SANFORD, Maine — The state’s weed-smoking, hip-hopping, f-bomb-dropping king of rap, Spose, just published a book. Aimed at kids, it’s about an unhappy pinecone named Pete.
Illustrated by fellow southern Mainer Steve Gendron, “Pinecone Pete is Not Impressed,” tells the story of the cone’s quest for a gold coin at the top of a mountain. The journey takes Pete far from home and the people he loves. He must overcome many perils. But once he wins the coin, he’s not as happy as he thought he’d be. That happiness, it turns out, is back home on the coast of Maine with his friends — a leaf and an acorn.
The allegorical kiddie tome is loosely tied into Spose’s new album “We All Got Lost.”
The dense collection of 14 interrelated tracks are all about struggling through your 20s, looking for direction, success and a sense of purpose. The alt-rock-tinged tales veer in and out of autobiography. Some songs are bleak, almost journalistic. Others sparkle with Spose’s trademark self-deprecating sarcasm and humor.
The eponymous first track sets up the rest of the album:
Look, I think they set us up to let us down
‘Cause I don’t quite know what to do, where to go.
Who I am, where I am right now?
Thought I would be on top, with a pool and a yacht by 29,
23, she’s pregnant, I’m unemployed, we gon’ be fine.
Or so I hope, will I choke, will I stay afloat?
Record label, no, let me go, got me losing hope.
I left college with no degree, oh woe is me.
This debt addressed to boulevard of broken dreams.
When Spose first got noticed — in 2009 — he was 23 and waiting tables in Ogunquit. His wife was pregnant with their first child. Then, things started happening all at once. Spose, whose real name is Ryan Peters, signed a record deal, filmed a pilot for MTV and was getting ready to move to New York.
Then, it all fizzled. But it ended up being a good thing.
Spose concentrated on building his creative life in Maine and — like Pinecone Pete — found fulfillment at home. Now, he’s a happily married, 33-year-old father of four. He’s making a living in music and loving life. He says he doesn’t like to be away from Maine for long stretches, touring, anymore. He’d rather be home, having supper with his family.
This week, Spose sat down to talk in his office, above an Aroma Joe’s coffee shop in downtown Sanford.
Q: How did you get the idea for these two, related projects?
A: I’m fascinated by the concept of your 20s in America: How we all go into them ready to take on the world. Then, you slowly f-up everything and everything goes wrong. It goes not according to plan and nowhere near what you conceived it would be — how people get chewed up and spit out in the pursuit of the American dream. Then, all the people who do achieve the dream, and reach the pinnacle of success that we all dream of, kill themselves or overdose — we push them right to the edge. We do everything we can to poke these people, harass them. Then we say, “Oh, rest in peace.” Then there’s big essays saying, “He was flawed.” It’s disgusting to me. Those concepts informed both the book and the record.
Q: Is that anything like how it happened for you?
A: I was like, I’m signing a record deal at 23, I’ve got all this money, but I was still an f’in idiot. I had no concept of how to be happy, how to get my life together. At that age, they’ll tell you how to get a home loan but not how to be happy.
Q: How hard is it to make a hip hop living in Maine? Wouldn’t it be easier if you moved to a big city?
A: Life is just a constant battle against being depressed and self conscious and the city just drains you. I lived in Boston when I was in college and I could not wait to get back to Maine. When I lived in Maine as a teenager I was like, “I gotta’ go to Boston or Los Angeles.” But once I got to those places, I couldn’t wait to get back over that bridge [into Maine] or fly into PWM. The only places I’ve really entertained moving to are like Brunswick or Rockland. Any disadvantages you could point out about being a rapper in Maine, I could point out just as many advantages. One of them being that the media here is very easy to manipulate into writing about you [laughs]. There’s no news stories. It’s like: The cat is stuck in the tree and a storm’s coming — that’s the news story. I got robbed on tour and it was a news story, everywhere in Maine. If you’re a musician from Illinois, and get robbed on tour, that’s not on the news.
Q: Why a children’s book?
A: I like a challenge. I’ve put out enough CDs so that it’s not really a challenge anymore — and you can’t assume that anyone will give a crap that you just put out a CD. You can’t assume the music is good enough. It’s like, what can I do extra to attract attention. Last time, I released an album with a phone app, and I once did an album in a day.
Q: Are there more books in your future?
A: I’m already maybe getting too old for this. Long after rap, I want to have creative endeavours that can sustain me in Maine.
(Note: The following Spose video includes a swear word.)
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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