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Album Review: Papoose, The Nacirema Dream

There was a time when Papoose looked like the heir apparent to New York’s hip-hop throne. Over the course of a dozen or so street mixtapes, the Brooklyn-bred MC generated a huge buzz which led to his infamous $1.5 million deal at Jive Records in 2006. His debut album, The Nacirema Dream, was supposed to come out soon after and many hoped it would mark mainstream rap’s return to the grimy realism of New York hip-hop in the 90s. But until this week, Pap’s dream was never realized. On Tuesday, The Nacirema Dream arrived, nearly seven years after its original release date, and to a much different musical landscape. Despite the evolution of the genre since Papoose’s emergence, this album sticks to the blueprint he first laid out in 2006.

The album’s biggest draw is that it’s street hop to its core. Papoose built his reputation on painting vivid pictures of life in Bed-Stuy and he doesn’t stray from that formula here. Songs like “Mother Ghetto,” “Aim Shoot” and “6AM” are riddled with his mixtape-era gunshot sound effects and brash lyrics depicting tales of drugs and violence. Papoose favors bluntness and a unwillingness to pull punches over colorful metaphors or overtly complex word play. On “Motion Picture,” for example, the MC describes moving from home to home, taking down anyone who stands in his way. It’s raw and straight-to-the-point, in the vein of M.O.P and Mobb Deep, the latter of whom is featured on the album.

Pap does loosen his grip on the microphone at times, and some of the most satisfying songs come when he approaches his topics from a lecturing perspective. On “Cure,” he dives into AIDS conspiracy theories, which is still a fascinating listen regardless of how seriously you take it. On “Law Library Part 8,” he continues his famed series, taking on the criminal justice system in the same captivating manner he did seven years ago. Ultimately, that’s Nacirema Dream’s biggest success, it truly sounds like a vintage New York hip-hop album, and it’ll appeal to those still looking for that.

On the flip side, the production is so outdated you can’t help but think that these songs have literally just been sitting around this whole time. Beats like “Motion Picture” sound like carbon copies of early G-Unit records. Others sound half-baked, built on aging piano lines and rigid drums. The results aren’t much better when the album attempts to try to take on a more accessible sound, like on the auto-tune-tinged “Get At Me,” that sounds like it was ripped off the radio a few years ago.Whether this album was made entirely during the period in which Jive was footing the bill is unknown, though it certainly sounds like. But ultimately, The Nacirema Dream should be celebrated – not only for it’s long overdue release, but because Papoose actually made the album he had always planned on making. — Reed Jackson

  • qweqwe

    so it’s only large because some of the production is outdated? really? that’s some bullshit. if i understand correctly, for something an album to get a grade higher than an L, the album must have up-to-date production. wow, some bullshit that is.

  • boobie

    This is some crap review..Outdated? Are you serious.. This album is a classic. Some great songs.Cure ,aim shoot ,faith,RIP etc..

  • Bless

    The album isn’t a classic but due more than a L. The concept is not netted together properly but it does has some good ideas like cure,6am and good songs in rip and the rest. There are no real wack songs except maybe that whats my name but you can get use to it. I am a Papoose fan and was waiting for this EVER SINCE I heard how he ripped underground king. He did not produced a classical debut like his elders Big, Nas and Jay (who it would seem he is dissing in that alphabetical slaughter 2 video not have him as a graduate of lyricism or his influence). He gave us a solid album that should build to his career.

  • CaliThug

    Album is a straight classic! I love the beats!
    I don’t know why the author is hating on the beats because of it’s assumed age.

    Who cares… is the song good or not?
    “Oh that song is sick but I’d rather say it’s okay because the beat sounds old”
    What the hell kinda thinking is that????

  • Andre

    This review is so disrespectful to hip hop in so many ways. XXL Magazine is officially an Illuminati agent. What the fuck is wrong with these people who so-called,”know hip hop”?
    You support these no talent faggots who are not even close to the realm Paps’ Lyrical atmosphere nor the social commentary. I thought this claim was bullshit but these hip hop magazines and outlets are out to fuckin poison our kids ears. Waka Flocka got a better review than this, ARE YOU FUCKIN SERIOUS?

  • Inquiring2mind

    I’m dying to know what MC or Rapper rhymed better on their own shit than Papoose. This is probably the worst review since Chamillionaires’ Ultimate Victory album. But if a nigga aint affiliated with Young Money, MMG, Roc Nation or G.O.O.D Music ( Sodomy for Success factories) they get a XL at the minimum. Drown in a pool of gasoline XXL, seriously.

