It has been said “remember when” is the lowest form of conversation, because there’s as much likelihood of sparking a sweeping memory lane conversation as a simple yes or no. Relics of the past are not inherently useful, they’re only as valuable as the interest the memory holds today.
Papoose should have taken this to heart when offering his own “remember when” moment with Nacirema Dream. The title may spark memories of 2006 when he was on the cusp of mainstream success and Nacirema was an anticipated release, but Papoose has done nothing here to make this anything but a novelty release.
Employing a lopsided flow he still hasn’t grasped control over, Papoose trips over himself throughout the 20 tracks.
He is a quality technical writer with deeper content than the lot of his mid 2000s mixtape peers, and in that pocket he shows what appealed him to Jive records. Musing over the unjust judicial system on “Law Library 8” and dropping knowledge on diseases on the Erykah Badu assisted “Cure”, he gives the listener gems they should be aware of, but his sonic deficiencies overshadow to the point where you’d rather just read a book about what he’s talking about.
He appears to be a stubborn artist, using the same tired wordplay that made someone create a website ridiculing him. Papoose has an obsession with taking everyday sayings and attempting to flip them with the grace of a popsicle stick writer, and it befalls the entire work.
With bars like “my rap’s off the wall like a 2011 poster” lurking at every turn, it’s difficult to take Papoose seriously as a rapper. When he tries to tell a story on the sleepy “Pimpin Ain’t Dead”, he mentions that his subject’s “low-rider jeans ain’t low as her self-esteem”. Head-scratchers like that ruin attempts to create a sonic narrative, and in his seven years on the shelf he hasn’t overcome his fatal flaw.
Even groundbreaking production might not be able to mask the cringe-worthy comments he is capable of, but this album definitely doesn’t put that query to the test.
Driven by generic, boombap leaning compositions, the album never manages to find a sonic footing, venturing from lo-fiesque breakbeats like “What’s My Name” (featuring Remy Ma), to synthesizer driven cuts like “On Top of My Game” that try to create an event but are let down by weak drums.
The collective mediocrity of the project reeks of an album dependent on throwaways from his 2006 prime that slipped through the cracks of label politics, and bland offerings by a small-time rapper. There came a point a long time ago that even the most avid Papoose fans lost hope for Nacirema dream, but this is perhaps worse than expected. This is an album with no voice, no mission statement, or overriding theme besides being a showcase for an oblivious rapper of a bygone era attempting a comeback but going out with a whimper.