After 17 years in the game, Fat Joe still feels that he has something to prove. As a member of the legendary D.I.T.C. crew, Joe shot to fame with his 1993 debut album Represent. He is one of the most prominent Latinos in Hip-Hop and the mentor to one of the greatest emcees ever, the late Big Pun, Don Cartagena should be completely proud and satisfied with his resume – which took a huge leap in 2004 with the smash hit, “Lean Back.” Recently however, murmurings in the Hip Hop community about his new found love for Southern Hip Hop, along with his never-ending love for using the term nigga, has put his credibility in question. Some have even questioned his status as a true emcee and not just another street credible rapper. All the opposition has put Fat Joe back in the saddle to address everything on his second independent album for Imperial Records titled Elephant In The Room.
The album opens up with the bluesy, soul looped banger, “The Fugitive.” Produced by Street Runner, this is a very interesting song as Joe becomes a gangster rain man in his own world. Besides the cocaine selling, shoot ’em up, head in the whip antics that are extremely stale, Joe reminisces on his past,(“You gotta flow Joe, you gotta flow Joe”), and boldly dares anyone to make him stop saying the word nigga, doing his best Michael Rappaport impression from the movie Bamboozled (“nigga, nigga, nigga ,nigga, nigga”). “The Crackhouse” puts Joey in his comfort zone, spitting over a sick, Miami fueled beat courtesy of Cool and Dre and features none other than everyone’s favorite featured artist, Lil’ Wayne. It feels as if Wayne is rapping like he actually just finished getting high, with his manic, bug-eyed style hook serving as the tour guide of every trap rapper’s favorite hangout spot. Joe displays some of his slick wordplay on this southern smash, (“Bullets are wholesale, food stamps, coupons, yellow mustard phantom, call it grey, poupon”).
Elsewhere, the Danja Hands produced “Cocababy” finds Joe paying homage to his Bronx beginnings with the funky, drum driven soundscape serving as the perfect backdrop for Crack‘s tough talk. “300 Brolic” starts off promising with it’s theatrical beat helmed by The Hitmen, and Joe‘s boastful tale of stuffing an enemy’s mouth with his own testicles, but the comical, overdone hook ruins the track. “Preacher on a Sunday Morning,” featuring a sick ’70s inspired theme produced by frequent collaborator Scott Storch, and “My Conscience,” featuring Hip Hop originator KRS-One, puts us in the mind state of the Fat Joe of yesteryear, as he is at his best when speaking brutal honesty, letting us know he is still that same cat from Trinity Ave with a book full of thought provoking rhymes.
The album’s weak point is when Joe consciously goes for the mainstream with songs like “I Won’t Tell”, the saccharin sweet single featuring J. Holiday, and “You Ain’t Sayin Nothin’,” featuring Florida’s young gun Plies. These songs find Joe short on creativity, but eager for radio spins. The album ends with “That White,” produced by New York giant DJ Premier. This seems like a redemption song for Joe, pleading for New York’s forgiveness for his lyrical migration down south, as the legend turntable king turns out another head banger. The content is empty, but the scratches are incredible, as usual.
Some say the end is near for Fat Joe‘s illustrious career, but love him or hate him, the man is a legend. Joey Crack has seen cats come and go in a profession not known for a great retirement package. Joe has the talent to put out a classic caliber album, but as long as he wants to stay current with the downloads and ringtones, that vision may not come to pass. There is no need for the elephant to prove that he is in the room, but he does need to show that his name deserves to be mentioned among the elite when it’s all said and done. This effort, unfortunately, is just not it.
Check out snippets of the entire album by clicking here.