NEW YORK — Jermaine Dupri got away with singing on Mariah Carey's albums, and nobody flinched. But the producer didn't want to press his luck on the new Fabolous album, From Nothin' to Somethin', which dropped June 12 (and will debut at #2 on next week's Billboard albums chart: See "Fabolous Flirts With #1 Debut — But Toby Keith Is Billboard's Big Dog").
Dupri produced the track "Don't Let Go," which features T-Pain, but Fab told us last week that the producer was really the first choice to croon on the chorus. "JD was actually on the hook, but he did the audio-tune to his voice," Fab said of some studio tricks they used on the chorus. "I don't think he wanted to really be on the hook though. We had to figure out who we could put on there. Who's better than Mr. Audio-Tune, T-Pain? That's Mr. Audio-Tune right now."
"Don't Let Go" is the most likely pick for the album's next single (see "Fabolous' 'All-Stars' Jay-Z, Jeezy, Rihanna Make LP Somethin' To Be Reckoned With"), and the Brooklyn MC said that his first full song with Dupri was a long time in the making.
"We've been in the same circle, and I think we even worked together on a basketball record I did with Bow Wow a long time ago," Fab explained. "I even went down to Atlanta to work with Jermaine one time, but we didn't come up with anything. That was early in my career, like my second album. He couldn't figure me out, figure what to give me. This time I think he kinda knew more of what I do. He said he already knew the records I became famous for. It was way easier this time. He had me in mind. I laid all three verses [to the song]."
At the end of the song, Dupri does get a little mic time, telling Fab they needed to make up a dance for the track. "I'mma let T-Pain work it out," Fab laughed of the choreography duties. "I'mma let him do what he do and I'll try to follow it. As long he don't go down and start breakdancing or anything, I'm good. I could follow it."
Another collaboration on Fabolous' album, "Joke's on You," features the Clipse's Pusha T. However, the record was almost lost when the song's producer, DJ Don Cannon, was arrested in January during the RIAA raid of his and DJ Drama's studios in Atlanta (see "What's Next For The Mixtape World After DJ Drama Raid?"). Federal officers seized several thousand CDs and all of their computers and files. One of the files taken into custody was the beat for Fab's record.
Rather than abandon the idea for the song, Cannon decided to re-create the beat. "It was a crazy beat," Fab said. "Cannon had to do the joint over by ear and make it as similar as possible to the first one. To me, [the new beat] sounds if not exactly like the original, it's 98 percent there. I reached out to Pusha T [for a guest appearance] because I love his lyrical content. Most of the records I do, I do the records first and if I feel somebody can come and make the record better or would be a ill combination, then I reach out to them."
A combination that fans — especially in the Big Apple — have been waiting for is from Fab and Jay-Z. Since the two are now under the giant Def Jam umbrella, it wasn't a big problem to make it happen this time out. The duo connect with newcomer Uncle Murder (signed to Roc-A-Fella) for an ode to their home terrain, "Brooklyn."
"I wanted Jay on the record 'cause I wanted to do the song for the borough," Fab told. "I wouldn't have felt right if I didn't get Jay or somebody that represented the borough. He's definitely an ambassador for the borough."
Last week, Fabolous celebrated the release of his new album with a star-studded party, sponsored by Esquire magazine and Level vodka, at Runway in New York. It felt like all five New York boroughs and the surrounding tri-state area had come out to salute him.
"I didn't know it was gonna be so crazy or I would have done it in a bigger place," Fab said of his shindig, which was also attended by Swizz Beatz, Remy Ma, Keith Murray, and a handful of NFL players. "It was an all-black joint, semi-dress attire. It was supposed to be on the hush, but a lot of people showed up. I think even the cops were like, 'Wow.' We brought a whole new ballgame. The cops started pushing people off the block, making them leave the block. It was lot of people who couldn't get in, but it was a great look, a great party."