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This week’s song/music video is for the song “I Just Want the Paper” featuring chorus vocals by The Notorious B.I.G. (Produced by ME!)
INSIGHT INTO A SONG:
Strap yourself in, get a good cup of coffee, a light snack, and a comfy place to sit – THIS one’s gonna be a looooong one…
The journey for this song starts back in 2005. I graduated from college in May, and had been living at my uncle’s house in Lansdale, PA for 6 months. During that time, my financial situation had gone from bad, to much worse, to the point where I could no longer afford to make payments on my Honda Civic, and had to change over to an older car donated to me by a family friend. For reasons too long to type right now, I moved back down to Richmond in November of that year to live with my mom.
Then, believe it or not, things got even WORSE. My car broke down, and the only job I could manage to find was as a window cleaner, which, due to my fear of heights (combined with the fact that it was wintertime, and I got VERY cold having to deal with water in 40-degree weather) lasted barely a week.
By January of 2006, I was feeling beaten down. Here I was, a college graduate from a well-respected historically Black college, and I was back at home with no idea how to get myself out of my rut. And I was depressed – not in a “oh my God, my life is so horrible I want to kill myself” type of way, but more in a “I should be doing more with my life than I am because I know I’m smart enough” type of way.
When I wasn’t searching around town for a job – eventually, I ended up working at a dinner theatre company in Richmond on weekends for $30 a day plus tips – I would be on my Mom’s computer making beats on the bootleg Fruity Loops program I’d bought off eBay. I had been working on a beat where I placed Aaliyah’s vocals on top just to see what it would sound like. The instrumental was upbeat, but it seemed too fast-paced for the Aaliyah sample I had chosen.
Eventually I ended up placing her vocals on another song (which has yet to be released, but will be once I become famous and can afford the cost for using said vocals), but had no idea what I would use the beat for.
Then, a wonderful thing happened: I started to make some money. And not just from my job…
While at home one Sunday in January, I was looking in The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s auction section, and happen to come across an ad for a yard sale where the lady was selling everything in her house for $5 or less. I hadn’t started getting paid at my job yet, and all I had on me was $12. I borrowed my mom’s car and headed over to the sale, buying as much as I could with the money I had (which, given how low the prices were for these items, was actually a lot).
Once I returned home, I put all of the items up on eBay. Lo and behold, the majority of the items sold for 3 times what I paid for them!
I proceeded to do the same thing each weekend for the next 8 months: I’d get up either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday morning (or sometimes all three), go to yard sales around town, buy stuff I thought would sell well on eBay, then go home and place them up for auction online. Eventually, I ended up making enough money to buy a car for $500 and move down to Atlanta, along with the first two month’s rent to boot!
Anyway… around my second month of doing this, I became less and less depressed, and I realized why: even though I still didn’t have a car, and still lived in my Mom’s house, I was happier simply because I had some money in my pocket. It may sound dumb, but just knowing that I was able to not have to rely so heavily on my mom to help me financially, and that I could contribute to the groceries and gas bills made me feel like I was on the right path towards being on my own.
BTW: Anyone who says having money won’t make them happy is LYING to themselves. I had next to no money, and I was definitely NOT happy about it.
It was also around this time that the 8th anniversary of the death of one of the most beloved rappers of all time would be coming up soon – namely, Christopher Wallace, better known as “The Notorious BIG.” He died in March 1997, and I always had a dream of wanting to do a song with him. So I figured, what better time than then to do a song with his vocals somewhere in the song?
I started tinkering around with some acapella Biggie vocals I found online, but couldn’t figure out which one I wanted to use. Then, I got the acapella from his song “Dead Wrong” – most of the song is actually quite inapproriate, but I’ve always loved the song – and I found a part of the song I could use for the chorus:
“I don’t wanna rape ya/I just want the papa’/the visa, capicia?/I’m out like – the vapors!”
I was going to use the verse as originally said, but it dawned on me that talking about rape in a chorus might not catch on too well. So, I decided to just have him say “I just want the papa'” twice in the beginning of the sentence. Still sounded pretty catchy!
So, I was going to just use that, but I wanted the chorus to switch up a lil’ bit in the second half. I found another song of his called “Everyday Struggle” where he says the line, “sittin’ back, countin’ double-digit thousand stacks,” and thought that would go perfect with the song!
Lastly, I figured I should add my own part to the chorus. I decided I would take Biggie’s words literally when he said he “just” wanted paper, meaning all other things associated with it – “the cars, the clothes” – wouldn’t matter nearly as much as just having some money in my wallet.
