Veteran hip-hop artist turned music exec Papoose is opening up about why he regrets signing a $1.5 million record deal with Jive Records in 2007.
In his year of signing, Papoose, whose real name is Shamele Mackie, was an underground Brooklyn rapper known for his intricate wordplay, storytelling and freestyle skills. He walked away from a record deal that was supposed to increase his fame and fortune.
The Dreaded Deal
Since 1996, Papoose had built a solid reputation as one of New York City’s best underground artists. His 2005 mixtape, “The Beast From The East,” really put him on the underground map. But, in years past, being an underground artist and dropping mixtapes didn’t bring in any money. So when Papoose finally caught the attention of a major record label, he was ready to go for it.
On Aug. 24, 2006, Papoose announced that he had signed a $1.5 million deal with Jive Records, according to the rapper’s website.
The deal was designed to propel Papoose into the mainstream, but his debut album, “The Nacirema Dream,” was repeatedly delayed and suffered several setbacks. The album was star-packed with guest appearances from Mobb Deep, Erykah Badu, Jim Jones, Jadakiss, Remy Ma (who is now Papoose’s wife), Mavado, DJ Premier and Ron Browz. But it would take years before the album was dropped.
In an April 5 interview on “Big Boy’s Neighborhood,” Papoose told the host that he regretted signing a deal with the late DJ Kay Slay of HOT 97, who at the time had worked with Jive Records artists, but was not officially signed to the label as an artist. It was through Kay Slay that Papoose got introduced to Jive and inked a deal, which he now says was the “worst mistake” he ever made.
The plan was to release “The Nacirema Dream,” but by September 2007, Kay Slay and Papoose had left Jive, saying that they had “almost become victims of A&R hell.”
The rapper‘s album got caught up in corporate drama and got delayed, year after year.
“It was the worst mistake I ever made in my life, taking that deal,” Papoose admitted during the candid discussion. “Because I was independent for so long. You gotta realize, I met Slay in ’04. We ain’t get a deal till ’07. We was working hard. Mixtape after mixtape after mixtape.”
Papoose’s dream deal became a career nightmare.
His “The Nacirema Dream” album was finally released in 2013, but by then Papoose already had parted ways with Jive Records. Despite the challenges he faced with his label, Papoose has continued to release music independently’ he also has built a dedicated fan base over the years.
After Regrettable Business Move
Papoose did not release any mixtapes under Jive Records, and he worked independently to release nine mixtapes between 2007 and 2012. On the 2009 mixtape “21 Gun Salute,” Papoose claims that he kept the $1.5 million from Jive despite not releasing an album, according to his website.
Even without his album, Papoose’s involvement with DJ Kay Slay made him hated by fans because they felt he was not being true to his underground roots, and one of his highly produced songs was never played on the radio as he wanted.
“My first single had Snoop Dogg on it, produced by Scott Storch,” Papoose said. “And they was like, ‘Okay, now we can finish him for real because if we don’t play this record he’s gonna look crazy.’ ”
He added, “And that’s what they did, long story short. A couple other bad situations, the deal folded. So I went back to the street.”
Jive Records, acquired by Sony BMG Music Entertainment in 2004, was eventually folded into RCA Records in 2011.
Back to his Roots
Since then, Papoose has released several albums and mixtapes and collaborated with notable artists such as DJ Premier and Busta Rhymes. He’s back to being independent, and at one point released an album every month — distributing them digitally. His latest album was in 2023, titled “February.”
Papoose is also known for his socially conscious lyrics, often addressing issues such as police brutality and racism in his music.
On Executive Path
Papoose, whose net worth is estimated to be $500,000, was recently appointed head of hip-hop at TuneCore, a Brooklyn-based company that specializes in independent distribution, publishing and licensing deals for emerging artists.