Fabolous: The Good Life
Its a dynamic thats increasingly difficult to make sense of, and maybe thats why Fab says he doesnt try to. He claims to take both the love and hate in stride. Sure, 90% of artists have been coached to say the same thing, but it sounds more believable coming from someone who openly admits his collaboration with Ne-Yo gets more airplay in jail cells than his hardest street single (Breathe).
Only time will tell if his upcoming Losos Way will make us all think differently about Fab. But after hearing him dish on Biggies influence, the movie that inspired his album and the jumpoffs that preceded Superhead, well gladly roll with Fab over a bottle of Nuvo and an Auto-tuned single any day of the week.
HipHopDX: You emerged with DJ Clue at a time when mixtapes were going crazy. Now that people are seemingly dropping a new mixtape every hour, whats your opinion on the state of the game?
Fabolous: That game is really saturated. I feel like you really have to do something special now, but theres not really anything special you can do on a mixtape besides trying different things musically or with the way you distribute it. I think its still a good tool for fans. I think my music is really versatile, so a lot of people who get the album or certain people who get the mixtape will get a different experience with either or. Certain people like my mixtape work and are locked into that.
When I do mixtapes, its pretty much to appease the fans. Theres nothing special to me about a mixtape now. Like you said, theres pretty much one coming out every five minutes. Right now, I think the dopest thing is to have a mixtape onlinedont even have a hard disc, because even thats slowed down. When was the last time someone went somewhere and bought a hard copy of a mix CD? So maybe the next step is to release something digitally and tie it in with that.
DX: Last we heard, this album was inspired by the movie Carlitos Way. As someone whos now a veteran in the game, do you see any upcoming artists as the Benny Blanco to your Carlito?
Fabolous: Nah, man. The mistake that Carlito made was that he shouldve got rid of the problem before it became a problem. You can see certain things that can grow into a problem if you dont handle them. Killing him might not have necessarily solved that problem, but he shouldve handled it in a different way. Im also not that big-headed. Carlito was kinda big-headed in the way that he didnt wanna see Benny Blanco rise. People compared Benny Blanco to him when he was young, and he was like, Nah, hes never me, and all that. If I see something coming thats popping up on my radar, I would know it, respect it and deal with it. I wouldnt just shy away from it and say, Nah, that kids not me. Hes not that hot.
Youve got to keep your antennas up in Hip Hop and in the streets. I definitely have my antennae up on new artists and people who are dope. I dont anybody has came in my lane, so to speak, in the Hip Hop field. Im diverse in what I can do; its hard for somebody to come in that lane. Its hard for you to be respected by the streets or lyricists and be tapped into the R&B world as much as I am. Theres only a few people who can do that, and Fabolous is one of them. [Laughs]
DX: In line with that, some of your biggest hits have blended Hip Hop and R&B. When you look at this new sub-genre with the rapping, singing and Auto-Tune, do you feel you were a precursor to that?
Fabolous: I feel like singing is a little different for me. I never actually sang myself. Thats like a next step to what was going on. Theres a lot of emcees coming up rapping and singing too. Im not that guy wholl sit there and say everything originated with me. Ill tip my hat if they sound good doing it. Even all the way to a Kanye West; Kanye does it as well now. I think as long as the music comes out good, then I have no problem with singing, rapping or whatever.
I just think my thing was a blend, and I dont think that combination was started by me. But I do think there are too many people versatile enough to sound good on both avenues. Somebody on a higher level, like say Biggie Smalls, did that. Biggie could make Juicy or Fuckin You Tonight with R. Kelly. He could make Somebodys Got to Die, and give you that versatility where he could tailor it to all ears. Thats what Im aiming for. I dont just wanna be a master at one style; I want to be as versatile and diverse as some of the greatest.
DX: Its interesting you bring B.I.G. up. Youre now catering to at least part of a generation that were infants or not even born when Biggie was alive. As a fan of his, whos also from Brooklyn, do you try to carry on what he did by blending the street and R&B sounds?
Fabolous: Yeah, pretty much. I feel like somebody has to carry on every legacy in whatever form they can. Im not gonna attempt to be Biggie in any sort of way. But like you said, Biggie died over 10 years ago. There are certain people who dont know his music, his versatility, history or his career. Seeing him trickled down to me and influenced my versatility as an artist. I heard how diverse he was musically, and how he could get on any kind of record. He could hop on a 112 remix or a Super Cat remix, and he had no ceiling on what he rapped over even though he was supposed to be just a straight, hardcore rap artist.
DX: So in terms of that balance, if someones first reference point for you is the Make Me Better video, do you feel the need to remind them of the nights on Hot 97 with Clue and N.O.R.E.?
