Review: Fat Joe: The Darkside Vol. 1

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Fat Joe deserved a mention.

Joe, the rap artist, has been stomping around Hip-Hop since

the early 90’s and the years haven’t been perfect. But, gotdamnit, Fat Joe

deserves a mention. Since his debut in 1993, the rapper seems to be hitting his

stride again in 2010 with The Darkside Vol. 1. The album truly is a coming home

for Joe, who took his art down South, saw the Terror Squad fall to pieces and

duked it out with 50 Cent.

Lets start the album from the ending. This is where you get

some of the most potent and sincere raps from the one know as Joey Crack. The

Darkside goes in on “Heavenly Father” when he reveals the inner issues Big Pun

faced before dying in 2000. “Cheated with his brother, got damn this b**ch is

ill probably the reason my n***a never left a will,” he says talking about

Pun’s widow Liza Rios. The whole song is one  of regrets and the shedding of the dead skin of the past.

“I’m Gone” is another gem that’s produced by the great DJ Premiere. The song

certainly evokes an era of purity and doubles as an ode to the late Guru. The

album ends with a truly dark song called “At Last Supremacy” where the godbody

Busta Rhymes sounds quite demonic and “How Did We Get Here” presents R. Kelly

in a refreshingly supporting role. But, Darkside ends so strong with Joe’s

newfound penchant for heartfelt, earnest songs.

The middle of The Darkside isn’t so dark. In fact, its quite

bright with club joints like “If It Ain’t About Money” with Trey Songz. The

party continues with “(Ha Ha) Slow Down” (featuring Young Jeezy) and “Mo Problems” which

evokes old Public Enemy. “Money Over Bitches” with Too Short & TA is

definitely a tired cliché and sticks out in this section of The Darkside.

Misogyny is so 90’s, one of the facets this composition could have done

without. 

The other aspect The Darkside could have been lighter on was the

crack content. But on the beginning of The Darkside, Fat Joe keeps it ultra

street. On “I Am Crack” Joe lyrically personifies the 80’s era drug when it was

really ravaging the nation. Well, the beat knocks, even though this trail is

well traveled.  The same applies to

“Kilo” with Clipse and Cam’ron. A hot beat with well-worn lyrics from rappers

that have rapped about drugs ad nauseam. The whole album starts off with

“Intro,”  “Valley of Death” and

“Rappers Are In Danger,” which set the tone for this crack-rock solid album.

“And we gonna throw the biggest party with Curtis dies…b***h a** n***as,” Joe

says spitefully in the intro rap. The tone is set.

Yes, Fat Joe deserves a mention as one of the greats.

Sure, he’s still talking about the streets, the crack and

the beats that remind us of a “golden” era that’s pretty much dead.  But, he also offers lyricism only a 90’s aficionado will appreciate. He’s got beats with hard drums and scratches on hooks. His songs don’t pretend everything is sweet. He’s getting better even if he hasn’t evolved as some of his peers. So, Joe may not pop up in the latest Top 5 Dead or Alive, he definitely pops up in the legends of longevity and linguistics. The Darkside ensures there is more to come from Fat Joe Cartagena and the future is actually quite bright. 

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