Music

What Went Right With… Panama P.I.?

An image of Jamaica Queens New York with the text Pamama P.I. over itRemember a rapper named Panama P.I.? Discogs lists his real name as Teddy Cubia and as far as I know he’s from Queens New York but the rest is a mystery. If you don’t recall, Panama was an East Coast rapper who, during the late ’90s helped a number of MCs create memorable choruses. Sounding like a cross between Busta Rhymes, Lord Have Mercy and Ol’ Dirty Bastard and with a delivery like a street preacher, Panama P.I. was a unique artist. It’s a shame that he never dropped a solo album.

Most people will remember P.I. as the featured artist in numerous ’90s songs. In 1995 for example, he was responsible for Onyx’ “All We Got Iz Us (Evil Streets)” giving the song a deep-voiced, expressive hook…

He even made the remix version of “Evil Streets” a memorable joint with the chorus “This is for the gun slingers, noise bringers. This is for the crack slingers, bell ringers. This is for the bootleggers and everyday beggars, and all my hood hustlers that know where we heading”…

In 1997 he had a final verse on the song “Group Home Family” (from the Sprung soundtrack) with Lost Boyz and Canibus (skip to 2:33)…

Then in 1998 Panama appeared on AZ’s “Trial Of The Century” but his chorus didn’t really appeal to me. In the same year however, he also featured in Canibus’ “How We Roll” making the song stand out in an otherwise average album…

Panama P.I. also appeared on Monifah’s “You” Remix with Herb McGruff…

…And on McGruff’s “What Part Of The Game” alongside Cam’Ron and I Born…

In 1998 Panama P.I. also appeared on a compilation album titled U-N-I VS. All – The Universal Emcees inadvertently making fans think that he was signed to Universal. In fact with so many appearances on other Universal Records’ releases including those by the Lost Boyz, Canibus, and McGruff, I was expecting a Panama P.I. album to drop on the label but unfortunately it didn’t.

Apparently, P.I. released a mixtape titled Still In Da Game and it contained some decent tracks. This mixtape proved that had he been given a chance he could have held down an album of his own

If you go on YouTube you can find a handful of Panama’s lost and forgotten freestyles and features including the track “Pass Da Tron” by 8-Off Agallah from 1995…

And the Panama P.I. Freestyle on Sam The Sleezbag Mixtape…

You can even catch him freestyling on the street…

When no solo LP surfaced by Panama P.I. it seemed like a wasted talent, especially after all the groundwork he put in during the ’90s on other people’s albums. If you know any more details about the man; where his stage-name originated from, what the “P.I.” stands for (it can’t be “Private Investigator” can it?), whether or not he was ever signed, if he ever recorded an album, or if you have any unreleased material by him, leave a comment below. It’s a shame that contemporary Hip-Hop journalists and fans never mention P.I. especially since he had (or has) more talent than 90% of mainstream Hip-Hop released today.

All The Way From Panama.

15 replies »

  1. How about doing a interview and find out what happened to him in and out of the industry. His lady 2018

  2. I’ve known PI all of my life he is the one who gave me the nick names Tiny and young gunner PI is a true hood legend with more talent then everyone in the industry salute PI

  3. I am his little sister. Thanks for writing an article on my brother and for the recognition! He needs to be acknowledged for all of his work and contribution to the rap game.

  4. Ok. One thing i’m really confused about. On Mcgruff album ‘Destined to be’ Panama P.I was on a song called ‘What part of the game’, The same year rapper F.T (Fuc That) also from new york drops a track called F-IT-LESS. Now Panama and FT have a similar voice and style but what makes this really weird is that the hook from F-IT-Less is exactly the same as the hook on ‘what part of the game’, nearly down to a tee… I just noticed now while listening to Gruff album again..What happened here?

  5. actually he shouts FT out on that sleezbag freestyle, maybe they just agreed on using it twice, anyway interesting. both great artists. shame FT never dropped too

    • I never realised how similar those hooks were. In terms of each rapper’s style, yes they were similar but not the same; Panama was much gruffer with a deeper voice. I’ll probably write one about Street Smartz and F.T. at some point though. Peace.

    • Peace and Love this F.T. from Street Smartz love this article very informative. Shout out to Panama we worked alot together back then. Get in touch with me would love to enlighten you on why somethings never unfolded.

      [EMAIL REMOVED]

  6. Panama PI is my uncle and I see him everyday maybe you guys should come to queens and interview him and see what went wrong

  7. Good article, I have been playing a lot of Panama P.I.’s music lately. I wish he would have dropped an album on Universal records, maybe with some production by Easy Mo Bee, Tony Dofat and Agallah. That would have been dope.

  8. PI stands for Pimp. He was running with Az for a minute. Then he was seen with Ali Vegas came out in 2G. After that ghost. Another Queens vet like B1 Ak Skills that never blew.

  9. Strung out on woolies/crack and alcohol in 2020 find him on 134 rockaway blvd or 111 van wyck with the bums no one will take him seriously if he doesn’t fly right talent loss ijs

  10. I always wondered about him, very much like I wondered wtf happened to D.V. Alias Khryst. Same era and everything. But in DV’s case, I found out by chance, and he still does appearances. Panama P.I. was a real hiphop mystery to me though, not a secret on purpose (like the identity of MF DOOM collaborator Mr. Fantastik) but more like a falling between the chairs kinda thing, a lack of info. Same goes for Rawcotiks and of PMD and Agallah “supergroup” Death B4 Dishonor, and wtf happened to Buc Live and Gab Gacha of Triflicts (I know about Creature but not them), if they even still does music or if they dead or what.

    Until now, thx to the comments. Got one specific question his kin may be able to answer: which year is he born? I would guess 1970-1973 but Im a bit ocd-ish about that. Bothers me not to know. Someone should make a better discog and/or wiki bio.

    I didnt know he never made a album, I assumed he did cause he was on SO many high profile songs in the 90’s. Should probably mention I fcukin love 2000 B.C. (Canibus, 2000), its hated on cause the prod is lo-fi and its insane, angry shit and it was the time when Canibus took aim not only at his nemesis, business mogul and douchebag extraordinaire LL Cool J but also at Eminem and (sort of) on Wyclef, and ofc that can be perceived as burning bridges and/or being ungrateful, but I love it. Canibus may be nuts but in the LL case his cause was just and real personal-artistic idiosyncracy is not something we got too much of in music. Back to 2000 BC: Just like 4,5,6 (1995) I dig the lo-fi minimalism especially paired with savagery. Panama P.I.s grimy vox fits well on that LP, hes on 2-3 tracks I believe.

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