From then on, the song just kind of developed by itself. It took me a couple of months to get all the words down for the song, working on it bit by bit until it finally sounded right. Why did it take so long? Read on…
Some Interesting Song Tidbits:
1. This is one of the songs I made where about 75-80% was freestyled. For some reason, I was able to think of the verses for the song in chunks, at different times, and memorize them. The entire first verse was recorded off memory, and portions of the second and third verse were also mostly freestlyes that stuck in my brain.
2. The fourth line of the song uses a sample of Destiny’s Child’s “Soldier,” the part where they say “gotta carry big things, if you know what I mean…” The “big” thing they are referring to is their man’s member endowment, and I thought it would be hilarious for me to put in the song. (And, in case you’re wondering ladies… well, keep wondering!)
3. The line, “now my future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades” came to me when I was watching a VH-1 special of the top 100 1-Hit Wonders, and one of the songs mentioned was “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades). Ya never know where influence will hit ya!
4. Starting at the 3rd line of the second verse and ending at the 5th line, the flow used was copied from Nelly’s big hit “Grillz.”
5. My favorite lines in the song – “I’m tired of sitting there all day, simply just lay/ing around, with no chick to hold me down/ you can’t invite chicks – over your Mom’s house!” – was taken from a freestyle I did on a Mobb Deep beat prior to the recording of this song. I figured, “hey, since no one will hear that freestyle, I might as well use that line!”
6. The line, “I’m fixin’ /to get with Vixens…” was written for a specific person. At the time, this girl on MySpace whose screen-name was “Vixen” had been writing me in response to many of the blogs I’d been typing on my page. She lived in Richmond, and we had gone out once or twice. I was considering performing this song at an open mic night, and I asked her if she would like to see me perform. She said yes, and, at the time, I thought it would be cool if I inserted that line into the song so that when I said it at the show she’d be impressed. She ended up not showing up, though… I still performed the song that night, and liked the line so much that I kept it in the song.
7. The line used at the end of the first and third verses – “Damn, it feels good to live life like me” – was taken from a Tony Yayo song! As under-appreciated as his album, “Thoughts of a Predicate Felon,” was, I was bumpin’ that CD HARD when it first came out, and he said this line in one of his songs. The way he said it sounded so good, I was like, “Dang! I have GOT to say that in one of my songs!”
8. The beat was produced by me using my Fruity Loops program. Aside from the Biggie and Destiny’s Child vocals, there are no samples in the beat. Hire me, people!!
INSIGHT INTO A VIDEO SHOOT:
I shot the video in April of this year. I had just gotten my hair cut after having grown it out for six months, and suddenly wanted to make a music video for one of my songs.
I hadn’t really gotten into the whole video-making mode yet, so I didn’t know all the video editing programs I had. I had another one I was using, but it wouldn’t allow me to just load up a video and show it straight through – the program liked to dice up the footage instead and play it out of order. For this reason, I decided to just shoot the video as a one-shot deal.
But I didn’t just want it to look like some boring ol’ video of me staring into the camera saying my song. So, I figured if I moved around a lot and jiggled the camera, people would either get dizzy or think it was a cool effect – either way, they definitely would not be bored watching it!
Some Interesting Video Tidbits:
1. Prior to making this video, I had gone back to Richmond to… well, actually, I had driven up to DC to see a portrait of Stephen Colbert (of “The Colbert Report” fame) and drove through Richmond in the process. I picked up some boxes of papers and magazines I had left in Richmond when I moved down to ATL. One of those magazines just happened to be a XXL Hip-Hop magazine with The Notorious B.I.G. on the cover. When it came time to make this video, I wanted a visual representation of him on camera, and it just so happened that I now had the perfect way of doing that: by showingthe magazine pic during the chorus!!
2. This video was shot in my apartment. I think I may have been sitting around and just suddenly decided to do a video, because my place is quite junky. A slower-deciding version of me might have wanted to clean up first, but oh well!
3. I actually had this video posted on YouTube back in April. However, I took it down yesterday and re-posted it because I had included a download link in the video for the song that stopped working 7 days after I posted it. Of course, back in April, no one was trying to download any of my songs, so all the links to them went dead. Clearly, it’s a different story now 🙂
4. Estimated editing time: less than an hour. I think I need to do more one-shot videos!
That’s all for now – enjoy the song, available exclusively on “The O-Bama Mixtape” (for now). See ya next Sunday!