In a crowded fourth quarter filled with some of the year’s best releases, there were also a few surprises. Fabolous, the talented lyricist from New York who has long been among the leaders of Rap in the Empire State, released his highly anticipated, ‘90s-themed album The Young OG Project on Christmas Day, continuing his tradition of late December offerings to his fans. As usual, Fabo’ didn’t disappoint.
It’s an album filled with features – Rich Homie Quan, Chris Brown, French Montana and even Kevin Hart – and beats that are a mix of the wavy, electronic sounds so prevalent today and the anthemic rhythms of ‘90s-style tracks, each with plenty of bass to back the lyrics. With intros delivered by The Notorious B.I.G. and even a sampling of Drake’s “Fancy” flow, The Young OG Project has tracks for fans of the many subgenres of Hip Hop, from ‘90s beats to both commercial and street hooks. And while Fabolous may not excel on all of the album’s bouncier tracks the way he does over the laid back beats, his Christmas present to the world hits the right notes.
A lot can change in a year, and from the start of The Young OG Project it’s apparent that Fabolous’ latest work wants to balance the mellow vibe of his previous Christmas release, The Soul Tape 3, with the cockier, boom-bap sound so prevalent in the ‘90s. The album’s first track “Lituation” is anything but low key, with bass and a Jamaican accent to accompany the upbeat vibe sure to be heard from passing cars for weeks to come.
“Everything brand new my nigga / Yeah, Lord Jamar, Grand Puba nigga,” raps Fabolous, referencing Brand Nubian and the emcees that dominated New York Hip Hop two decades ago. The track and its hook may be catchy, but it comes as little surprise when Fabolous says “This is hood getting money rap,” as “Lituation” is filled with less thoughtful lyrics to match the characterization.
Celebration and getting money may be two of the album’s themes, but The Young OG Project maintains a balance by switching the tempo and vibe throughout, including the album’s second song “We Good” featuring Rich Homie Quan. With a steady beat that relies on wobbly electronic backing to accompany 808s bass, Fabolous takes on an auto tune flow, his pitch rising and falling with the beat as he discusses the started-from-the-bottom dreams that made up so much of the 90s ethos.
“All Good” revolves around a similar topic: Good women, good vibes and the good life. The soul sample that accompanies the beat gives it a church-like feel as Fabolous reflects on his rise to the top and all the good things that came with it, adding in a touch of Drake’s flow from the Thank Me Later hit “Fancy” during the hook.
After a hiatus from the faster pace of “Lituation,” Fabolous returns to a slightly quicker beat on “You Made Me” featuring Tish Hyman and a series of sped up vocals in the background. Yet although Fabolous acknowledges that he’s been “on one lately,” the tone of the track is less combative than the album’s opener, instead focusing on his self-made fame and apologizing for “how you made me” on the track’s hook.
With the end of The Young OG Project’s introspective beginning comes a series of club-ready tracks, including “She Wildin’” featuring Chris Brown, “Ball Drop” featuring French Montana and “Bish Bounce.” From lines about popping molly and pole dancing on “She Wildin’,” which benefits greatly from Brown’s crooning, to the smooth beat of “Ball Drop” and the vicious flow of “Bish Bounce,” The Young OG Project momentarily takes fans back to the days of “Young’n (Holla Back),” even if both Fabolous and his style have aged.
“Gone For the Winter” featuring Velous is a toned down homage to the ‘90s, relying on a warped version of Nas’ classic “Represent” for a beat, yet with lyrics far less intimidating than references to last days spent in the jungle. After borrowing the now-infamous opening line to begin his second verse, Fabolous continues his self-assured attitude with lines like “Head high, middle finger higher / my youngin’ don’t rap but that little nigga fire / Like Ray Allen in game six when James missed / Them bars had tapped into ‘em / You know what happened to him – swish!”
“Cinnamon Apple” is another ‘90s-style track, with the decade’s trademark heavy snare competing with a more modern electronic in-and-out cut as Fab tells the story of his 7th grade ex before a tearful Kevin Hart outro enters referring to the viral video of that forlorn young man shouting at his former lady, “You was my cinnamon apple!” It’s these sorts of meta-representations that often fly under the radar when Fab’ spits. More than anything, 90s New York was a time of hard earned truths melting into the back of one’s heart, and staying there. There would be no emotional outburst for Fab’, but at least someone managed to convey how he once felt.
Using the R&B vocals of Abir Haronni and the same Holy Name of Mary Choral Family sample used to close out The Soul Tape 3, Fabolous ends The Young OG Project with “The Young OG II,” returning to the mellow, introspective style that characterized much of Fab’s recent music, proving that much like the legendary ‘90s emcees he totes so highly, he too is capable of adapting his style to the times.