For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Papoose has been one of the most feared lyricists for nearly two decades. But, he’s a father now and when COVID-19 upended his recording of his new album Endangered Species, he didn’t take any chances with his health to finish the project.
“When I finally did go to the studio I told them, ‘If I’m going to come over there, nobody can be there, I’m going straight in the booth. We can wave at each other, we’re not shaking hands,’” Papoose told REVOLT. “I went straight into the booth, got it done, came home, took off my clothes at the door and then went into the house. I have a one-year-old at home. I couldn’t take any chances.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Papoose explains how his creative process can sometimes annoy Remy Ma, the making of his Endangered Species album, and his unreleased Dr. Dre collaborations. Read below.
How did you put together this album during a pandemic?
My album Endangered Species comes out Oct. 9 and we worked on the album before the pandemic hit, and the fucking pandemic came out of nowhere, and we were like, “Damn, we have to put it on hold.” So, we put it on hold for a little while. We started doing it in an actual recording studio, but thank God I have a studio in my house. The finishing touches was started at home. When things calmed down a little bit, I put on my mask, got my alcohol spray, which my wife doesn’t let me leave home without, and I snuck back in the studio socially distant.
Was recording in the studio during the pandemic the same as recording before it?
Nah, it wasn’t normal at all. We had to be socially distant. I did this album with all live instruments with Brady Watt. The musicians were begging me from the beginning of the pandemic like, “Yo, we have to get back in the studio. It’s OK. This is not that serious.” I took it a lot more serious than most people beforehand because I saw what was going on. My wife and I was doing our research and was like, “This shit is about to get serious.” They were looking at me like I was an idiot. I was like, “It’s serious. We have to put this album on hold.” When I finally did go to the studio I told them, “If I’m going to come over there, nobody can be there, I’m going straight in the booth. We can wave at each other, we’re not shaking hands.” I went straight into the booth, got it done, came home, took off my clothes at the door and then went into the house. I have a one-year-old at home. I couldn’t take any chances.
How much of the album was done before the pandemic?
Before it hit, I had 60 percent of the album done.
Since you were recording at home a lot, what was Remy’s involvement in the making of your album?
Honestly, she didn’t really have any involvement. When I’m doing songs like “Tribute,” she’s kinda annoyed with me because I go into my own world (laughs). I’m so focused on what I’m doing. When I’m creating music, you could be right there in the room with me and it’s like you don’t exist. She gets annoyed when I’m creating. She be like, “You’re overdoing it.” I’m like, “Nah, I have to focus on this.”
The song “Tribute” breaks down different Black people unjustly killed in alphabetical order. What was your mood putting that together?
It was a real sad process and depressing that I was able to go in alphabetical order and name a person. Also, I know there were so many I didn’t include because there were too many for the alphabet. As I was doing my research and looking at some of the cases, it was really depressing what I was learning. These cases happen in the media, then they go away and everyone forgets about them. But, when I went back and saw how these officers got off, every last one of them walked away like nothing happened to them. It was a sad record, but it was very necessary. I wanted to do it in alphabetical order, so I could show that this happens so many times over and over again. I put a lot of time into making that song. It took me a couple of days to complete that because it was so much research I had to do.
COVID-19 made an appearance, via a verse, with you rapping from its perspective. What made you want to go that route?
I’m really deep into poetry. I’m a big fan of poetry. I consider myself a poet. Anything I do, I try to approach it from a poetic stance. That enables me to really express myself and cover all the different aspects. It took me about an hour and a half to do that verse. I like to wake people up through my music. I thought if I speak from the perspective of the virus, it would create an awareness and scare certain people to think, “Damn, this shit is real.”
How did you get French Montana and Conway The Machine on your album?
Conway is one of my favorite new artists out. I reached out to DJ Premier because I saw they were working together. I said, “Preem, I want to get Conway on a track.” Preem reached out to Conway and he was like, “Hell yeah!” Conway’s humble, but he has a lot of talent. I respect his pen. Conway and I actually got in the studio together. He came to a studio in Manhattan and flamed the track. So, shoutout to Conway.
With French, him and I go way back. I’m happy to see his success all the way from the DVD era. I had to get my guy French to do this hook.
Let’s go back a bit. Your verse on Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It (Remix)” is probably one of the greatest remix verses ever. How’d that come about?
Busta and I had just started working together. I was doing so many records at the time. He reached out to me and it was honestly just another record to me. I went into the studio and I was tired because I was doing so many different shows every day. I was recording every day. He called me and I was like, “I’m so tired. I can’t make it to the studio.” I went to the studio in Manhattan and I was like, “OK.” I wasn’t really excited about it. I don’t write with a pen and paper, I just think of my lyrics. As I’m sitting there listening to the beat, I fell asleep and I wrote that verse in my sleep. When I woke up, I said, “OK, turn the mic on” and I recorded it (laughs).
That’s insane because that song would put you onstage with Busta Rhymes, Missy [Elliott], Mary J. Blige, Lloyd Banks and Eminem for one of the biggest moments in BET Awards history.
When I did that “Touch It (Remix)” verse and that video came out, I couldn’t go to the mall no more. I was doing shows all the time and had an underground buzz. But, Busta called me onstage when he had a show at an arena to do my part on the “Touch It (Remix)” record. When I walked out onstage, the whole building erupted and started screaming. I was looking behind myself like, “Who are they screaming for like this?” It was for me! At rehearsal for the BET Awards performance, I was looking the crowd and they had everyone’s names on their seats for where they’ll be sitting during the show. I see JAY-Z, Beyonce, and all of these people’s names. As I’m onstage, I look to my left and Eminem walks up. He was like, “What’s up, Pap?” I was like, “Oh shit, Eminem knows who the fuck I am” (laughs). I just showed him his respect and kept it moving. I was definitely honored that he knew who I was. That show was crazy.
Besides “Touch It (Remix),” the Sean Bell tribute record you made in 2005, “50 Shots,” really put you on the map. Was the process making that different than making a similar song like “Tribute”?
The process was the same. I was upset and outraged that that happened. I felt it was my obligation to speak about it. Most people my age at the time might not pick up a Daily News or listen to a Minister Farrakhan speech, but they’ll pick up a Papoose mixtape. So, I decided to talk about it in my music. He gave me the beat and I recorded it. I work fast when it comes to stuff like that as opposed to “Tribute” where it’s 26 people. I recorded “50 Shots” and then went to Canada because I was touring there. My phone exploded. I was on the front page of the paper. I was all in the news. That song went crazy. Al Sharpton actually reached out to me. We actually marched 50 blocks to signify 50 shots.
What was the studio session like for a 20-year-old Papoose and Kool G Rap for his “Home Sweet Funeral Home” song in 1998?
It was amazing. I couldn’t even believe I was in the studio with Kool G Rap. A friend of mine had introduced me to him. I met him and rapped for him for about an hour. He was impressed and gave me that head nod. He was working on his album not too long after that. He called me and said, “I want you on this record right here.” He started playing this beat and I just went in the booth and did my thing. [Root of Evil] was the first album I was ever on.
Out of all the songs you’ve recorded, what’s an unreleased song you hope the world can hear?
I had beats from Dr. Dre when I had my deal with Jive records. I had production from Dr. Dre. I wish those records could’ve came out. I had two different records and they were bananas.