Fabolous: The Best Of Both Worlds
Unfortunately or fortunately, wherever you stand on F-A-B-O, the man born John Jackson tends to be one of the most criticized spitters that enhabit the rotten apple even while remaing one of the citys most consistently successful. The line on Mr. Loso is that hes raw on mixtapes [click to listen], but saccharine sweet on his own albums. And while his latest LP, From Nothin To Somethin [click to read], netted him another gold plaque for his collection, the CDs two female-friendly singles have led many a Fab fan to wonder if the man behind certified hood classics the likes of Breathe and Return Of The Hustle will ever actually let his Baby go in favor of feeding the streets.
The answer to that question will be answered in the fourth quarter of this year when Fabolous unleashes his most daring effort to date, a film-inspired concept album. Fab took time out of his busy tour schedule recently to speak to HipHopDX.com about said album. He also addressed all of the stories that have surfaced over the past year-and-a-half regarding his reportedly celebrity-robbing crew. And on a slightly lighter note, Fab explained why hes not ashamed of recording more commercial fare (even with former pop princess Britney Spears), shared his thoughts on M.O.P.s versatility, and maybe most notably in our conversation highlighted how hes not biting Jay-Zs movie motivated release, but in fact how Hova might have actually bit him.
HipHopDX: Lets start by talking about your upcoming album, can you finally reveal to our readers which movie it is that your basing the albums concept around?
Fabolous: We are not releasing the movie [name] yet because [I havent] actually started the whole recording process. All I can state is that we are kinda theming [the album] after a movie that I felt had greatrelatable life scenarios.
So what I wanted to do was not take that character and become the character of that movie, but take some of the scenarios that Im familiar with and I think will be familiar to other people also and make some songs [inspired from them].
DX: I know you had the Losos Way mixtape [and so] theres some rumors out there that the movies Carlitos Way.
F: Yeah, we did that [already] with the tape.
DX: Have you chopped it up with the movie studio [to] make sure youre?
F: No, not really. I guess that comes a little later, but we havent [yet], no. Because Im not really going into character. Im not even sure if Im even gonna use like excerpts or anything from the movie, I just wanna take some of the scenarios of it [to inspire songs]. And I think people will be able to connect certain scenarios with lyrically how I attach [the songs]. I dont know Like, I wasnt really trying to actually make a soundtrack, ya know what I mean?
DX: Yeah, you know youre already catching flack for looking like youre jacking Jay-Zs American Gangster concept [though].
F: One of the first interviews I did [talking about this album concept] I used that [comparison]. Of course this is one thing media loves to do, they love to make it look some kind of controversial way. What I said about the Jay-Z thing was Jay-Z had just done that with American Gangster. And like you just said, I did [a concept record based off a movie] with Losos Way for the mixtape, which was before American Gangster. But nobody [cites that]. Of course that wouldnt be stated [in the media].
But anyway, what I was saying [is] that what Jay did is kinda he went more into [the] character of his [chosen movie]. I used the Jay reference as saying that I wouldnt be in as much character as Jay [was]. Jay may have looked at himself in character and said, "I come from maybe the same cloth [as Frank Lucas]." And even certain lines in the songs he referenced himself to Meyer Lansky and Frank Lucas and saying hes like Frank Lucas - except for the snitching part, and stuff like that. So he refers to himself in the same character. With me, Im not doing that.
DX: And you said you just started working [on the album], are you planning on doing something similar to what he did in terms of the production, like having producers look at the movie to inspire the sounds?
F: I kinda wanted to do that but the time that movie [is set in] is I just want them to see what they get from the movie and make that the inspiration for the music, but not relate the music [to the period the movie is set in]. Like how Jay made all the sounds on that album from the sound of that time, or the music is more mellow. The tone of the music is symbolic to the movie. Im not trying to really do that. I told produces to check the movie out because of what they might get, a scenario they may figure they can give a beat [to].
[Me and Jay] really [are] just attacking [the concept] from two different ways. Like, Jay to me was attacking a movie from that way and Im trying to do it more in the sense of the plot and the story and the scenarios in the movie, not so much of the characters and the timing and the setting. The movie could take place in the 80s, [but] Im not gonna make the beats sound like theyre from the 80s.
DX: Can you name which producers you got checking out the movie, which ones are gonna be assigned this task?
F: Were very pre in the production stage right now. Ive talked with some of my in-house guys about it. Ive had a talk with Jermaine Dupri about it. I had a talk with DJ Toomp about it. Just Blaze A few guys that we just talked [to]. Nothings been sketched out really on paper or anything yet.
So nobody has came to me [yet] with any tracks or anything. I do have a record done that I did that I think is fitting for the album, but that was not done by a producer who was already in that same mode. The record just happened to be a great record for the theme [of the album].
DX: Can you give us any details on that record?
