Fabolous: Back II Burn

It’s been over two years since Brooklyn’s own Fabolous has dropped his last album, Real Talk, a lot of “breathing” room. Atlantic Records chose the thunderous street anthem Breathe as a first single and it was well received by audiences – but not as much as it was when found its way onto the mixtape scene several months before. 2004’s Real Talk might have been his most personal conversation ever, but, compared to his previous multi-platinum efforts, it feel on deaf ears. Now, he finds himself on Def Jam preparing for the release of his latest work From Nothing to Something, possibly the most important album of his career.

Fab shared some air with AllHipHop.com about the year he hopes to have, his fashion line, and how the streets got the Mase situation all wrong.

AllHipHop.com: It seems like this a reintroduction to Fabolous. There’s been two years since the last album and now you’re on Def Jam… do you feel any pressure?

Fabolous: Nah, I don’t got no pressure. Like you said, it’s a return for me – it’s a return of the hustle. I’m just getting back on my hustle and getting ready to get do what I do. Being away from almost two years, I’ve got a chance to sit back and watch the game evolve and how it’s digressed, how it’s broadened… everything. I got to sit back and still come out of it to make some good music. My game plan was to keep it in the same light as I did with Real Talk: to make it real diverse and versatile. I feel like that’s the kind of artist I am, but at the same time step it notch and make it relevant to what’s going on in the game and take a chance on what’s not going on in the game.

AllHipHop.com: A month before you released Real Talk, the iPod became the world’s best-selling digital media device and eventually, Hip-Hop took a turn for the worst when it came to sales the following years. You’ve had a tremendous career with every album certifying gold or better. Do you think the digital market might hinder your success?

Fabolous: The Internet became huge since my last release, so you’re going to definitely have to tap into that Internet market to make sure you’re relevant. People now want to hear the new music first or they want to buy music… you definitely have to make your presence felt in that world. Hip-Hop has grown through the Internet, but it took a pitfall in physical sales because people are not physically walking in stores as much. You just have to make your presence felt… I mean I don’t want to put my tactics in the interview. [Laughs]

AllHipHop.com: We see you out there on myspace, homie.

Fabolous: [Laughs] Myspace is definitely one of the new things that came up and you see a lot of people are making connections with myspace. If that’s an avenue that you get a lot of people leaning your way, you definitely want to try to use that as something to help you. I was put onto that not even knowing the whole reason behind it. I got on it for fun, but after I started seeing the actual response and what it can do for you I said “this is a marketing tool.” I wouldn’t say you base your whole promotion around it, but it something that can help. You might get 2,000 extra sales here and there – it just makes for awareness.

That’s another thing about coming back out. A lot of people are losing the awareness part – music can’t just be the only thing now. You need a combination of lush life and lush lights, then you knock ‘em out now. You work the work the body – the you hit ‘em with the Mike Tyson blow.

AllHipHop.com: It does seem like an artist needs to do more than music. Speaking of which, you have a few other things going on, like the clothing line…

Fabolous: Yeah. The clothing line is called Rich Yung and is something that I was pulled in as a partner. It’s a boutique-ish clothing line, similar to the early 1990 Polo-era. It’s very stylish and not faddy because we do select pieces here and there. We caught a demand. We really started out of pocket and it grew bigger. People became so interested in our line that our demand was bigger than our supply. So what we started to do was reach out and put some joint venture offers on the table. Soon we’re looking at mass production and different boutique that can carry the line. We’re just trying to broaden right now.

AllHipHop.com: Back on the music side, how was it this time around working with the producers?

Fabolous: I had fun working with a lot of producers because it was still like another learning experience for me. This is the album that I believe will connect me unlike all my albums before. My first album was really my introduction. My second album was the sophomore album where you don’t want people to jinx anything and keep the people believing. The third album… I think pretty much did a pretty good album. It didn’t sell as much as the first two [it went gold], but it was a lot of different things that we went through at the label – on both sides, me and the label. I’m not going to blame them totally for it, but there were mis-decisions and bad timing.

AllHipHop.com: What’s interesting, is that you're one of the few artists to not totally blame the label. And even with the album title From Nothing to Something, it feels like you're starting fresh. Is that an accurate assumption?

Fabolous: Yeah. I like that feeling – exactly what you said. I like that feeling for every album. If you can keep people wanting to see what can he do – even if he can’t reach it – or if you can keep making the public getting that feeling: it’s great because everybody can’t do that. There’s a few artists that can really do that – even though everybody is talking about the same s**t, you know what I’m saying? It’s just the ways you creatively talk about it or maybe a few songs you may talk about something different; but, once you know somebody’s niche, you know what they’re really rapping about. You know Eminem’s thing, you know 50’s thing, you know Jay’s thing, you know Nas’ thing… and sometimes people switch it up. Even in Nas’ case, he may have switched it up. Once people get hooked onto your niche, it kind of hard for you. I think people were hooked on one niche and one way being Illmatic and It Was Written, and then on his next feature projects he kind of switched the basis of what he was talking about. The sound of it was street but maybe what he was talking about was a little different than what he was talking about in the past. That was him as an artist and a man evolving – but Hip-Hop wants you to stay 19 [years old] for life. That’s why with my projects, I want that feeling every time that you just said. It’s a new beginning. I don’t feel like I have peaked and I don’t feel like I’ve hit the valley either. I’m returning with something new – it’s not “this guy’s just putting out another album, again.”

AllHipHop.com: Hip-Hop and evolution is tricky. People weren’t as receptive to the evolved Jay on Kingdom Come, but if you look at his career you’d realize it wouldn’t have made sense for Jay to have Reasonable Doubt content.

Fabolous: Exactly. He had built to that, and sometimes the average fan doesn’t understand. People might say that album went over a lot people’s heads – and I feel that. But that’s because it’s the evolution of Jay-Z… he’s grown. He’s in f**king Superbowl commercials with Don Shula. [Laughs] I love when Jay raps on the ignorant tip, but the album depicts what you’re going through at that time. I try to look at it the same when going through with my album – I try to evolve, but I know the average fan. I have a tug-of-war with me growing as far as me talking over their head but I also know who’s listening and what they want to hear from Fab. I keep that in mind, but I want to definitely grow, too. That’s the challenge for me: being still able to make good music and still make people happy.

AllHipHop.com: It’s always important to know the audience. So before we end it, what’s the deal between you and Mase?

Fabolous: It was more around the time where I heard something from him. He stated my name on something and it was weird. The last time I had saw him, he was telling me that he was hearing things from his camp and my camp, but he wanted to tell me that as a man, he liked what I was doing in my career. On that note, from the horse’s mouth, I shook his hand and went on my way. When you hear s**t in the street, it’s different from you hear it directly from the person. Despite everything I’ve heard, I would take that more than anything I’ve heard in the streets. Then when I heard that, I was like “Okay.” Maybe he felt a certain way that day or maybe he got with G-Unit and 50 being an outspoken person too, he… I don’t even know. It was just weird. I had to tag him up a little bit on “Loso’s Way,” but all that’s done. Now, I got bigger fish to fry.