By: Thomas Golianopoulos
POSTED: 17:21 EST, June 26, 2006
Roots: Brooklyn Moment of Truth: Meeting DJ KaySlay outside of New York’s Hot 97 studios in early 2004 Flavor: Intelligent hoodlum rhyming over block-rockin’ beats Cosign: “I see the same grind in Papoose that I saw in 50 Cent when he was first putting out his mixtapes. When people have the right work ethic, you have to back them.”—Chris Lighty
Riding shotgun down Brooklyn’s fabled Flatbush Avenue, Papoose finds his timing is a little off. On the radio, Hot 97’s DJ Mister Cee plays Busta Rhymes’s “Touch It (Remix),” which features the 28-year-old MC. With his verse approaching, Papoose blasts the volume, but the moment is spoiled when a promo engulfs his opening line. “C’mon, Cee,” Pap groans.
False starts are nothing new to Shamele “Papoose” Mackie, who made his national debut on Kool G Rap’s 1998 effort, Roots of Evil. Off that appearance, Papoose says he was offered an eight-album pact from Select Records. It was the first of many deals he’d reject.
After passing on the offer, Papoose immersed himself in the shady side of his Brooklyn streets. A quick stint at Rikers Island, however, clarified his career intentions, and it wasn’t long before he recorded a demo. After receiving several cold shoulders outside of the Hot 97 offices, Papoose finally passed his demo to DJ KaySlay and received an invitation to appear on his radio program. But it was a bittersweet moment because his manager, Born True, had just died after having a stroke. “When I was leaving his funeral,” Papoose says, “the phone rang, and it was KaySlay.”
Floored by Pap’s on-air rendition of “Alphabetical Slaughter,” Slay signed the artist to Street Sweepers Entertainment. But it wasn’t until they hit the studio that Slay realized Pap had higher aspirations than most MCs. “Papoose wanted to change the format of rap songs,” Slay remembers. “He wouldn’t want to rap 16-bar verses; he was doing 60-bar verses. I had to make him understand.” So Papoose countered with high-minded buzz-building records like “Charades,” on which he rhymed from the perspective of a police officer.
Now also aligned with Busta Rhymes’s Flipmode Squad, Papoose says he has been offered deals in the high six-figure range. But citing the need for creative control and a guaranteed release date, the 2005 Justo’s Mixtape Awards Best Underground Artist remains without a major-label deal. In fact, he sports that status like a badge of honor.
“The way this shit is constructed, it’s easier for the wack dudes to get on,” he says. “We played our cards right by not rushing into those deals.” And until the right one comes along, Papoose isn’t showing his hand.
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