Papoose: Pain is Love [Full Story from the October 2011 Issue]
It's 8 o'clock on a warm Monday morning in June, and 32-year-old rapper Shamele "Papoose" Mackie is pulling his black Cadillac escalade into the parking lot of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, in Westchester County, New York. It's a 40-minute trek he makes up to three times per week from his New Jersey residence, to see the love of his life, his incarcerated wife, Reminisce “Remy Ma” Smith.
Remy, 30, is in the fourth year of her eight-year sentence for assault and weapons charges stemming from the July 2007 shooting of Makeda Barnes-Joseph outside of a Manhattan nightclub. This past February, an appeal she had filed was denied, signaling that she may well have to complete her full term.
Unless a final appeal being prepared by her lawyers is granted, she will be behind bars until 2015.
But on this particular day, there’s no discussion about the time Remy has remaining on her bid. It’s the time Remy has
now with her husband, son and stepson. (Her son and his three children range in age between 11 and 13.)
At this moment, gone is the rough exterior of Remy Ma, the former Terror Squad rapstress who shined on the Grammy-nominated “Lean Back” in 2005. In an olive-green jumpsuit, Remy is mother and wife today, showering the two young boys with hugs and kisses, cleaning off the top of a soda can before one of them takes a sip and asking if they finished their homework. She kisses Pap three times, gripping his hand tight, and the two do their special handshake, which ends with them each throwing up first two and then four fingers—for “two-gether four-ever,” according to Pap.
After accompanying Papoose on his visit, XXL set up phone interviews with each half of the MC couple. (Department of Corrections regulations prohibit inmates from taking part in three-way calls.) Here, Remy and Papoose talk about what it’s like to hold down a family under such challenging circumstances.
“I can’t wait ’til she’s out,” Pap says. “I can’t wait.” — Mark Lelinwalla
XXL: How did you and Remy meet?
Papoose: Slay [Pap’s mentor, DJ Kay Slay] always spoke highly of her, and one time he had hit me, like, she wants to do a song with me. So eventually she came to the studio in one of our sessions, and we did a track together called “Bonnie and Clyde.” I think that was the Cutting Room Studio, in Manhattan. At the old Cutting Room, though, on 678 Broadway. On the track, I was throwing a lot of—I was flirting on the track, you know what I mean? Well, she ain’t really flirt on the track. She just did her. But I was flirting on the track. We just never lost contact after that. We always stayed in contact.
Can you describe the moment when you heard the verdict in Remy’s trial?
The night before they had her verdict, Remy left that morning, and I was asleep when she left. She kissed me, she left, “See you later.” I was actually coming behind her that particular day. I was gonna just come that day. I was on the West Side Highway and shit, actually took a cab, ’cause driving to Manhattan sucks sometimes. So I was driving in a car service, and she started texting me. One of my mans was there—one of my close friends was there already. We were gonna meet there at the court. She started texting me, like, “Yo, where are you? They starting to surround me. A lot of officers in here. They starting to surround me. I got a bad feeling.” I was like, “Yo, I’m on my way. I’m almost there.” But I was fuckin’ stuck in traffic. And my man, he had me on the phone, and he was like, “Yo, I don’t even wanna go in there.” But he was standing right by the door and shit. He was like, “Yo”—she was texting me, so we was texting back and forth. I was like, “Yo, just stay calm. It’s gonna be aight. I’m sure the truth gonna come out.” So she was just describing to me the environment, and after a while, she stopped responding. So it was, like, quiet. Then I heard somebody made, like, a loud uproar and shit. I was like, “What happened?” My man was like, “Yo, she blew.” Shit! I couldn’t believe that shit, man. Even talking about that shit now, that shit gives me chills. What the fuck? That shit was ridiculous. I eventually got to the courthouse. I’ve never seen her free since that day, you know what I’m saying? She had a lot of family members there, and everyone was upset. It was like a funeral.
Like a funeral?
To me, that’s what a courthouse is like. I get the same type of feeling when I go in the funeral and I go in the court building.
I get the same type of feeling because I don’t feel like one person or no amount of people should be able to judge a person’s life
like that. Just people getting 50 to life, 100 to life. You got people that are doing 25 to life, and you find out they’re innocent. How can you repay that, you know what I’m saying? It’s a lot of innocent people in jail; it’s a lot of guilty people in jail. But it’s a lot of innocent muthafuckas that’s incarcerated, you know? So I guess justice is blind. It’s all based on how good you prove your case, not whether you’re guilty or innocent. It’s bullshit. Long story short, it was like a funeral. Lot of tears, man.
