For the second night in a row, Jay-Z and L.A. Reid ventured out to Sony Studios in Manhattan, New York, on Tuesday, as another one of Def Jam's summer albums was presented to VIPs. While Monday was all about Young Jeezy and the USDA's Cold Summer, Fabolous took the spotlight on Tuesday as he gave a sneak peek of his June 12 release, From Nothin' to Somethin'.
Jay and Uncle Murda are slated to appear on a record called "Brooklyn," while T-Pain sings the hook on the Jermaine Dupri-produced "Baby Don't Go." Pusha T of the Clipse gives a guest verse on "All Jokes on You," dropping several comedic references, and Murder Inc's Lloyd croons on "Real Playa Like." Rihanna give a female's perspective on "First Time" and Junior Reid's check-in on "Gangsta" will have the squarest nerd feeling like a rude boy. Jeezy appears on "Diamonds," R. Kelly assists on "Foggin' Up the Windows" and Swizz Beatz guests on "Return of the Hustle."
"We got an all-star album," Fabolous said last week in L.A. on the set of his latest video, "Make Me Better." "We got to work with a lot of people we felt would make the album better. Production-wise, the lineup is like the Yankees: Timbaland, Akon, Jermaine Dupri, Just Blaze, Polow Da Don, Neo 'The Matrix.' ... We got great features, too. Each person, I could hear them making the song better. Lil' Mo, Cassidy ... we got a very deep, well-rounded album."
From Nothin' to Somethin' is Fab's fourth album and first since 2004's Real Talk. The MC says he hopes people hear how he's evolved as a person over the past two and a half years (see "Fabolous Album Moved Up To December After Arrest, Shooting").
"I been through situations I never been in before in my life," he said. "I got shot, been arrested, been in a relationship. I'm past really rapping for my block or my projects. I'm trying to grow. We been working really hard. I took two months and worked in Miami, then I came back to New York and worked another three months."
The highest-impact cameo on the effort — at least for now — comes courtesy of Ne-Yo, who sings the hook on "Make Me Better" (see "Ne-Yo Gets Frisky With An 'Ex,' Avoids K-Fed Songs For Britney"). You can call it fate that Fab is putting the single out — it passed through a few hands before the Brooklyn MC got to make it his own.
"Timbaland produced the track," said Ne-Yo, sitting in a dressing room in an all-white outfit at the video shoot. "The way the song came together, it's actually a track that Jay-Z brought to my attention. He said, 'Tim gave me this track, but it sounds more like an R&B track than a hip-hop track. I really think you should do something to it.' So I wrote the hook, did some verses, and Fab heard it. He said, 'You should let me get on that with you.' Then Fab did some verses and I liked some of his stuff more than my stuff, so I was like, 'You should just take the damn song.' The rest is history. The chemistry is so right, it sounds like we were there [in the studio] together."
What time they didn't spend together recording the song, they made up for by performing it on the video set. During the afternoon, the two were surrounded by cuties as they got across the point of the song.
" 'Make Me Better' is a great swagger feeling, ultra-magnetic," Fab said of the song. "It's a great record, I'm trying to make big words to make it sound bigger than it is, but it's a great record. We get a lot of love across the country everywhere we play it. It leans towards the ladies, but it's a swagger record. The fellas could dig it too. The fellas are picking up lines from it. They telling ladies, 'I'm cool, but you make me a better person.' I'm happy everybody is receiving it well.
"When you make a relationship song, it's relatable," continued Fab, who has had the most success with records geared toward dealing with women. "A lot of people have been in the position when you've been the main person or the mistress. Or maybe you had somebody on the side ... at least once in their life. It's just relatable music. Same thing with 'Make Me Better.' You find that person in your life, then the haters, their antennas go up."
Besides Ne-Yo, you can look for cameos from DJ Clue and Mr. Pose for the Camera himself, Ray J, in the clip. Ray was mum on his rumored romance with Whitney Houston or a much-talked-about alleged sex tape but did say he was elated to come and support one of his favorite rappers.
"It feels good for me to be in the building," he said.
Look for Clue and possibly Fab to appear on Ray J's next project.