “Law Library” series is to educate those not too clued up on the judicial system. With this particular episode concentrating on firearms, Pap touches upon stop and frisks as well as reasonable suspicion. Not breathtaking by any means, the track does however serve as a referencing tool for anyone who feels they’ve been mistreated by the police.
Keeping with the concepts, the Brooklyn spitter also creates a continuation of 2Pac’s “Brenda’s Got A Baby” story, titled “Pimpin’ Won’t Die.” Hearing the outcome of the trashcan baby in adult form, while an interesting concept the delivery and precision comes nowhere near to the potency or shock value of Pac’s original dramatisation.
There’s no question Pap can spit. A lover of complicated rhyme structures, his pen game is off the chain. Evident throughout The Nacirema Dream, no track bleeds more lyricism than the DJ Premier produced “Turn It Up.” Spitting, “When my oral deliver is such a moral dilemma/ I don’t quarrel with quitters I give them sorrow and shivers/ You think your artist is iller just cos his car from the dealer/ This music genre is bitter cos y’all some horrible spitters,” the way in which the intricacies of his wordplay integrate with Premo’s signature drum loop and synth samples is a beautiful thing. Portrayed as the epitome of New York Hip-Hop, there’s absolutely no faulting this particular track.
Another moment to take note of, the Mobb Deep assisted “Aim Shoot” brings to life the street dealings of the armed and dangerous. Whilst the track plays like the average my gun’s bigger than yours offering that regular listeners of rap have come to expect from the self-proclaimed ‘real’ rappers, the continuos Lloyd Banks lyric sample – “Yayo got the whopper, it spit longer than Papoose” - adds to the track’s overall griminess, as well as giving the heads something to wild out and screw face to.
Where the album falls short is simple. Standing at 20 cuts in length, The Nacirema Dream has way too much going on like a property tycoon in Monopoly. While he may have a handful of top notch properties, he’s still got an Old Kent Road or two. Papoose has quality, but his extended quantities leave room for recorded duds.
Take for example “Get At Me.” Sitting at number 17 on the album’s tracklist, it’s at this point Pap’s constant ramblings about stacking dollars and popping bottles delivered with his now grating voice proves too much. Add to this Ron Browz annoyingly poor autotune vocals and you’ve got one of the most boring records this side of 2013. Also be sure to skip the Thugacation posse cut “Where I Come From.” Because to quote Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, “There’s nothing for you here except for pain and tragedy.”
Besides the previously mentioned clangers – as well as the disappointment of “Alphabetical Slaughter Part II (Z to A),” a party trick of Papoose’s where he lists a continuing run of words beginning with the same letter, due in part to the ear tormenting reversed instrumental – The Nacirema Dream is an educationally inspiring project with Hip-Hop propensity. While it might have taken far too long to be released, which in turn has unfortunately lost Pap a large chunk of interested parties, a few hidden gems here and there with some on-point slices of production makes for an above average outing for fans of lyricism.