  • http://twitter.com/allmightyhands Sterling Chambers

    xxl is horrible with reviews anything with the machine backing it is a automatic XL or XXL but when a artist is independent it always gets a L…i promise you if this was 2005 and Jive Records was behind this release xxl would be dick sucking with a XL or XXL rating

    • mpcwiz

      i agree 100% bro

    • http://www.facebook.com/PapaGUnit Devon ‘Papa G’ Guerrero

      Mane fuck an XXL

  • Matt

    Album is due more than a L rating. HE stayed true to his mix tape game and pieced it together. You call the production “Outdated” but the beats still bang and it brings it back to the late 90′s when this was hardcore rap and didn’t have to worry about radio play and what sells. It is an above Average cd at most not a classic but i am not disappointed.

  • eins

    I don’t really like complaining about reviews but I am pretty sure if this came out in time, it would have received a higher rating and would have been a special release among many NYC style street albums, especially because of stand out tracks like ‘Cure’, ’6AM’ or “Pimpin Won’t Die”. Production is outdated for sure, so an ‘XXL’ rating is out of discussion but all in all I’d say if this could have been an ‘XL’ yesterday, might as well get the ‘XL’ today. Been listening to quite some classic NYC albums recently and this can definitely hold up.

    Let’s hope Papoose stays on it and puts out another album true to his style but with some more current production soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Kriese/679741033 Josh Kriese

    If Lil Waynes new album gets a higher rating than this, I will officially be boycotting XXL

    • http://twitter.com/massconglom MassConglom

      Lil Wayne’s album got an M. The review was up for 2 hours and then takin down by XXL, guess YMCMB Intervened… #Puppets

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Kriese/679741033 Josh Kriese

        Seriously? #Shameful

      • http://www.facebook.com/PapaGUnit Devon ‘Papa G’ Guerrero

        lol yea cant find the review

  • 50 bitch

    fuck XXL

  • YimmyIovine

    Everyone on here complaining about XXL’s rating of Nacirema Dream are definitely the same people who stayed home and pirated the album. You can spew hate online but can”t truly support your favorite artists. Stop complaining and show some love.

  • Fern

    This is one of the Hottest Albums to drop this year……

  • D_114

    This album is decent and nothing more. Yes the beats are outdated and do not bang! Also Paps flow and voice can be boring at times. Also there are way to much songs on the album 20??? Besides its 2013 and not 1994 anymore. Why want rapartist sudenly wanna sound like the 90′s rappers? I dont get it? You can be dope and grimey in 2013 without sounding like a 90′s rapper.

    I disappointed in Pap and expedted much more. He is a mixape rapper and nothing more.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Kriese/679741033 Josh Kriese

      Your a moron

      • Trey

        It’s “you’re”. “You’re a moron”.

  • justbeinghonest

    The production on this album is terrible. The lyrics are corny too. Papoose has no finesse to his rhyming. I enjoyed the track with Premier and the production on ‘Cure’ but that’s it. Papoose sounded a lot better in 2005 and even if this dropped in 2005 it would be mediocre for its time

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.jack Ronald Jack

    There’s a thin line between vintage and outdated. I think if Papoose was a new artist they would probably be speaking of him like they do Joey Bad. But because he has been around for a minute and this project was put on hold it changes things. Overall I thought the album was solid but I wish Papoose would have taken more risks in terms of his subject matter. Cure is great but there aren’t a lot of songs like that on the album.

  • hollow chamber25

    Good i want that street hardcore shit i want the real papoose not sum guy following trends hoping on down south beats fuck xxl you have been wrong on so many albums i cant ever take your reviews seriously

  • Lebron

    Fuck XXL.

  • breezy

    XXL = illuminati. Trying to prevent any rapper who exposes them from gaining fame. We need to support Pap, Immortal Technique, and Lupe. These guys are helping to wake up the masses

  • http://www.facebook.com/franklin.glen Franklin Glen

    Ok ive been a Pap since 2005!!!! i have 5 physical mixtape of his, but im going to be as honest i can. This album would have been great 7 years ago. He took way way way to long to release this. People dont realize that he lied to his fans saying that the album was coming out in the summer of 2007. Back to the album, the album does have not 1 club BANGER. The album doesnt have not any relivent artist. no disrespect to Jadakiss and Jim
    Jones. The beats are straight hip-hop but outdated. I dont think any song will make the
    Hot 100. Radio wont play it. The track featuring Remy is boring and has to complex. Only 3 songs that our worth $1.29 on iTunes 1. Cure 2. Turn it up 3. Alphabetical Slaughter Pt II(which is good enough to get its own beat instead of it backwards, listening to the beat for 6 minutes long is overwhelming. His lyrics are on point and great, but this album doesnt not cut it. He needs something with Dr. Dre, Eminem, 50, Ne-yo, Big Sean etc etc or any big name beside Drake and Wayne.