Did you cry?
Nah, I didn’t cry. I refuse to cry. You know what I’m saying? I ain’t gonna do that. I gotta be strong for her. I gotta be strong for our kids. ’Cause I know it’s gonna be better days. This shit don’t break me, man. It don’t break me.
FOR MORE PAPOOSE, GO TO PAGE 2
Usually a woman is holding down her man. It’s usually the man who’s locked up. In this case, it’s the opposite.
Yeah, definitely. Guys always complain, “That fuckin’ bitch. When you go to jail, they’re not here for you. They gone.” But when you go to a male facility, that shit is crowded, packed with females. When you go to a women’s facility, there’s nobody there, bro. There’s a lot of females incarcerated. Nobody visits them, not even family. If you ever see a visitor, it’s their mother or something to that degree.
How hard is daily life without Remy?
Definitely, it’s hard. But how we got our life constructed is as if she’s there, even though she’s not there. Basically, my phone line is open 24 hours a day. Just like a regular family would function, I don’t make decisions that would concern our family without her. She’s involved in everything in our household. Even though she’s incarcerated, she’s only 40 minutes away. I take the kids to visit her, and like I said, I don’t make any decisions that concern my life, her life or our kids’ lives without her.
Even though she’s behind that wall, we still live our life like that wall don’t exist. I got my closet behind the wall on one side, and her closet is on the other side, as if she’s still there. All her shit is hung up nice and neat. There’s certain times I gotta do things without her. There’s definitely times when the kids need a woman’s opinion more than mine.
What’s an example of something you’d wait until talking to her about?
One of the kids get in trouble at school. There’s two sides to every story. Like, if my son gets into a fight at school, he’ll have his story, and the teacher will have another story. I give her the whole dilemma and just get her opinion on it before I react on it. “Do you think he should be grounded, or do you think he’s innocent?” I get her opinion on everything. Remy also kind of coaches my daughter, like, “Yo, since I’m not there, you can’t let him bury himself in clothes.” Because I’m a mess. And she tells her, “You got to make sure he don’t fuckin’ eat out every night.” So my daughter be cooking and all kinds of shit, and Remy be walking her through it. It’s like she’s there, even though she’s not there. She calls in the morning and asks if her son went to school yet. “Did you check [their] homework? Did you handle this bill? Did you do that? Did you take the garbage out?” Around the clock! My life is constructed as if she’s there. There’s nothing I do without talking to her, and vice versa. To some extent, her life is in my hands, being that she’s incarcerated. There’s certain things I got to do for her that, if she was home, she’d be able to do on her own.
How hard is it when your kids ask about when she’s coming back?
They’re children. They don’t really understand why she can’t leave with us when we leave off the visit. One time, we were on a visit where—’cause they have these special events where they go in the gym—we get to move around. They play music, we bring food, kids come, people, family members come. And my son asked the security guard, “Can Remy leave with us?” And however the CO responded, he had the impression that he said “Yeah.” So he’s thinking all this time, when we leave, she’s leaving with us. When we were about to leave, and Remy couldn’t leave, it upset him. It made him cry.
Do you have to be extra-sensitive with Remy’s son?
Honestly, I treat him like I treat one of my own, straight up and down. He is one of my own. He’s my son. I talk to him. I let him know the situation she’s in and that one day she’s going to be home again. It’s hard for him, though. It’s real hard for him. But he understands. He definitely needs some special attention with his mother incarcerated. I can’t imagine growing up with my mother incarcerated. My mother was there with me 110 percent, so I can’t imagine my mother being in jail. That kid is strong.
How do you think your lives will be when she comes home?
It’s going to be even better and bigger. We got a little more wiser now. This type of shit… They say what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. Well, that shit is true. We learned a lot. We learned a lot about each other, about life and people. This has been a hell of an experience. For me to sit back and say it’s easy, I’d be a damn lie. This shit’s been hard. It’s been an uphill battle to watch her suffer like that. When one of your homies go to jail, at the end of the day, it’s a man. But for a female, it’s hard, man. It’s multiplied.
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