by Somath Duong
Paper chasin' within the rap and hip hop world refers to the process
of gettin' money. The paper part is short for money because well... money is
made from paper, riiight..., and chasin', well, that's the act of pursuin'
somethin'. So if you add it up, paper chasin' is the act of tryin' to get
money. This lingo is used in many rap and hip hop songs. If you don't wanna
believe me, just listen carefully to a rap song, not Will Smith off course,
and you'll hear it. Most of these songs are about the hardships of paper
chasin'. And it's true, paper chasin' is hard work. It's hard whether it's
sellin' drugs or playin' the lotto or workin'. Gettin' money is hard, period.
One of the hardest wayz of paper chasin' I've ever seen, from first hand
knowledge, is the actual act of paper chasin'. And I say this literally.
What I'm leadin' to is, well... the actual pickin' up of paper (cardboard). What
I'm referin' to is the reasons and behind the scenes aspects of chasin' paper
as a form of paper chasin'.
You know how you be drivin' sometimes on I- 80, bumpin' some Nelly, and you
see this phat truck full of cardboard comin' at cha. And it's alwayz
surrounded by a thick *bleep* cage. If you live in Oaktown (Oakland), I
know you must've, cuz, they everywhere, takin' over. Well, all I know is that
I have and I've always wondered what they were doin'. I mean, come on,
there's gotta be a reason, right? Bein' the curious type, I decided to
investigate this phenomenon. The thing I found most intriguin' was that the
drivers of most of these trucks were Khmer, just like me.
At first, I was kinda afraid to step up and ask the drivers about their
profession. I didn't want to be all up in their business. But soon my
curiosity took over; besides, they seemed like good, hardworkin' people.
When I did talk to them, I told them how I didn't understand why they would
work so hard at somethin' that seems so tedious and endless, especially
when they couldn't possibly benefit that much. Man did they prove me wrong.
It's not just something they do on the side, like picking up cans to sell,
but it's a part of their lives. It can be the difference between spam and
So, here's how the "Paper Industry" works. ("Why is it an industry?" you
might ask. Read on and you'll find out.) Anywayz, here's the run through:
- You need to get a truck. It doesn't need to be new, just as long as it
doesn't consume too much gas.
- You need to install a cage all around the pickup bed. This is where you
store your cardboard. (You can build your own from wood or you can go to a
metal shop and buy one, but buyin' one costs extra).
- When actually collecting the cardboard, you should start small. Go to
local stores or just anywhere you can find the cardboard. After a while,
you can move on to factories, malls, etc. Hopefully you will begin to build
up a clientele.
- After you've gathered enough cardboard, that means your truck is filled
to the top, take it to a recycling center. The recycling center will pay you
around 75 to 135 dollars per ton depending on the season (or as I like to
call it, the ups and downs of the paper market).
- Repeat this process as much as you can. The more paper you get, the more
cash you get.
From the above description, it might seem that anyone can do it, but it is
actually a very hard and cut-throat business. The gathering of the paper
itself is hard. It is back-breakin' work. You have to make numerous trips up
and down the truck to stack each piece of cardboard. With each piece of
cardboard weighing only 3-5 pounds, imagine how many trips you would have to
make to get one ton of paper. There is also a lot of competition. For
example, the trucks are gettin' bigger and bigger, with people shellin' out
more and more money for more advanced cages. People are also wakin' up
earlier, tryin' to get the most and best cardboards. Man, I've heard that in
some cases there have arguments and fights over certain disputed paper
territories. People are even finding loopholes in the actual industry. Some
people are starting to spray their cardboard with water so that the cardboard
can soak it up and gain more mass, after all, the price depends on weight
not volume. This might not seem like a big deal to you but every little bit
Some of you readin' this might be laughin' and makin' jokes about the paper
industry, but that's cuz you don't understand the reasons behind their
actions. The paper industry, at its core, is a means of survival. A lot of
the families that are involved in it are obviously low income, so this is a
convenient way for them to make extra cash with the benefit of working
around their own schedule. And also cuz there's no culture or language
barrier that they have to work through like with a regular job. Most of the
time, these people are just workin' hard for their kidz in hopes of a better
life for them. In a way, these paper chasers are pioneers with the
resourceful nature and determination to live despite the many constraints on
them. For some, these constraints can be the barely livable wage of federal
aid such as AFDC and Foodstamps. For these people to improve their life they
have had to improvise around their situation. In fact, there are people who
would consider the paper industry a demeaning line of work, but if you talk
to the paper chasers you will find that most feel no shame, only pride,
because in the industry they depend on themselves and no one else.
Now you guys all know the real deal behind paper chasin'. So next time you
see that truck rollin' by, don't point and stare but give the driver some
props. Not only are they workin' hard and helping themselves, but you are
also reaping the benefits. Their tremendous recycling effort is improvin' the
environment and savin' the earth. In fact, all you youngsters readin' this
should probably give a shoutout to all the paper chasers out there. This
very article wouldn't even exist without the paper industry...after all, the
paper this is written on is recycled.