Barking and Dagenham in the early ‘00s (whether he knew it or not), was where the Training Day journey would really begin. When the first mixtape dropped in 2013, Potter Payper was already entrenched in the lifestyle that we hear about so candidly in a mammoth 70 songs across what turned into a mixtape trilogy. The majority of these lyrics were written during his time spent touring the country’s Young Offenders Institutes and Her Majesty’s Prisons.
“Too Much Years” on Training Day sets the scene – a young man who has already spent ample time in prison for selling drugs and trying to make ends meet and provide for his struggling family. A story we unfortunately know all too well – institutionalised young people in vicious cycles of violence, imprisonment, pain and trauma with a lack of opportunity or means to break out. “Purple Rain” is a frank depiction of the bleak existence that is being a child without a Father and with a Mother in prison. He also touches upon the heartbreak of his Nanny Lucy, who brought him up, having to visit him in prison years later.
“’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” (Purple Rain, TD1)
At the end of 2016 and 12 years on from his first prison sentence, Potter drops the sequel - Training Day 2. Tracks such as “Carpe Diem” and “Life Of Mine” perfectly illustrate the pain and desperation felt by many young people who are forced to grow up quickly due to their personal circumstances. The picture painted is that of an almost 25-year-old reflecting upon the repercussions of some of the choices that he and others around him have had to make in their lives.
Despite an awareness of the painful consequences of his actions, Potter continued to find himself in stuck in a vicious cycle. In 2017 and less than a year after TD2 dropped, he was imprisoned again until June of this year. Preparing, praying, planning and performing - the last 3 years for Potter have been preparation for the “make or break” moment and what has followed has been life changing for him.
“I been in and out of prison, Mummy feeling like she failed. I did my 21st in Aylesbury, 18 down the block in Felts, I turned sweet 16 in Warren Hill, imagine how I felt” (Life of Mine, TD2)
After his release, Potter set pace with the 2020 Vision Freestyle and same titled mixtape, but fans were patiently awaiting the announcement for Training Day 3. TD3 meant completing the journey that devoted friends, fans and family had all followed Potter on for the last 7 years. The final tape feels like a genuine shift into a life whereby music is his full-time job and he can provide for his family in a meaningful manner free from danger and destruction.
Despite this shift, TD3 remains authentic to Potter’s style and sound that we’ve all come to know and love – gritty but emotive. The opening track “Sorry” is the invigorating introduction to the final chapter of a trilogy which will certainly be seen as seminal in years to come. The samples used (which were kindly put together for our listening by Mimi The Blogger) bring a touch of nostalgia and familiarity which sits comfortably beneath some of his most forthright storytelling. Tracks such as “A6586AM” feel like the aforementioned shift – no longer a number in a system but instead one of the best rappers the country has ever seen, but this time, to stay.
“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, TD2)
On release day I went down to the London pop-up shop put together by Sanctuary LDN – a step into Potter Payper’s shoes – picture Pyrex jugs, gold jewellery and fifty-pound notes. A touching sentiment was a red post-box where letters could be written and posted, which I was told would all be sent to Mover (fellow rapper, and Potter’s long-time friend and cell mate for 8 months) who is serving life in prison. The following day he announced the tragic news that his Nanny Lucy had passed away, a pain fans felt deeply for him. Throughout the trilogy we’ve heard of her often, a woman who is a significant motivating factor in his continued strive for freedom and success.
Despite such a big loss, Potter continued his pop-up shop tour (honourable mention to the team at Groundworks), stopping at Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Loyal fans queued to show love and support, as well as cop merchandise and personally signed copies of TD3. The following week, Training Day 3 came in at No 3 on the Official Top 40 Album Chart – a momentous occasion, but bittersweet in the shadow cast by the loss of his Nanny. Potter has always had the gift of turning pain into productivity and I have no doubt this will be the case going forward.
“Hopped out the gate to a Bentley, got me feeling like AJ at Wembley. I got a house in the sticks, I’m living stress free. God bless me, guide me, protect me.” (Purpose, TD3)
The Training Day trilogy covers many sensitive and emotive topics including domestic abuse, youth violence, death, life sentences, mental health, suicide, imprisonment and addiction. It tells the story of a family living in poverty – an absent Father, a Mother in prison and a Grandmother who stepped up in their absence, which is something that transcends music. For many, there will be relatability when listening to the mixtapes, for others, it may serve as a nostalgic soundtrack for a time during their life.
Although this chapter is now complete, Potter has plenty in the pipeline including a Training Day documentary, his first album (as opposed to a mixtape), a sold-out tour planned for March 2021 and he also plans to write a book. Potter Payper is a real lyricist, has a bag of flows and is a road rap legend. Despite spending roughly 1/3 of his life behind bars, he’s proven that personal struggle can be used as both a motivator and a tool to encourage and comfort others. What he has achieved in 4 months was probably unimaginable whilst sitting in a prison cell, and although it’s only the beginning, his journey thus far should be respected and admired. The Training Day trilogy represents the disadvantaged youth who have faced the hurdles and battled their demons to start climbing the stairs to success.
“And I don’t sleep long enough for the dreams I have, I put my life in a song and then rewind back. I hope I live long enough to show the streets my back.” (Trapstar Memoirs, TD3)