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It takes talent to make the struggle to succeed seem effortless, but that is the gift that separates artists like Brooklyn's John Jackson, aka Fabolous, from the everyday MC. While most rappers spend more and more time convincing the masses of their hustle, Fabolous lets his work speak for his effort. With two platinum albums (2001's Ghetto Fabolous and 2003's Street Dreams) and one Gold (2004's Real Talk) to his credit, the veteran hitmaker still exudes a rookie-of-the year swagger. After recording for both Elektra and Atlantic Records, Fab is enjoying a home coming with the legendary Def Jam label.His first recorded song was If They Want It from DJ Clue's The Professional, which wasreleased by Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam in 1998. Now he is preparing to release his fourth street classic, From Nothin' to Somethin' under the watchful eye of his longtime collaborators. Fabolous will release his long-awaited new fourth album, FROM NOTHIN' TO SOMETHIN', on June 12th. Alongside Ne-Yo, Timbaland and Young Jeezy, the album features producers such as Just Blaze, Jermaine Dupri, Polow Da Don, Jazzy Pha, Steve Morales and guest stars include Rihanna, Akon, Swizz Beats, and Lloyd.
It's hard to catch a break when you're Fabolous. Though his skills as a manufacturer of blazing-hot street bangers and pop-crossover hits have not gone unnoticed by the hip-hop hype machine, the Brooklyn rapper hasn't come close to matching 50-Cent and similarly gifted superstars in the sales department. Which accounts for his decision, with album No. 4, to do somethin' about it. From Nothin' to Somethin' rounds up a massive herd of talent--Akon is here, and so are Swiss Beatz, Rihanna, Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, Lloyd, Junior Reid, Ne-Yo, and T-Pain. It's a little hard to locate Fabo on "Change Up," the Akon track, but otherwise he goes about spreading his Fabolousness throughout: "Diamonds," a bling-centric track with Jeezy, benefits from a borrowed take-it-easy Southern drawl, "Brooklyn" brings it home for New York with a spirit seldom seen since the East Coast/West Coast war was at its nastiest, and "Return of the Hustle" solidifies a career built on street cred with an asphalt-hot beat. Start to finish, but especially on the Timbaland-helmed "Make Me Better," production is top-notch. If there's a disc that can restore the fabulousness to being Fabolous, Somethin' is it. --Tammy La Gorce
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While many of the songs feel as if they MAY touch close to home for Loso(Change Up, Make Me Better, Baby Don't Go, First Time), Fabolous rarely does the subject matter the justice it deserves. It's not that Loso doesn't provide some hot rhymes, it's the fact that he would rather speak about his women and his rivals than get on an entirely personal level. Change Up, an otherwise incredible collaboration with Akon, feels as if Loso is trying to connect with his fans in the sense that he's still the same ol' Fabolous, but the fact of the matter is, most fans WANTED a new Loso that took all the potential he possesses and uses it to propel himself as one of the best new millenium emcees in the game. He fails to truly touch base with his fans through the fact that he rarely mentions his own life outside of a few quips, and brags. Otherwise, this track has some decent lyrics, a dramatic beat, and a nice chorus from Mr. Konvict Muzik.
Make Me Better is probably the best hip-hop track I've heard in quite awhile. Produced by Timbaland, Timbo flips the same sample RZA did on Raekwon's Rainy Dayz(from the classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...), and creates the background for a new-era R&B-hip hop collaboration. Ne-Yo's on the hook, and provides one of the most memorable hooks in awhile. Fabolous, meanwhile, shows his appreciation for a special lady that he feels makes him better, even though he's a "force all by himself." This all makes for a potential hip-hop classic, and one of the tracks that raised expectations for this album before its release.
Baby Don't Go is alright. T-Pain's hook is catchy, if not spectacular; something we've all certainly gotten used to with Teddy. The beat isn't particularily noteworthy, but it's by no means bad. Fabolous flows like water from a stream, as usual, and saves this track from being filler. Return Of The Hustle is a track featuring Swizz Beats, yet produced by Just Blaze; Blaze, undoubtedly one of the best producers alive, supplies Loso with a dope backdrop that Fab rides all the way to the back. Swizzie does his job as a hypeman perfectly, and this track ends up being another one of the standout cuts.
Gangsta Don't Play features Junior Reed, who, since One Blood last year, a lot of emcees have called on Junior's services, but this is certainly the best of the Junior Reed guest features I've heard since then. Fabolous hosts this track, and definitely keeps this being entirely his own. Real Playa Like had the potential to be another album standout, but Polow's beat isn't quite up to his standards, and Lloyd provides nothing to the track. Also, at this point in the album, the playa image Fabolous has always provides us with seems a bit played out.
First Time is more genuine than the last track, as Fabolous actually does get intimate over the melodic beat, while Rihanna sings the haunting chorus. This is one of the better tracks on the album, and Loso's expression on this track, while less than subtle, is at least authentic. That virtually ends the R&B half of this album, although there's still one more to go. Up next is the party-cut, Diamonds, featuring Young Jeezy. A lot of people hated on this track at first, but it's one of the better singles released all year. Jeezy's verse is the usual adlib-enhanced trap-rap he always spits, but that's by no means a bad thing; he even provides some witty(yes) punchlines on his guest spot. Fabolous manages to hold it down against Jizzle, and this results in one hot cut that any fan of Loso or Jeez will appreciate.
The B.I.G. sample on Brooklyn isn't as tight as it should've been, but that doesn't stop this BK collaboration with Loso, Hova, and new Roc-Star Uncle Murda from being one of the album's finest cuts. Repping their 'hood, all three emcees do their thing. Jay's Robin Thicke rhyme is particularily noteworthy. I'm The Man featuring the new Konvict, Red Cafe, is a nice for what it is. While it's not a standout, it's certainly not bad either, and both emcees spit tight verses.
Jokes On You featuring one of the tightest emcees alive, Pusha T(of Clipse) is a track I had higher expectations for, but unfortunately, the track is dragged down by a slightly weak Don Cannon beat. Although Cannon has done some dope beats in the past, this isn't one of them. It's not all bad though, as Pusha and Loso both show great personality on their rhymes in this track, and this punchline fest ends up being pretty dope. What Should I Do is the type of track this album needed more of; the most emotional track Loso has ever done. Loso is sent numerous letters from various fans, who ask problems involving their life, and the lives around them, hoping Loso will somehow be able to answer them. Lil' Mo's chorus is simply beautiful, and the beat is intricately laced. The final bonus track featuring a gang of emcees, including one of the most underrated rappers ever, Joe Budden, This Is Family, is a dope posse cut to close out the album.
Overall, as I said in the beginning, this wasn't Fabolous at his most introspective like most of us hoped for. This wasn't Loso's classic album that he has in him. That'll come. But From Nothin' To Somethin' IS one of the strongest albums released this year, and should tithe Loso's fans over until the next release. He's still the same Loso he's always been; and maybe that isn't so bad afterall for now.