F: It doesnt really have a title [yet]. It was actually a record that was done for my last album, From Nothin To Somethin, but we didnt use it. This cut could go on a themed album, it could go on a not themed album, its just a well cut record. And its female-friendly [but] not at the same time. Its hard to describe cause its really a skeleton of the record. But its done lyrically. We just gotta add some things to it.
So really, this conversation, everything is really premature, nothing is really solid except for that we are going for that theme. I didnt wanna let the movie [title] out based on how premature the project is right now. I didnt wanna give anybody else ideas who are maybe in recording now. I just didnt wanna spoil it by giving too much away.
But I think [divulging the album plans] gives a little challenge to the producers. It gives [them] a chance to think what movie they think it is. Its like how you shouted out Losos Way from Carlitos Way, it gives [potential album producers] a challenge to see if they really know which movie [it is]. They may say, "Alright, let me watch the movie and see what I get." Cause one thing thats great about a movie is 10 different people can watch a movie and not all 10 people are gonna get the same thing from watching it. So thats why I thought it was great that the producers check it out and really get they own feel of the [movie] too.
DX: One last question about the album, American Gangster was sort of a return to the streets for Jay-Z if you will, do you know if your movie inspired release is gonna be more Breathe or Make Me Better?
F: I mean you could always expect a Make Me Better kind of feel in some of the music that I do, or expect at least a single of that kind of caliber. But what I try to do with my music too is always stay versatile [to] where you really dont know what kind of joint Im gonna come with. Im sure even when I came with Breathe just coming off of the two popular radio-friendly joints I had I dont think people were even expecting that to come. And then now to come with Make Me Better, when I came with that it was at a point where nobody had those kind of records too. And I think that kind of record sonically cut through everything that was playing [at the time] because of how heavily influenced radio and video is with south music and thats not the kind of joints that [southerners] actually make either.
So I try to stay versatile. I dont really wanna give people a sound that they can guarantee me on. I think people know that I can make radio-friendly records. People who get the mixtapes, they know a little bit more of the lyrical talent.
But like, albums to me are different from actually making mixtapes. When I make mixtapes Im pretty much wide open and free. And sometimes you can have that same freedom with making an album, but albums are a little bit more formatted, youre trying to attack a different kind of listener and a different kind of buyer sometimes. And you really have to do what works for you. Im not ashamed of doing any kind of radio records because at the end of the day, thats what works for me when I put out albums. Thats what makes people interested [in] the project as far as on a commercial mainstream [level]. On another level, when Im checking for the streets or when Im checking for other people who are not so following of mainstream music, thats when I put out mixtapes. Thats when I do remixes with other people. But really, album-wise, I try to keep it versatile. I dont really want people to bank me on, "Okay, is it gonna be 'Make Me Better' or is it gonna be 'Breathe'?" Just by you even being able to ask me that question, its a great thing for me because that means you dont really know what Ima come with.
DX: Well, you know some of your detractors have got you pegged as some sort of new millennium L.L. Cool J that does too many chick records.
F: You run your situation by whats successful for you. So if a female-friendly record works for me because of the kind of songs I have put out [previously] Like, every now and then, of course to be versatile you can switch it up, but I dont think you should [steer] away from that because of what people are saying or [based on what] people really think. A lot of the thinkers are not even the people who buy your records or support your record. I think really people in general who may know music they know other than that [commercial side]. They may be able to say, "Okay, I respect him for doing that [commercial record] because I guess thats what he does business-wise."
With the last album, we had Make Me Better [and] Baby Dont Go as the singles, [but] there [were] all these other cuts on [the album]. Diamonds is not like any other kind of song that Ive ever done. Its a more southern feel, a more cheesier kind of feel of a song, but it was something that I dont think anybody could of just said, "Okay, Ima put him on this." It was a record that I did for a different kind of audience to keep myself in the light of different audiences. If you rapped every time for one audience you would continue to have that one audience. I never hear anybody saying, "Okay, this person only makes street/hardcore rap. He needs to do something else and be more commercial."
DX: [Like] wheres M.O.P.s love song?
F: Exactly! Because that might not work for them. They could try it. You never know, maybe they can make a hit talking about something else. But you look at M.O.P. and you say, "Okay, their strength is in making hardcore rap." And I think everbody accepts them for that. Now, as far as their artistry, I dont know if theyre the kind of versatile group who would try to do something else. I havent seen that in their careers. But I take those chances within my career. I try different kinds of music, whether it hits or miss and see what it does. Lil Wayne has a song right now about lollipops and I guess everybody still respects his artistry as far as his lyrical talent. I even look at that as like, Okay, he took a chance. He could've came out with something you would commonly just expect from him and then thats it. I dont think it would've took him any further than where he is already [though]. So I just think you gotta try different things and come to that [point].