    Beats 7.0
    Lyrics 9
    Originality 7.5
    Feature Artist 7.0
    Average 7.6

  • bullets718

    People give you the benefit of the doubt for appearing to be a lyricists every underground LP isnt a classic and honestly this LP is wack the beats sound like they were made in 99′ and Pap isnt doing anything on this LP that he hasnt done on a mixtape it sounds like a mixtape honestly. I agree XXL has a horrible review board very pop oriented but i also agree with this review pap just tries to bombard you with bars and forgets to make songs in my opinion thats corny PAP is one step above those wack battle rappers who cant ride beats he might as well go to one of those lil 1500$ battle leagues because his music SUCKS! idc if your talking about AIDS or the LAW LIBRARY thats that lil b shit try to talk about some social issue with wack music behind it doesnt matter if your nice doesnt matter if your a real niga can you make music? in this case with Papoose hell no..

  • http://twitter.com/JheriCurlJuice Jheri Curl Juice

    fuck outt here with this bullshit review … XXL sucks cock now…

  • richard

    Fuck the Reviewer and Fuck XXL.
    Shitty ass Review

  • XXL is Stupid

    How did this and Tyler’s album get “L’s” and Yelawolf got an XL? Honestly…

  • Anonymous

    Veteran Papoose fan here, been following him since 2004.

    While I’m glad that he finally got an official LP, I believe every fellow fan share the feeling that this is not exactly the “real” Nacirema Dream. And not just because it sounds outdated by now (which is not as big deal as the review suggests), but Papoose’s debut supposed to be a masterpiece. Hardcore, heavy-hitter, truly raw NY / East Coast hip-hop back and forth. Instead what we have right now…? Some patched up mix from old songs (I first heard “Die Like a G” in 2009 plus Erykah Badu said that her vocal on “Cure” is like 10 years old) where you can feel the effort and the concept, but somehow lacks the originality and power to be a memorable experience.

    Ironically, by the time he dropped it I already made my own Nacirema Dream from the more than half-thousand songs collection I have from him … and its way better than that. Truth be told, I don’t get it why this album beneficial for him in its current form. Is he running out of money that hard… ? Dude had beats from Scott Storch, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Timbaland and so on, and he wasted them to mixtapes – same goes for a lot of excellent songs mostly over original beats. Even if you don’t have more unused / paid from them, throw these on the mix and the name will sell the whole album. Or make it a double-disc LP – after all these years people who’s interested would buy it anyway. At the end of the day, Nacirema Dream couldn’t live up the expectations musically, but it’s not the wisest solution by financial terms either.

    So while it’s still better and different than a lot of major albums out there, Papoose is far from his A-game on his debut. Nothing new we haven’t heard, nothing new we haven’t seen. I’d like to love the album, be excited about it and tell everyone that he proved his potential on this one, but that’d be a lie – it’s sounds like a decent mixtape what you can bump for a while, but half year and you couldn’t recall any remarkable from it.

    Overall, I’d like to wish the best to Pap both in personal life and career-wise, but for me it seems that we have lost another potential modern day classic with that Nacirema Dream.

    • http://www.facebook.com/franklin.glen Franklin Glen

      Well said….I have been a Pap fan since 05. But i will 100% co-sign with you.

  • FrillArtist

    Hating ass review.

  • http://bit.ly/10mGDTH Michael

    I give this album a 8.0 out of 10.0 there’s joints like motion picture, law library, z to a, Cure & Mother Ghetto, r.i.p, also aim shoot that really drive you in. The REST IS TRASH.

  • Adriel Forsyth

    Pappose is in my top 5 dead or alive. That said, this album is a MASSIVE dissapointment. Listen to his unreleased freestyles from the 90s and early mixtapes, the lyrics are some of the best in history. I know papoose can do way better lyrically

  • Shifty Z. Malachi

    This album is classic don’t know what you’re talking about here. Anyways fuck you.

  • james

    its amazing how he has a song called Cure. a song about aids and cancer and to keep our eyes out for the good. yet the rest of the album is straight violence,killing,stealing, figghting etc etc

  • Instagram: NY1248

    In all honesty, nacerimA Dream is the hottest album in the passed few years. It’s actually worth buying. Support great music people so that we can get more.

    • Instagram: NY1248

      *naciremA

  • Instagram: NY1248

    Wow. i just realized they gave Pap an L… Lyrics and originality should of both been XXL. The beats was hot too. They should of got XL. i realized that XXL doesn’t support Hip-hop. they all about a what generates money. Fucking faggots