Review: Jack Foley
MAINSTREAM hip-hop conforms to a pretty rigid formula - plenty
of attitude, loads of crunk-laden beats and guest appearances
Fat Joe's latest album, All Or Nothing, ticks all the
boxes for what constitutes a mainstream hip-hop album.
It features collaborations with everyone from Eminem, R Kelly,
Nelly and J-Lo, as well as production values courtesy of Cool
And, of course, it comes complete with the obligatory parental
warning sticker, indicating that this is a profanity-laden effort
that is packed with references to pimps, whores, niggers and drug
In truth, the whole mainstream hip-hop scene is a pretty joyless
affair, lacking the sheer feel-good value of some earlier examples
of the hip-hop movement. It's a million miles away from the effortless
cool of old skool De La Soul or the more recent DM & Jemini.
Yet it sells albums by the bucketload so will probably remain
the norm for the time being.
Fat Joe's All Or Nothing isn't necessarily a bad album
when viewed within the modern context - but it's hopelessly over-familiar
and struggles to deliver a track that is worth getting excited
Born and bred in the Bronx, New York, Fat Joe comes from the
school of hard knocks and his music tends to reflect the urban
environment he emerged from.
Hence, it's hard-hitting and pretty graphic at the best of times,
yet always careful to toss in the odd tune capable of generating
the radio play needed to ensure chart success.
Hence, lead single, Get It Poppin', featured Nelly,
yet ended up sounding more like a song from the guest vocalist
rather than anything Joe could call his own.
While tracks like So Much More and My Fofo
('I love hip-hop, I love this mother-fuckin' hip-hop game') emerge
as painfully generic blasts of hip-hop that could make their way
on to any current album.
Of the notable stuff, Does Anybody Know emerges as a
strong anthem for Joe, despite falling back on another modern
gimmick - the strained female vocal sample.
And Mashonda's sultry vocal style lends some much-needed soul
to Listen Baby - even though the song actually sounds
like two separate tracks merged together.
The funky I Can Do U contains a rarely encountered upbeat
vibe that should translate well to the dance-floor.
While both R Kelly and Eminem stamp their style on So Hot
(a sexy slow-burner) and Lean Back (a crunk heavyweight)
to help draw the album to a strong close.
J-Lo, however, re-emphasises her roots with yet more references
to 'the hood' on final track, Hold You Down, a supposedly
heart-felt ballad that pretty much exposes the main problem with
It's too geared towards success and forgets to maintain an identity
of its own.