Fabolous From Nothin’ to Somethin’

[Def Jam; 2007]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles:  hip-hop
Others: Jay-Z, Nelly, Jadakiss

I fell for Fabolous for the same reason I fell for so many other interchangeably anonymous emcees from the early part of the decade: I heard him over a Neptunes beat. But it’s been over five years since "Young'n (Holla Back)," and Fab has done little to prove he doesn’t belong in the same footnote as Petey Pablo or Loon in the post-Diddy chapter of hip-hop history. If From Nothin’ to Somethin’ is any indication, though, Fabolous is still pretty impressed with himself. While a certain amount of braggadocio is implicit in the b-boy persona, few rappers make it feel as manufactured as he does.

Much of the problem lies in his reluctance to accept (and thrive) in the role of second banana — he’s got Larry Hughes-skills but harbors LeBron-like delusions of grandeur. On From Nothin’, Fabolous at least seems to acknowledge this and attempts to replicate the success of prior singles by pairing with a guest emcee or crooner on virtually every track, but with half-baked results. On “Change Up” and “Baby Don’t Go,” he lazily coos over R&B hooks with the best of ’em, but put-upon warbling from the likes of Akon and T-Pain make the tracks more cumbersome than indulgent. When left to his own devices, as on the egregious “Stan” rip-off “What Should I Do,” Fab fancies himself a hip-hop Ann Landers and laughably doles out advice to everyone from latchkey kids to Iraq veterans.

Thankfully, though, Fabolous is not entirely without self-awareness, at times displaying both tact in his choice of tribute and humility in the manner in which he pays it. He and Jay-Z ride a raucous sample of Biggie Smalls through “Brooklyn,” a revision of the Jay-Z/Biggie tag-team track from Reasonable Doubt. Later on he teams with Pusha T to rework Lord Willin’s “Comedy Central” into “Jokes on You,” a track that cannily plays with the foibles of stand-up comedians and feeble-minded emcees alike (Pusha: "I pop colla’s on niggas/ I drop dolla’s on niggas/ I Jell-Os together/ I Bill Cosby on niggas/ Watch you burst into fire/ I Richard Pryor you niggas"). Fabolous’ music might be little more than opportunistic ephemera, but by holding ever more firmly onto the coattails of others, it looks like he’ll never float away.

1. From Nothin' To Somethin' Intro
2. Yep, I'm Back
3. Change Up feat. Akon
4. Make Me Better feat. Ne-Yo
5. Baby Don't Go feat. T- Pain
6. Return Of The Hustle feat. Swizz Beatz
7. Gangsta Don't Play feat. Junior Reid
8. Real Playa Like feat. Lloyd
9. First Time feat. Rihanna
10. Diamonds feat. Young Jeezy
11. Brooklyn feat. JAY-Z & Uncle Murda
12. I'm The Man feat. Red Café
13. Jokes On You feat. Pusha T
14. What Should I Do feat. Lil' Mo
15. This Is Family feat. Ransom, Freck Billionaire, Stack Bundles, Joe Budden & Paul Cain

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