Fabolous: Nah. Certain people catch on late and thats cool. If you have to wake up everybody, you would never finish the job you have to do. I accept yesterdays fans the same way I accept fans from last year or even five years ago. As long as you can get the recognition of making good music, Im happy with it. You cant take everybody back. Maybe someone wasnt in the same space then as they are now. Kids were younger then. They dont know anything about the things back then, and you cant really make them. Im cool with generating fans as they come. Im not bitter. Some rappers you see now want people to recognize them for what they did five or 10 years ago. And its like, Nigga what have you done now or even yesterday? What have you done recently that we would think youre even relevant? You havent done anything, and you want us to respect your gold or platinum album from 10 years ago?
You have to keep being consistent with that music in order to gain that respect from people. This is my fifth album, and I think a lot of people dont even know that. And it doesnt bother me that everybody doesnt know that. Certain people look at me like this is my second or third album. And then later theyll go, Oh wow, this kid has been around since 01 or 99. Thats 10 years in the game. And I dont look it too, so thats another thing. Sometimes I look like I can be compared to a newer cat in the game. So that works, and its a helpful thing because kids are more about whats going on right now. There are kids who are 13 and even younger who are just starting to get into Hip Hop heavy. And they only know whats going on this year. They dont know Run-DMC, Big Daddy Kane [click to read] or any of those artists from the past.
DX: From a technological perspective, you came into the game typing lyrics into the old Motorola Timeport two-way pager. How have you adapted to the current technology like social networking sites and Twitter to appeal to those 13-year-olds?
Fabolous: At first I was a little slow to it, and I really preferred keeping my personal life to myself too. But you have to play it as it changes. One person Ive talked to throughout my career is LL Cool J. Hes one person who has changed and kept himself relevant throughout the years by playing the game as it changes. So I looked at his career like, Damn. Heres a guy who gave the people what was relevant to the times without compromising himself.
Thats the same process with the Internet and these other gadgets. I have a Twitter and a MySpace. Im still hands-on as far as how Im represented in those places, because I dont want just anything representing me and putting me in a bad light. But at the same time, you have to keep up with whats going on.
DX: Not to take anything away from you, but youve always been supported by top-notch production and A-list features. With sales continuing to slump, do you feel you have to make a good, but low-budget album?
Fabolous: No, I feel like you have to make a good album, because the industry is in a slump as far as having good music. Thats the only concern I have. I dont really think budget-wise, because I have a record label behind that supports me very well. Im fortunate to have that. So the only thing I have to concentrate on is making good music.
Of course you feel the budget crunch all around. People were doing $400,000 videos a year ago, and now their doing $60,000 videos. But I dont think that compromises you as an artist; it just compromises cost. And I think when people were spending that much, it was a little excessive. Everybody can look back at it now, because you can see the same thing for a [fraction] of the cost.
DX: Since were talking about the economy, temporarily take off your artist hat. How do you plan on growing companies like Street Family and Rich Yung in the middle of a recession?
Fabolous: Really by making your brand something that people respect and want to support. With Rich Yung, I saw a place where a lot of rappers clothing lines did well off of their success as rappers. I think that time has passed. It hasnt passed in the sense of nobody buying a rappers line anymore, but the fashion sense of people has grown to be smarter than saying, This rapper has a line, so let me go buy it. I wanted to make this urban casual kind of line, but I wanted it more upscale than just hoodies, jeans and sweatsuits. We can still have those things, but just take it a notch up and make it more than the average Sean John or Roc-A-Wear type thing.
The fashion in Hip Hop was changing too, and people wanted something different. Sean John and Roc-A-Wear did well, but its kind of in an old space right now. Some people are thinking, Okay weve done that to the death. Whats a new line that we can attach ourselves to? So me and my partners came up with this line. People only follow those lines if they respect the [artists] fashion sense. If people dont even like what you have on, I dont think theyre gonna buy your clothing line. If you look like an idiot, why would we want to look like an idiot?
As far as the Street Family situation, we took it back to doing a compilation kind of thing. Remember when Wu-Tang [Clan] [click to read] came in and they had their situation? That situation allowed for solo deals for pretty much the whole group. You got an identity from each member, and the group project was a platform for that. When youve got a group of people who with different styles, identities and images it attracts different people. If the music as a whole sounds dope then it works. Thats what I tried to do with Street Family.
Im working with Red Caf, Paul Cain, Freck Billionaire [click to read] and another guy by the name of Kobe out in L.A. All of them were solo artists, but we came together in this super group we put together to try to make everyone elses situation better. I already have my solo thing in motion, so Im like a tool to get them heard. Certain people who know me can hear this project, and check them out. Ive never really had a group that you could associate me with, so this is that for me.
DX: From The Roc, Diplomats, Death Row and even No Limit, none of these Hip Hop dynasties last. Is that a concern when you aspire to build one yourself?
