People think of Papoose as “that New York mixtape cat that ain’t blow up yet”; and while that may be true I always think back to the day when I copped Kool G. Rap’s “Roots of Evil” in 1998 and saw his name on the credits to “Home Sweet Funeral Home,” one of my favorite tracks on that (still highly underrated) album. At the time he was going by the much longer and somewhat more absurd title of “Papoose the Lyrical One.” Thankfully he shortened his moniker to two syllables but nonetheless I’ve always wondered if the real reason this mixtape legend never blew up is that it’s just too hard to take anybody with a name like “Papoose” seriously. “Papoose” is a borrowed Native American term which either means baby or baby carrier, and that’s definitely not thugged out compared to other New York MC’s like 50 Cent or Busta Rhymes. Hell even dropping your real name like Erick Sermon does is still more thug than Papoose. Despite the silly name, he’s definitely not a lyricist you should take for a joke, because tracks like “Sharades” are serious like cancer:

“Gimme the keys to Shyne Po handcuffs
Gimme the keys to Lil’ Kim handcuffs
Gimme the keys to C-Murder handcuffs
So I could tighten ’em and let the cell slam shut
Gangsta rapper, it’s time to man up
‘Fore I tighten your handcuffs
Cause they all make songs ’bout killing each other
When I bring ’em in for questioning they all squeal on each other
You stick a needle deep in your skin and carve it wit ink
You call it tattoo, I call it the mark of the beast
We identify criminals who rob on the streets
by scars or tattoos, don’t you bother to think?
They blame me for Biggie murder, but the case died out
So now that’s for me to know and for you to find out
I got the industry on lock and key
Who am I? I’m the hip-hop police”

Papoose largely got his reputation off freestyling, cameos, and countless less official tapes that are sold hand-to-mouth off the RIAA’s radar. Therefore Papoose is a variable of an unknown quantity, which is great for his street credibility but can be very difficult to translate into major label marketing and promotion; I call it “Joe Budden Syndrome” or JBS for short. How can Papoose crossover to be mainstream? Well one way would be to do a track with Nas, which Papoose does on “The Best of Papoose” on a song entitled “Never Come Back”:

Nas: “Yo! Thank God for the Rolls symbol on my hood
Silver lady with the wind she pop up pretty wood interior
I stay a good nigga
Don’t speak on facts unless you correct you losin respect
Ferrari floors are clean, drawers are clean, what!
Verses, all my bars are mean
Lil’ money, lil’ risk, lil’ faith, lil’ guidance
It ain’t rocket science your prophet try to be honest
Paul Wall deemed, IWC watches
But I ain’t walk around with no poodle under my armpit
Actin all she-she, cause I ain’t get it easy
I been through it, slim through it, R never PG”

Papoose: “Don’t you ever try to stop the uprisin of a kingdom
I got enough bars to take away your fuckin freedom
My arms long enough to box the devil I could beat him
If his arms long enough to box God I’m a weave him
He wanna learn he’s starvin for knowledge I’m a feed ’em
But if he wise I’m hungry for for knowledge I’m a heat ’em
If you was manifestin all them lessons that you readin
You would even believe in the teachings that you preachin
Heathens sneak even left leakin in the beacon
The gangs peeped him they In Living Color like Keenen
And hell I ain’t talkin about breathin
Stupid why you reachin my hand stay on the pound like Lincoln
I’m powerful you weaklin, the firin pen went to the spring
Summer, fall like the seasons in your region
Papoose and Nas is a legion
Everything happens for a reason, have a good evenin”

The irony of “The Best of Papoose” is that in culling the best of his unofficial songs from a variety of sources, the material collected plays out exactly like a big budget major label project for 2007. The guest appearances are so obligatory it’s scary – Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Bun B, Prodigy, Ghostface and even JR Writer are represented as guest artists. You couldn’t ask for a broader crosssection of artists to represent the long time coming MC, but none of them can rep why Papoose is an artist to watch for better than he does as a soloist on “Mother Nature.” A lot of artists seemed scared to touch the Hurricane Katrina story on wax unless they were from New Orleans, but Papoose puts it out there and tells OTHER RAPPERS who make cash donations to look good they need to “donate some blood, I don’t mean physically but spiritually, donate some of your time out lyrically” and strikes a chord that really resonates with me personally. If Papoose doesn’t drop a full-fledged heavyweight album in 2007 then the music industry as we know it is just plain fucked; but then again it’s on Papoose to take all the potential shown on “The Best of Papoose” he’s built up over the last ten years and make it count. It’s time for the former Papoose the Lyrical One to show he’s no child in the game, he’s full grown and ready to do it on his own.

Papoose :: The Best of Papoose - The Mixtape
8Overall Score