Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fat Joe

Fat Joe used to be something different. Coming out of the Bronx in the early 90's Fat Joe's first two albums didn't sound all that different from Big L's Lifestyles of the Poor and Infamous. Not that Joe was on that level lyrically. No way, but his songs were similar in content and organization. A lot of boom-bap beats, songs about roughing dudes up with your hands, a lot of my rap skills are comparable to various types of illegal weapons, and a few punchlines sprinkled in here and there for good measure. Don't get me wrong, Fat Joe was no Big L, not even close. But, his early albums still managed to capture a similar vibe.

To go back and look at some of the videos from the start of his career, particularly "Flow Joe" is an exercise in early-90's rap archeology. Watching this video is unearthing a lost world of a pre-jiggy-with-it era where everybody stood on a freezing rooftop somewhere in the outer boroughs bobbing their heads to the beat. Fat Joe is in the middle of his huge entourage, pointing out his boys and telling us all 93 is going to be the year of the fat man.

In the years since, the snowy rooftop became a Miami mansion. His goon squad morphed into a harem of women, and his wardrobe transitioned from stylish yet functional winter wear to an absurd puffy and feathery blue hooded vest. And instead of mean mugging the camera, for Fat Joe's coup de grace in We Thuggin, he leaps, fully clothed in said puffy and feathery blue hooded vest, into a gigantic pool.

Clearly, times have changed. Fat Joe aimed a whole slew of songs at the ladies and unfortunately, a bit of his thuggish and ruggish side went unnoticed. I'm speaking only about his music, not his character. It's long been established Fat Joe is a dude that ran and probably still rolls with some real life killers. Killers as in people who have actually killed people. He's not a dude to be fucked with. After 50 went at him back in 2005, he claimed, in a XXL cover issue no less, that no rapper has more street credibility than Fat Joe. A claim I thought was a little outlandish until I noticed no one dared question him. He's one of the few rappers to be questioned in a murder investigation, actually, two murder investigations. Complex just put together a nice series on Fat Joe's top ten physical altercations, and some of them are amazing. Aside from busting numerous dudes over the head, Joey Crack managed to get into it with Roy Jones Jr, who stepped to Joe after hearing Joey drop his name in the New York Remix.

According to Fat Joe, he told Roy Jones, "I know you can swing on me. You're the champion of the world. But you're not going to leave this club." And Jones didn't swing, the champion of the world held back from knocking out a very large rapper. Says something right there about the weight dude carries.

But back to the music. The same way Joe kept his name in the street, unfettered by all his radio hits and lady oriented joints, he has kept his music there for anyone who cares enough to dig a little bit deeper into his albums. You listen to some of the deeper cuts and realize, Fat Joe now is the same Fat Joe Da Gangsta from his first albums, he's not the dude that made What's Love. In a lot of ways, What's Love and all his radio singles gave Joey a chance to keep making his harder tracks, to keep being himself.

And in doing so, he's kept up a tremendous work ethic, this being his tenth solo album. And on the subject of his work ethic, Fat Joe has consistently improved his own rapping abilities. Starting off with a more shouting to the crowd style, you can tell his work with Big Pun forced him to step his own rap game up quite a bit. Instead of just a few punchlines, his rhymes got a bit deeper, and his flow more varied.

This of course brings us to his new album, The Darkside. It's nothing short of fantastic. For starters, it's short, 13 tracks clocking in shy of 45 minutes. Even better, it's not filled to capacity with guest appearances. There's a few rappers that drop by, but they all contribute to the song, you never get the feeling Fat Joe is rapping on someone else's track. The production is tight, and more importantly, it fits with the vibe of the album. Even with a bunch of different producers, the overall feel music conveys the same feel throughout the whole album. And Fat Joe kills it. He sounds hungry to make a filler-less album and he does. He comes hard (pause) every song, never gets lazy, and never lets the beats do more work to carry the song than his vocals. Alright, let's get to it.

Unkut - Ten Fat Joe Songs You Missed


check the last line

kilo - feat the clipse and cam'ron

slow down - feat. young jeezy

pure fire


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