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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fabolous From Nothin to Somethin Review

F-a-b-o-l-o-u-s. Around September 2001, the recitation of those letters were ubiquitous on television (TRL and 106 & Park) and radio (whatever radio station you listen to). Before he received pop culture notoriety for the ABC name game, it was Fabolous’ one-liners/punchlines that kept the streets buzzing. The mixtapes showed his potential, but the albums…not so much. Fab struggled his whole career keeping street credibility with his core fan base (i.e. tracks like “Keepin’ It Gangsta”) while maintaining mainstream accessibility and consumption with the kiddies (i.e. tracks like “Trade It All”). Four studio albums deep, hopefully Fab has perfected the formula on From Nothin’ to Somethin’

“From Nothin’ to Somethin (Intro)”
I’ve never seen such a blatant rip-off of a region/artist. The beat instantly conjures up thoughts of contemporary Southern production; guitars, horns and adlibs too. While the cadence Fab uses resembles that of a Clifford Harris (T.I.) verse. Also, Fab dumbs down the verse heavily failing to spit any of the one-liners he’s known for. It’s apparent on this intro that Fab or Def Jam (Fab’s label) got the memo; anything Southern = $$$. What was I thinking expecting good lyrics from a proven lyricist?

“Yep I’m Back”
The lyrics pick up a bit on this track but, not by much. Producer, Freebass, does his best impersonation of Shawty Redd of Thug Motivation/Young Jeezy fame with another “Southern” beat. Cadence-wise and lyrically this track sounds a bit more like the Fab fans are used to, yet he still manages to produce more swag than actual lyrical content; a rap game norm nowadays.

“Change Up”
Fab recruits the strangely popular, but infectious, hit-making, synthesized voice go-to-guy, Akon on this track. Fab rhymes about how he’ll never change up because of his dough and how friends from the block change coat when the greenbacks pile up. Fab finally begins to show shades of his former self with punchlines like “them other niggas be full of themselves/get money and disappear/try to pull a Chappell.”

“Make Me Better”
Timbo’s on the board which makes a big, big difference as far as the quality of the track. This bass heavy club joint has summer banger written all over it. Add in the fact that Neyo is on the hook and you got what should have been Fab’s lead-off single. What’s up with the blatant Kanye b-b-b-b-b-bite? I can’t front though the shit is hot. The vocal performance by Neyo and verses by Fab won’t disappoint.

“Baby Don’t Go”
On what appears to be another track for the TRL and 106 & Park demographic, Fab pairs up with synthesized voice go-to-guy Jr., T-Pain while Jermaine Dupri handles the production duties. Fab’s flow is a bit more polished (more fluid with more witty one-liners) on this track although the subject content is cupcakin’.

“Return of the Hustle”
Just Blaze handles the track, which is usually a good thing, but this beat does too much for this effort. Meanwhile, Fab struggles to match the grandiose beat with weak lines like “shorty work it, she be on here ass hustle/she make it clap, she be on her ass hustle.”

“Gangsta Don’t Play”
Let the Junior Reid revival continue…Although, I know this track contains no creative merit at all and is on this LP because “One Blood” by the Game and the “This Is Why I’m Hot (Remix)” by M.I.M.S. both had significant commercial success, it’s still one of my favorite tracks on this album. You can’t lose with Junior on the hook.

“Real Playa Like”
This is what Lloyd’s “Get It Shorty” would sound like if it was converted into a rap song; not to mention Lloyd’s featured on the track. Polow Da Don does the beat—which is kind of sick. Although it comes off as an obvious attempt at reaching the pop charts it turns out being an enjoyable track. In it, Fab rhymes about taking a shorty to numerous vacation spots around the country and world.

“First Time”
Wow. Note: Fab rip up your street cred card. On this track Fabolous reminisces about his first time, how sweet. Sometimes sexy, sometimes space alien look alike, Rihanna, is featured on this track which will be another shot at the TRL demo. This track would be more at home on a Lil Romeo/younger Bow Wow album.

This is kind of ironic. On Street Talk, Fab was the established artist giving Young Jeezy the shot. Now it seems like Fab collabs with Jeezy to accrue some buzz for his album. “Diamonds” was the initial lead single but because of the lack of response it was receiving on the street, I don’t think the label put much push behind this track. That should be an indication that the track was wack. If you want more details, throw around a couple of adlibs and some lame similes in reference to jewelry and you have this track.

I actually was excited when I saw Jay-Z and Uncle Murda (I never heard dude before and I hear he’s amassing a following in NY barring the eye jammy he supposedly caught) were featured on this ode to BK, but it actually turned out to be pretty wack. Jay’s verse was ehhh…and Uncle Murda sounds like what my Olde English drinking uncle would sound like if he rhymed.

“I’m the Man”
This track isn’t about much as can be assumed by the title. Red CafĂ©, who I actually wanted to hear rhyme, only assists on the hook while Fab enumerates the many reasons why he’s the man. I don’t know if it’s lack of effort or if Fab just ran out of rhymes but lines like “young Denzel, I’m the inside man/they open they legs and let me inside, man” have me wondering what happened to the kid who used to wreck DJ Clue mixtapes.

“Jokes On You”
When are cats going to figure out how nice Don Cannon—the producer of this track—is? Although he’s very reliant on sampling, his beats are crack (reference “Cannon” from Da Dedication 2 mixtape. Just when I gave up on Fab, he puts together two solid verses along with a good stanza from Pusha T of the Clipse as the two trade one liners about how other emcees are a joke. Yes, it’s another collaboration.

“What Should I Do”
Fab brings back old friend Lil Mo just in time—the second to last track—to lace the hook. This track has the most substance on the album and is probably the only track on this album that has some artistic merit as Fab rhymes about various fans of his that write to him relating their desperate situations; a soldier at war and a kid coping with a parent divorce.

“This is Family”
I guess this is the Desert Storm crew cut. I miss crew cuts from the 90s and earlier. This particular crew track wasn’t that good though as it is full of no namers that aren’t that good. Budden and Fabolous’ verses were the only ones I was checking for. Both delivered decent verses.

From Nothin To Somethin is what’s wrong with rap right now. Fabolous is a dope emcee, but instead of relying on his lyrics (something he had to do when he was a no one), he relied on clearly formulaic collaborations that will assuredly make him the dust/get him sales. He snatched up every pop artist that has a hit in the last six months (Rihanna, Lloyd, T-Pain, Akon, Neyo, Junior Reid, Young Jeezy) and the producers who made big hits in the last six months (Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri, Polow Da Don etc.). He even dumbed down his lyrics to make it easily digestible for a younger audience. This album is an obvious attempt to get on the billboards, get some spins on one of those alternative radio stations that play rock and rap and get requested on 106 & Park or TRL. But, for those who actually like Hip Hop or good rap for that matter this ain’t it. Fab shows potential but with four studio albums already, it’s way too late for that and he should be hitting this stride at this point in his career. I hate to be that guy but this is a shameful display of New York rap and a big disappointment from someone cats really thought had potential.

Final Verdict: Sucks Balls

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