Fabolous: Well, my thing is different because Im not coming at it like Suge Knight, where I have a bunch of artists and Im trying to be a record label. This is more about creating situations for other people using what we already have. I think that unity is missing in Hip Hop. You see the Dipset [click to read] breaking up recently, and it happened with Roc-A-Fella too. A lot of the unity is not really there anymore. For me, I always liked that unity and structure within Hip Hop.
DX: Okay, lets get back to you. Your critics will always point to how popular your more mainstream singles are with the ladies. Considering how much effort some dudes spend trying to get female attention, would you consider that a contradiction?
Fabolous: It is. But at the same time, its more to life than attracting females. And some of those songs were singles used to sell an album. If we make good songs for the ladies, which are relatable to me, they become hit records.
Make Me Better [click to read] was a hit record. A friend of mine who was incarcerated when I made that told me Make Me Better was the number one song in jail. When that came on, everybody wanted to call their girlfriends and dedicate that song to them. And these are supposed to be the hardest criminals in the world. These arent soft people; theyve done crimes and risked their freedom. But they would request that song, because it brought them back to times of being with their girl and it probably took their mind off of being incarcerated. Thats what makes that a stronger, more relatable song than just some club song.
Theres a new club song every month. But a relatable song that has some lifestyle to it can last forever. Thats what will make you say, I remember when I was locked up and I would call my girl and dedicate Make Me Better to her. So I know those songs mean something across the board. I know I can rap better than a lot of niggas who arent making those songs as well, so it dont play on me. I think critics say it because they dont have to rap. But who are you to compare me to these guys who you say dont make female friendly songs? Am I making nursery rhyme songs saying, Oooh baby I love you? Or am I putting some lyrical content into the songs and putting together a well-crafted song. I think that speaks for itself, because good music is good music.
It shouldnt matter if its about a girl or anything else. R. Kelly made a song about how fucking you reminded him of his Jeep, and it was a great song. Could we criticize R. Kelly about his songwriting skills or what his actual songs were about? So for me, I take the criticism in stride. Those are hit songs for me. They do give you a perception of the kind of songs I make, because theyre singles and you probably hear them the most. But it doesnt make me up as an artist. I think people who are in tune with my music know better.
DX: Along those lines, Breathe was a big hit for you, which generally appealed to the critics too. Was it a coincidence that the album it was featured on was your first one to not go platinum?
Fabolous: Nah, I think there were a couple other issues in the selling of that album. That time was the start of the whole digital thing, and a lot of albums were being pirated. I think that song was monumental for my career, because everybody who knows who I am knows of that song. I dont think theres anybody who doesnt connect Breathe to Fabolous, and thats what that song was for. I couldve come with a girl song or a radio-friendly song, because at that timeactually, thats when the South really started coming into play. That was really one of the only gritty, New York kind of songs getting airplay at that time. The South was having a hard time with it at that time, because it really wasnt an 808, bouncy type of joint. But at the same time, it was such a well-put together song that they had to accept it in a way. That made a stamp for me as far as being a contender and making other songs for those who thought I could only make female-friendly songs.
When we first put that out, we didnt have any expectations for it; we just thought it was a dope record. Next thing you know, its number one on 106 & Park For a record like that to be number one on 106 & Parkwere talking about a time when Bow Wow [click to read] would lock down the top spot for weeks and weekswas like wow. It was like, People do respect Hip Hop, and I thought it was a little bit of a shock value factor since it was coming from me at that time.
DX: On a completely random note, you did some Hard Kock Life tour dates right after getting signed. Everyone has stories from that tour, whats your favorite one?
Fabolous: I dont know about a favorite memory, but I got a crazy one. There was this girl that like 30 different dudes slept with. That was my shock of being on tour for the first time. I had never been in that world. Of course you know about groupies and know about stories. And I wasnt involved. I wasnt one of the 30 dudes hitting that chick. But seeing that actually happen was crazy to me.
DX: Yeah, that was before those of us outside the industry heard about Superhead
Fabolous: Yeah, but theres probably a million Superheads. You have to clap you hands for her for coming out and actually acknowledging that she was Superhead. Because I can guarantee you somebodys secretary is sitting around at the office who was just like Superhead. So, in a way, shes a bold, strong woman.
DX: [Laughs.] Okay, okay, we cant end it on that note. Legend has it, you were discovered when your man Webb heard a friend of yours reciting your lyrics.
Fabolous: Yeah, thats true.
DX: Considering how much of a coincidence that was, what do you think youd be doing for a living if that never happened?
Fabolous: Holy shitwho knows? I think Id be umm.ah man. I dont know where I would be at right now. At 31, I dont know where I would be at right now. Thats deep, because I honestly have no idea what I would be doing. Fortunately, I dont have to worry about another career right now.
Please visit: MyFabolousLife.com [click here].