When New Orleans rapper Dappa was on tour with his sometime collaborator and fellow Fresh Music Group member DJ Novi, he had about 40 records already recorded for a new project, but he was missing one thing: a cohesive theme. Soon, the touring stint with DJ Novi allowed Dappa to step back and notice a theme in some of the previous recordings. Once they had a theme in mind–the never stop mentality of those chasing success and money– the rest of the songs fell in place for his newest album, The Paper Chase. Together with executive producer U-P, the rapper released the album earlier this month.
Dappa and U-P didn’t just make another album about money and fame, though. “It’s Dappa’s way of doing it,” says the rapper, addressing the qualities that set Paper Chase apart from other albums. “I’m witty. My personality is like no other.” U-P also emphasized the album’s humor, saying, “Dappa’s persona isn’t like, ‘I’m hood, I’m a gutta boy trying to get this paper.’ He’s more like, ‘I might be from the hood, but I’m not out flashing guns.’ So, there’s more of a lightheartedness to what he’s doing. There’s more of a comedic sense to what he’s talking about.”
The humor and close bond between the duo is apparent from the album’s first song, “Victory,” where Dappa, near the end of the track says, “Alright, U-P, cut it off. You’re giving ‘em too much. You’re giving ‘em too much. It’s just the beginning of the album, son. I’m about to–hold on, I’m coming in there.“
Other rapper/producer combos might shy away from such a jocular attitude during recording sessions, but these two are cousins. Still, oddly enough, they didn’t meet up until Dappa left college. When Dappa wanted to get serious about his music career, his father was sick, and his mom wanted to make sure her son used his music as a creative outlet. She and their cousin Bookie, whose claim to fame was his past role as Juvenile’s barber, put Dappa in contact with U-P, who was doing radio edits for Cash Money Records and No Limit Records at the time.
Dappa met with U-P, but the producer wanted to make sure he’d be working with someone serious about the music industry. To show U-P just how serious he was, Dappa went to Ohio and enrolled himself in a four-month production school. When those four months elapsed, and Dappa graduated, he went back to U-P with his diploma in hand, showing that he was ready and serious about making music.
Reflecting on the mutual benefit of having a close collaborator like his cousin, U-P said, “You’ll never be successful in the industry by yourself. It’s harder. When you have a team, you have them follow you, or you follow them. It depends on whatever the stars have aligned for that moment.” Dappa and U-P’s team has grown in recent years. In June 2015, they started a record label, Fresh Music Group, which doubles as a music collective consisting of Dappa, U-P, Raney, DJ Novi, Chloé and others. With Dappa having toured with Lil Wayne, having opened for Snoop Dogg and A$AP Ferg and having a record go platinum, The Paper Chase is his latest milestone.
When discussing the album, U-P said, “I love the first time you hear [Dappa’s] voice. I’m damned if I do. Damned if I don’t. Can’t please all y’all. So I do what I want. That for me is the tone for the entire record.” Dappa agreed, adding, “Isn’t that a New Orleans person’s persona? I’m doing me. There’s a slight cockiness in there.” Throughout their careers Dappa and U-P have continued that mentality, creating successful careers by making music for themselves and never shying away from making something a little bit different.
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