Home Talking Points Potter Payper’s Story: Barking’s Star

Potter Payper’s Story: Barking’s Star

Potter Payper's Story, as told by Transparency

Potter Payper, real name Jamel Bousbaa, is a product of Gascoigne estate, Barking. He comes from a greatly deprived household, facing extreme poverty and witnessing domestic abuse with his mother – who done a stint in prison – and her boyfriend. Still, for over a decade in the UK rap scene, the rapper from Barking has been heralded the greatest rapper to emerge from the UK by the scene’s finest. Potter Payper’s story lets every struggling child in Britain know success is possible for them.

When I was little, I don’t think I was afraid of the dark
My Mum’s boyfriend used to beat her, I’ve got shame in my heart

When I Was Little

Like many kids in deprived areas – and Gascoigne at one point was one of the most deprived in Britain – Potter Payper had it very hard. His mother was sent to HMP Holloway when he was 7, so he spent large amounts of time being raised by his grandmother, who recently passed away. His father has never been in his life, and his nan couldn’t financially cope, although she did the best that she could, and he has always been grateful for that, but it caused problems. From 13, he was no longer in mainstream education.

Seen so much s***, some s*** I don’t even wanna say
’99, they said my mummy went on holiday
I found out that my mummy was in Holloway
But home is where the heart is, so I’m loving where I live

And I know most man never struggled like I did
I was coming home hungry weren’t nothing in the fridge

Purple Rain
Training Day 1 is a big part of Potter Payper's Story
Training Day 1 is essential to understanding Potter Paypers Story

With all these issues in his young life, Potter Payper poured his heart into music. He used it as a release, and that’s why his mixtapes sound like a life story, a documentary. Yes, there’s moments of bravado and glamour like all musicians, but most of his music, the music that touched us all, the music that propelled him to stardom, are the rest – where he’s expressing his pain and what he had to overcome. Things most of us didn’t have to. But what many children in these poverty-stricken, neglected parts of Britain can relate to. And that’s why we love him.

Before I told ’em “take me in”, nanny tried support me
Tried take me in
Older brothers caught me, tried break me in
Had me out for days on end, I never thought them days would end
S*** I done seen my friends turn snake and seen my mates pretend
I was rocking Primark, couldn’t even get no H&M
S*** daddy’s gone and mum ain’t never been the same again
There weren’t no food up in my house, we couldn’t pay the rent
Mummy said “you made your bed”, truth I never made my bed
Drop where I lay my head, all I knew was pain from then
Caught up in the cycle, how that system really made us men

Life of Mine

His trilogy, of Training Day 1, Training Day 2, and Training Day 3, is widely considered a UK classic, and many argue there are no better UK hip-hop mixtapes that outclass these, although it is debatable. It is so introspective, so technically sensational, and so heartwrenchingly emotive. If you want to understand the truth of life in Britain, this is what you need to digest.

Thankfully, in recent times, after years of critical acclaim, Potter is starting to win meaningful awards. He is no longer the face of the underground scene, pop culture has been forced to both accept and acknowledge his class, and influence on the youth. He has been nominated for numerous awards such as Best Male Act, Best Hip Hop Act, and won Best Mixtape of the Year with Training Day 3 – which also peaked at number 3 in the UK charts.

Potter at the MOBO awards
Potter Payper at the MOBO awards

Potter Payper’s story reflects how important it is to remember the trials and tribulations encountered by children that live in Britain’s deprived areas. Our upbringing has such an immense effect on our life opportunities, and the characteristics that become ingrained within us. We need to remember to be more understanding of people that did not have the same life circumstances as us, and provide support where we can. Support networks are the key to preventing crime.

It is also, beautifully, a reminder to the youth to never think you cannot succeed. No matter your circumstance, if Potter Payper, a man from a fatherless and motherless home, a witness to domestic abuse, a product of extreme poverty, and a stranger to mainstream education can accrue a six-figure yearly income doing what he loves, you can too.

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