F-A-B-O-L-O-U-S, that’s the name we’ve grown up listening to for over a decade now. He’s given us bangers over the years that ranged from club anthems (Holla Back) and Hip Hop ballads (Trade It All 1 & 2). It’s been 3 years since his last album (Loso’s Way), and as the people patiently wait, he’s given us 2 mixtape series’: There Is No Competition (T.N.I.C for short), and The Soul Tape (Science of Understanding Loso -unofficial acronym). The Soul Tape’s concept is different from TNIC because it’s not just rugged rap beats & lyrics at all times; Soul has a warmer feel to it, because if you’ve been following Fab’s career, he does get on the touchy side. The beats are sample heavy and more mellow, and the lyrics are emphasized by stories of emotional impact whether it be love, or experiences that he uses as life lessons. The first one didn’t hit so well with me, but after recently listening to it the other day, I could see the direction he was going, but I was hoping that he would come stronger on the 2nd instalment of the series.
A lot of mixtapes (the premier ones at least) have artists using their own beats as opposed to using industry instrumentals. Fabolous has made a career of freestyling (or writing) over industry beats, so he continued to utilize that trend on this mixtape. Overall, this mixtape wasn’t great, and it’s hard to determine if he even progressed from the first Soul Tape. A main reason why I wasn’t feeling it was lack of consistent production and lyrical utility (flow & overall lyricism).
The intro started off with Fabolous spitting over Jay Electronica’s Exhibit A (Transformations), which was highly praised in the world of Hip Hop some years ago; Ironically, the it’s also called Transformation. A majority of the mixtape features sound bites from The Late, Great Notorious B.I.G (he’s so Brooklyn). Fab has had his share of drama in his life, he’s a father, and there’s a lot that he’s accomplished, but he still feels like he’s still changing into something else and he still has something to prove to others. We all have those moments in life when we feel the need to change ourselves and set an example for others. It’s like a moment of reflection for Fab at this point, and it does a good job in setting the tone, although he reuses lines from his last mixtape:
“Old enough to know better/Young enough to not give a fuck”
“We wish a nigga would/But know that a nigga would”
Fab has always been known for his punchlines, so we know that he can dish them out where they may. Some are clever, others are corny, but it is what it is. He’s past his prime, but he still has some things to say that can hold your attention for a moment or two. For The Love in a nutshell has him explaining why he’s rapping as a career: the love of his life, love of money, love of his son. Those are his motivations – he’s a hunter, but let’s be honest here, how many money references can you make in one sentence before determining yourself redundant? That happened a lot, and it got slightly annoying. We got the point the first time around.
‘Eat’ is a term that in the hood doesn’t necessarily mean to indulge in the consumption of food. It’s a term that is more metaphorical than literal. On the basketball court, to ‘Eat someone’s food’ is to take advantage of their situation, catch them off guard and take what’s on their plate before they have at it. Uprising record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE for short) have made the word ‘eat’ a movement. To ‘Eat’ means that you’re working hard to get to where you want to be, and at the end of the day, if you’re not making money, you can’t buy food, so then….put 2 and 2 together…you’re not EATIN’! Through that entire mini explanation, Fabolous uses an acronym for the next song to describe that process. B.I.T.E (Bitch I’m Tryna Eat) is simple as it sounds: I’m trying to make a living, don’t get in my way, because I’ve got to eat. He uses that Meek Mill copycat flow on this one, but beyond that, he talks about people disappearing when you need them, and getting through the struggle so you’re able to eat. He constantly reminds you of his upbringings in Brooklyn that he came from nothing to something (while throwing metaphors and similes in the process). Another one that’s not memorable, but there’s substance, so I can groove with it. It’s something that’s bouncy and can get airtime. I guess that was the emphasis.
I listen to Logic, he’s a dope artist from the DMV area (D.C/Maryland/Virginia), and on his last mixtape Undeniable, he has a song called We Get High, which oddly enough Fabolous uses not only the same sample but pretty much the same beat. A real laid back and cool song for the smokers, and even a little salutation to one of the biggest names in the game, Rihanna:
“These niggas been actin’ up/Riri must be serious
Wonder what the shit hittin’ fo’/Real niggas is curious
Oh, and what a great segue to Diamonds which features a sample of the title track by the very own previously mentioned, Rihanna. Fabolous, you’re not slick, brotha. A good beat, a cool vibe, and it’s a track that plays into Fab’s life as a metaphor – “Pressure makes Diamonds, I was made to shine” is the line that emphasizes the recurring theme he’s been talking about for the past couple of songs. Making it from the bottom up, working under pressure and coming out on top with the best quality. It’s only fitting that a Diamond be used in a metaphorical context like that. Keeping with the consistency of diamonds in the light, he uses them to tell stories of his past and relate that to how a jeweller observes a diamond in the light to see if it’s legit.
