Album: Street Dreams
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
OK, I’ll admit it. In a similar fashion to how I liked both Angie Martinez albums, I also find Fabolous not as wack as most other people do, nor as irritating, nor as boring. In fact, I actually find him quite listenable. Maybe its his similarity, both in voice and flow, to former Bad Boy Mase – another cat who I quite liked while everybody else wanted him banned from picking up a mic – I’m not sure. What I can say is that most of his singles have been interesting, his debut album wasn’t bad at all, and the lead single off this sophomore effort, ‘Can’t Let You Go’ is pretty nice. These three factors have all contributed to me actually looking forward to checking out “Street Dreams”.
Def Jux fans should probably stop reading here. The rest of you, can feel free to continue.
From the jump, its plain that this album is gonna take over where his debut “Ghetto Fabolous” left off, with Fab’s dry monotone flow laid over hot beats from a host of commercial rap’s most popular producers. Yeah, sure he ain’t saying nothing new, but its undeniable that he CAN flow. And some of the beats on here are unquestionably sick. At times this combination works perfectly, at other times things can be let down by one or both parts of the equation not quite coming up to scratch.
Take the opener for example, the Rick Rock-produced, ‘Not Give A Fuck’. Its a fast-paced track, built around an ascending / descending scale of bloopy blippy basslines, and makes ideal club fodder. On this occasion however, the bassline actually dominates the entire track, and its much easier to pay attention to IT than to the words Fab is spitting. This ISN’T the case on ‘Damn’ however, the next track, and also the next example of things not going quite according to plan. Here there is NO bassline…which means that although you CAN hear Fab’s words perfectly, the track sounds somewhat unfinished. There’s NO drumtrack at all here, making this sound like a bridge – when you realise that this is IT for the whole three and half minutes – nothing but clanking cowbells, a bass drop every two bars, and an annoying female whispering “Damn” throughout, you’ll quickly be reaching for the skip button.
Luckily, Tone and Poke quickly rectify their mistake on the very next track – ‘Call Me’ has a bouncy piano loop at its core, and the dreamy female hook is incredibly addictive. Lyrically, its familiar territory – Fab nails girl, girl wants him to call, Fab won’t call – but somehow it works. The whole track has a nice little summery feel which will lead to repeat listens. Hot producer of the moment Just Blaze then lays down one of the nicest tracks on the album. ‘Can’t Let You Go’ is the current single and features a gorgeous acoustic guitar loop, a few sprinkles of Hammond organ, and a made-for-MTV hook provided by Lil Mo and Mike Shorey. Its not hard to see why this is dominating the airwaves in New York at the minute – again its another track with a big summertime vibe.
While we’re on the subject of syrupy sweet tracks, its worth mentioning ‘Into You’, a later track which features DJ Clue and Duro on production, and Fabolous collaborating with Murder Inc’s Ashanti on microphone duties. If this DOESN’T get released as a single, then someone at Elektra ain’t doing their homework – this has hit written all over it, and is also one of the few tracks where Fabolous provides a much more introspective view of himself. Here he’s less about money, diamonds, and clothes, and more about telling his woman exactly how he feels. Soppy? Of course. And Ashanti on the hook almost leads to a sugar overdose… but I don’t care. I like this track a lot.
Don’t worry I’m not turning soft. And neither is Fabolous – this album also has its fair share of harder edged heaters too. The west-coast flavoured ‘Up On Things’ with its Dr Dre-styled piano loop, and guest appearance from Snoop Dogg is a perfect example. Other tracks, like the bouncy first single ‘This Is My Party’, ‘Never Duplicated’, ‘Forgive Me Father’, and ‘Sickalicious’ will also appeal to those who like their tracks to have a grittier feel. ‘Sickalicious’ especially stands out, with its almost rock-like guitar loop, and Missy Elliott on the chorus.
The last portion of the album seems to be given over to remakes and bonus cuts – ‘My Life’ is a remake of Mary J Blige’s ‘What’s The 411?’ and features Mary on the chorus. What’ll make this instantly recognisable to a lot of people though is the use of ‘Very Special’ on the hook, the track that a certain Jenny from the block has also utilised with recent commercial success. Following this you’ll get a bonus track – the forgettable ‘Throwback’, and couple of remixes – the horrific ‘Keepin’ It Gangsta’, and the much better ‘Trade It All Part 2’ with P Diddy and Jagged Edge which appeals without really doing anything different from the original.
So feel free to pelt me with accusations of being a sell-out. Feel free to accuse me of drowning in a sea of jiggyness. Feel free to seal me in a box and mail it to MTV’s TRL studios where I can hang out with the Ja-Rule and Britney FANatics. I don’t give a shit. You see overall, this is a fairly solid follow up to “Ghetto Fabolous”, with the majority of tracks on here very listenable. Its obvious what market this album is aimed at, and its also very obvious that IN this market it WILL be a resounding success. But even if commercial New York rap ain’t your thing, there might be a few things on here that could tempt you. Check for this if you if you get the chance.