And as far as the L.L. [comparison], hey, if the [female-friendly] records work for me and they work for L.L L.L. is not a bad person to be compared to as far as his longevity in the game. Maybe his longevity has came from being able to create radio-friendly and female-friendly records also. And Im taking a page out of his book because Im on my fifth album. A lot of people who are so-called praised in the game, they havent even reached as far [as I have] making albums and being around this long. So Im well aware of what Im doing and what Ive accomplished and Im happy with that.
DX: But you know working with Britney Spears is only gonna make the haters hate more. Why even get on a Britney Spears record at this point? That seems more like you helping her than her helping you.
F: Exactly. It really wasnt for her to help me. This is where a Britney Spears record works, the white people who play Britney Spears, all it does is give me some time on their ears. And thats all [working with her] is for really for me. Its just really about expanding [my audience]. If I get another [fan by them saying], "Whos that on that track?" "Thats Fab." Okay, great.
DX: I wouldnt worry too much that recording with Britney might weaken your street cred cause according to reports you roll with a bunch of celebrity-robbing thugs. Is Fabs Street Fam crew really a bunch of wolves?
F: Thats the so-called rumor [that we are]. I roll with my friends. I dont know how they got painted as
DX: The new Decepticons or something [writers note: For those that dont know, the Decepticons were a notorious gang of teenage jackers formed at Brooklyn Tech High School in the 1980s] .
F: Yeah. I dont know how we got painted as that. Actually, Street Family is just a small crew of friends and also the artists that Im working with. Were not a gang. I dont know where it came in [that were] like this organized crime [syndicate]. I read some of the stuff myself [with] my friends and we kinda laugh. I think they sensationalize a lot of things because I guess Hip Hop artists will get you publicity. Itll get you a front page [story]. Itll get you in the newspaper.
And to say the least, if we were that gang [that media claims we are] the only thing [being] Hip Hop would do would [be to] make us a little bit hotter than you supposed to be. Like, Hip Hop right now is so hot that if you were doing something [illegal] and using Hip Hop [as a cover], I dont think youd wanna do that at all.
DX: Are the Hip Hop cops in New York City watching you guys?
F: The Hip Hop cops, they actually do come to my functions and stuff here. Everything we go to theres a shitload of cops there. So I dont understand how they accuse some of these things of even going down. They accuse everybody of stuff and nobodys been arrested, nobodys been charged with any of the stuff that theyre saying that people are responsible for. If you go on record and would say that were responsible for it; I dont understand why we havent been brought in on charges against us if cops can say that this is stuff that [actually happened]?
I never let any of that change what I do. I still keep the same friends around me. I still continue to make music, me and my artists that are in Street Family. If anything what we try to do is turn that negative into a positive by making some good music and use all of that publicity that they throwing on our name and make it a positive. Maybe a few months from now [when] theyre gonna hear this Street Family compilation coming out, some of that publicity will wash off on the compilation.
DX: You said that you havent made really any changes, but I think there was one interview where you said after the Sebastian Telfair incident [click to read] you kinda did clean house in the crew a little bit.
F: I didnt clean [house]. Like, I didnt stop hanging out [with Street Fam]. That situation woke me up to knowing that things can happen if you leave the window open for it to happen. One of the reasons me even getting shot that night was me walking to a parking lot, which is something that I had never really done much anyway. But now [its] more of a case where if Im coming out Im gonna just have my car meet me at where Im coming out at, not me go out and walk to a parking lot where somebody could be waiting to do you some wrong. So its little things in that area that I tightened up, not really saying, "Yo, Im cutting off my friends because they didnt get my car or something like that."
DX: Did the subsequent stabbing death of your friend, Shamel McKinney, [lead to] any changes [in] your decision making?
F: That let me know how much they sensationalize things that go on [around me].
DX: Cause that [incident] was also tied to this whole kinda [Street Fam] thing [in] that he was trying to jack somebody.
F: Yeah, and they just sensationalized that whole story, man. Its so sorry that somebody lost they life and at the end of their life while their family is grieving the newspapers and stuff are trying to make him out as some kind of robber and saying that he was trying to rob somebody in the incident that he died [during].
So it was just shocking to me at first. Like, I couldnt believe they put so much into that story to make it a big story about me. Maybe a story of a guy getting killed in a club [didnt warrant coverage on its own]. But I didnt understand how it turned into a Fabolous/Street Family story.
DX: Well that one promoter said you were there and you somehow I guess instigated it.
F: Which is totally false. I definitely was not in the club and didnt even go out on Thanksgiving night. We had investigators speak to him and he says that he never told any reporter that. So I didnt know if it was the information [was tainted], that he could've told them that and lied, or he never [said that] and the reporters just wanted to be able to have a [story]. I didnt really know which way it went. But I know it was just sad to me that they would go this far to make that kind of story.