There are two Fat Joes. One is the gun toting South Bronx monster member of D.I.T.C. who is known for that rugged street flavor. The other is Miami Joe, known more for the floss than the grit; club banger maker extraordinaire. His last album, J.O.S.E. 2 was underwhelming; snatching some of the luster off of Joe’s Miami life. For those that love that hardcore New York Hip-Hop aesthetic, Joey Crack returns with quite the banger on The Darkside Vol. 1.
The album is full of top-notch production from Just Blaze, Cool & Dre, Scram Jones, Scoop DeVille and the all mighty DJ Premiere. Suffice to say, Fat Joe came through in the clutch.
The haunting “Intro” immediately puts pressure on the competition with smashing drums and and urgent strings. The Cool & Dre-produced ”Valley of Death” is a slow moving banger with California guitars and soul samples drizzling over the rough drums and hi-hats. “Welcome to the Darkside” (Scram Jones) features a few clever lines and hard production, ending with “We gone throw the biggest party when Curtis die.” Draw your own conclusion.
Just Blaze gave Joe an immense, bottomless beat for “I Am Crack” and Joe delivers one of the all time gully songs, speaking as the drug itself. The track boasts a truly inspired Blaze and Mr. Cartegena drops lines like “It’s Crack, baby minus the incubator” that do the song justice.
The “Kilo is 1000 grams” sample, first flipped by Ghost is somersaulted by DJ Infamous on “Kilo” which features The Clipse and Cam’ron. A very ugly organ, funk guitar and bassline milks every ounce of malevolence out of the beat construction. Pusha continues his press to be the top hard rhymer while Killa adds that famous Harlem flavor all over the track without the Dr. Suess Dipset rhymes. Infamous bodies “Rappers Are In Danger” with similar fire. The famous OC refrain from “Time’s Up” is scratched to death on the hook and Joey puts his foot in the beat. The spirit of Soul II Soul’s classic “However Do You Want It” is conjured on the Jeezy-assisted “Slow Down (HaHa).” Jeezy chooses not to lean on those tired ad libs and performs admirably.
By now you’ve heard the Cool & Dre club banger “If It Ain’t About Money” featuring Trey Songz in all his yupness. The ass-shaking beat, with great arrangement, good raps and R&B boy candy on the hook make it early runner for club song of the year. In a change of pace, Scoop DeVille wrecks a Flash Gordon sample like Stevie Wonder behind the wheel on the titanic “You Don’t Want No Problems.” Dope lines from Joe include, “Weezy on the Island where a day feel like A Milli.”
R. Kelly drops by on “How Did We Get Here” returning to his more soulful delivery. It’s solid but not one of the classic R. Kelly rap collaborations. “Money Over Bitches” is Fat Joe’s best Tupac impersonation, as the beat resembles “Pain” from the Above the Rim Soundtrack and the chorus has that ‘Pac rhythm/melody in it. Not to mention the obvious MOB of the title. “Heavenly Father” feat Lil Wayne addresses Pun’s widow and deads any notion that Joe owes her anything. Wayne doesn’t actually appear in the body of the song, but Joe manages to carry the song alone.
DJ Premier-produced “I’m Gone” was produced the day Guru died and is triumphantly somber with a punctuating piano. An immensely chunky string and hard drum create the perfect storm of malevolent sorrow. Joe’s homage in lyrics to Guru is appropriate tribute. The album closes with “At Last Supremacy” a moment of clarity where Joe perhaps realizes how strong of an album he has. There is a ravenous Busta on the chorus and orchestral strings with a hide-and-seek bassline running through the track.
Fat Joe delivers a superior album that plays to his strengths while honoring the spirit of his South Bronx roots. After his last outing , you wondered if he still had it. In response, he dropped the signature album of his career, packed with club hits, mixtape bangers, and well-sequenced, well-produced Hip-Hop music; An album for the jealous ones to envy.
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