NEW YORK — Brooklyn rhyme slinger Fabolous only wants to show and prove.
Take the audition that put him in the rap game. While many hungry amateurs get noticed by spitting their rawest lyrics to a cornered music-biz power broker, Fab received an invite to spit for mixtape king DJ Clue in early 1998. Cool — except not only did Fab have to win over Clue, he also had to appease the thousands of New York radio listeners tuned in to Clue’s Monday-night Hot 97 show, where Fab was involved in a cipher (or rhyme exchange) with Noreaga.
Fab’s sarcastic one-liners and laid-back conversational flow got Clue’s attention. “I let so many hot rappers skip me by, I wasn’t gonna let that happen again,” said Clue, who helped introduce such hip-hop notables as DMX, The LOX, Notorious B.I.G. and Foxy Brown by putting their music on his street-coveted mixtapes.
Fab — who signed to Clue and his production partner Duro’s Desert Storm label that summer — has been gaining exposure from Clue’s street offerings and releases on Roc-A-Fella Records. He’s also bubbling with his guest role on Lil’ Mo’s chart-topping “Superwoman Pt. 2.” Now that Desert Storm has a distribution deal with Elektra Records, Fab is ready to show and prove again with his debut, Ghetto Fabolous.
“The streets heard of me from the Clue tapes and stuff,” Fab said. “I been holding it down on the freestyle tip. Now that Lil’ Mo’s video is out they got the visual. Ni—- is waiting for me to drop.”
Ghetto Fabolous is a mostly up-tempo party album laced with Fab’s hood lingo. “It’s straight fire,” Duro said. “We’re trying to create a good vibe where people can have fun.”
Producer Rockwilder brings his sonic funk to “Gettin It Right,” where Fab plays off of Junior Mafia’s “Players Anthem,” exhorting listeners to “Grab your d— if you’re gettin’ it right.” The Neptunes produced “Youngin,” a call-and-response club anthem, while “Ma Be Easy,” produced by Just Blaze, finds Fab telling chickenheads to keep their hands out his pocket.
On “Take You Home” Lil’ Mo sings the chorus Lisa Lisa made famous 16 years ago with “I Wonder If I take You Home,” and Nate Dogg lends his subdued serenade to Ghetto Fabolous’s first single, producer Rick Rock’s rough-riding “You Can’t Deny It.” But Fab warns against expecting too many cameos on his debut.
“On the first album you should try to get people to feel you,” the 21-year-old rationalized. “I don’t want to have it like when people put out an album and have mad people on it. People check their album because of the guests. I want ni—- to check my album for me.”
Fabolous’ peers are indeed checking him. He rhymes on Mariah Carey’s remake of “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” (“she’s cooler than you would think a superstar is,” he said nonchalantly), which will appear on her upcoming album, and he’ll also pop up on new albums by Jimmy Cozier and Macy Gray.
“Lil’ Mo’s joint made everything easier,” said Fab. “Now everybody wants to holla.”
Fab’s young and pretty thug persona, his rhyme style and ability to keep the party going with appearances on R&B and pop records have been winning him comparisons to retired Bad Boy rapper, Mase. Fab admitted there were similarities but added, “I’m a little bit different from Mase.”
Fab said he’s only a week away from finishing Ghetto Fabolous. Then he’ll begin work on a Desert Storm compilation featuring his labelmates the Teamstas and Paul Cain. Duro is confident he’ll get enough help to push Fabolous over the top.
“We wanted to be somewhere where they are as excited about the project as we are,” Duro said about the venture with Elektra. “We ain’t want to jump on the bandwagon, we wanted to start from scratch. A lot of people was like, ’We’re the hottest camp, we’re gonna make you hot.’ Elektra was like, ’We can do this together, we’re really feeling Fabolous.”