Guess Who’s Back is a classic song by Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel & Scarface. Fabolous thought it was a genius idea to not only remake the beat, but to also take lines from Jay-Z’s original version and throw it into this mess of a remake. It upset me, the whole song. I didn’t even bother try to listen to it again (okay I lied, but only for reviewing purposes) because it was that bad. The original was fine the way it was. It wasn’t broken, so there was no need to alter it. God, I hate when people do that. The autotune feature, the terrible drums, and everything that came with Guess Who’s Bizzack made me want to lay the SMIZZACKDOWN on both Fab & the producer for doing this in the first place and thinking it was hot.
It’s funny how the first half of the mixtape had no features, but all of a sudden, here they come by the bountiful. The first one up was Louis Vuitton featuring J.Cole, and this one was more J.Cole’s song than Fab’s, because he held more than just his own, he owned the song in general. Materialistic girls can get annoying, because all they talk about are brands; you just have to gravitate away from her because shallow chicks are the worst. Good point in this song. Again, nothing special about it, it’s just a cool song really. Nothing stood out and was like “YO! THIS IS THE JAM!” That reaction never happened, but the instrumentals (with the exception of Guess Who’s Back) were wicked.
Another big name feature was Pusha T on Life Is So Exciting, and the title is exactly what you think it is. It’s like Meek Mill ghost wrote for Fabolous. Money, cars, hoes and clothes. That’s the life they live. They have more money than me, so of course they can rap about it. I blame Watch The Throne for rappers flaunting off their money to the 10th degree of exponential luxury. It’s repetitive, and it’s a heavy skippable song, unless you look at it as one of those songs to get you hype.
So he goes from his life being exciting to Only Life I Know, which takes a step away from the luxury and puts him in the street life. Rappers that try to use their non-existent vocal talents is like hearing a cat scratch chalkboard sometimes. – it’s really not necessary sometimes. Living a fast life that’s always on the go, and unpredictable can be the downfall of a relationship because one person is trapped in this mindset that they’ll never be able to get away from. It’s a good way to put into perspective of those that think that one way of thinking will keep them from progressing in life. No one ever wants to fall off – pride doesn’t let them, but all things come to an end, so it’s either the street life, or no life. That’s all one knows sometimes, so that’s all they’ll ever be in.
Diced Pineapples is originally a song on Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t album that features Drake & Wale. I don’t like it, but women do; it’s one for them and whichever guys like it too, good for them as well. Fab remixed this and threw Cassie (Diddy’s …. girlfriend?) on the hook and Trey Songz the ‘rap’ feature. Trey Songz (for an R&B singer) can rap, but here wasn’t the place. It really wasn’t needed. He should have just sung, and I will credit Cassie for doing her thing on the Drake cover of the hook, which I preferred anyways, just because it was a female singing a hook for once. Soft and simple, this song was alright. That seems to just be the word for the project – alright. Because that’s all it was. Nothing more, nothing less. No impact. One to listen to and that’s pretty much it.
The only thing that stops Beauty from being a truly amazing song is the Wale feature. For a reason I can’t explain, Wale did his best ‘high-school-kid-talking-on-the-phone-at-night-raspy-voice’ impersonation, and if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that Rick Ross just appeared from nowhere and spit a verse. It took away from the smooth production of Araabmuzik, who has been getting a lot of shine lately, and that’s a good thing. I’ve been following the guy’s career for about 4 years. Good to see where he’s at having dinner with the big boys now (Heaven & Hell reference for the Wu-Tang fans).
The final song of the mixtape comes with a theme we’re all too familiar with – you guessed it; RELATIONSHIPS! We’ve had those exes (I can’t comment) that we hate that it had to end, and we want to make things right. very suitable having Joe Budden as a feature on this track because he provides the perfect background for a song like this given his past relationship woes that have been very public. Fabolous loves him some Derrick Rose, because how else would you explain him using his name like 4 times in the first minute of the song? Basketball metaphors work, but it’s like hot sauce; if you pour too much into the food, you kill the substance. There were some gripping lines in this song that you can take to heart. One that stood out to me was: God gives the hardest battles to the strongest soldiers. It’s deep because we’re battle tested to see how we can overcome the struggle in order to succeed. Joe Budden was talking about his lovely ex-girl, Tahiry (Google her if you don’t know) and they’ve been back and forth for…ever it seems. I don’t think being on a song called Want You Back is the right way to go if you’re currently in a relationship with another woman, but you know…that’s not the point. It’s what Seinfeld calls The Airing of Grievances; getting stuff off of your chest to move on. Teyana Taylor put in her verse as well (it seemed kind of off to me, but whatever) and gave the same story but from a woman’s perspective. Three tales of the heartbroken on one track leads to a pretty good ending. If I had to pick a top 5 on the mixtape, this would be on it for sure.
This mixtape was average; it didn’t stand out, and it’s not something that I know a lot of people will consider it in high regards when talking about it. Lyrically it was weak compared to what we’ve heard Fabolous rap before. The subjects were repetitive, and it was like it was a different beat, but the same scenario. Features dropped it down a bit, but sometimes they saved him. Production for the most part was pretty good, and it was an overall smooth mixtape, but it’s not something (if I was an American) that I would have been playing during the big dinner. This is my opinion & my review, but for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX