Fat Joe Says Darkside, Vol. 1 Establishes Him As 'One Of The Greats'

'Who you know, 10 albums later, get better than he's ever been before?' Joey Crack asks Mixtape Daily.

Don't Sleep: Necessary Notables

Independent Album: The Darkside, Vol. 1

Headliner: Fat Joe

Key Cameos: The Clipse and Cam'ron on "Kilo"; R. Kelly on "How Did We Get Here"; and Lil Wayne on "Heavenly Father."

Essential Info: When Fat Joe says that this is just the first volume of The Darkside, the Bronx veteran means it. He's already started recording the follow-up to the LP, which officially dropped Tuesday (July 27).

"The Darkside, Vol. 2, we already started the intro," Joe said with a grin when he stopped by 1515 headquarters recently. "We're just trying to make The Darkside its own brand. It's Fat Joe, but it's The Darkside. We come with Vol. 2, make it crazier than Vol. 1, by the time Vol. 3 come, we got a problem on our hands.

"Your man Raekwon, without a radio single, banged out numbers on that Purple Tape [a.k.a. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. II] because that was already an established classic. It was a brand itself. People knew 'I gotta hear that next album.' "

While the second offering probably won't be out until February, Joe's current effort, which marks his 10th LP, still has plenty of legs.

"I'm excited about this album. I can't wait 'til the fans get it," Joe said." We locked ourselves in the studio for like eight, nine months: wasn't going out, just concentrating on music. I feel like this album is finally where people can hear it and be like, 'He's one of the greats.' Who you know, 10 albums later, get better than he's ever been before? It's hard. To come from all this huge success like a 'What's Love,' and a 'Lean Back,' then take it back to the street with The Darkside.

Joe said that his friends, producers Cool & Dre, were two of the people who inspired this project. The production duo believed the Bronx MC had missed the mark with 2009's Jealous Ones Still Envy (J.O.S.E.) 2 and wanted to hear an album of just hardcore Joey Crack music. He recorded the album in their Lake Oasis studio in Miami.

"They was like, 'Joe, you the boss, man. We need you to be on top. We need you to be hot. If you not hot, nobody's hot, ' " Crack detailed. "They felt like, 'Yo Joe, when I first met you, when we was doing the J.O.S.E. album and [2002's] Loyalty, Joe Crack was from the Bronx, he was hard, we couldn't tell him nothing.' They wanted that back; so did some of the blogs. My fans kept on me like, 'Joe, we love you, we gonna support you. But we need that Fat Joe the Gangsta.' "

Joe jumped in the lab, not only with Cool & Dre, but also the likes of Just Blaze, DJ Premier and newcomer Scoop DeVille to bring him those gutter soundscapes.

"I turn around sometimes and I see you-know-who and other rappers say, 'Fat Joe is dead,' " the veteran MC began. "I say, 'If I'm dead and I come with the first single, 'Ha Ha' with Young Jeezy, the hottest rapper in the 'hood. Then I come with Trey Songz, the hottest R&B artist [on 'If It Ain't About Money']. What's gonna happen when I'm alive?' It's so crazy to me."

One of the tracks to strike a big chord with fans is "I'm Gone." The song from Vol. 1is a tribute to Gangstarr's Guru and was produced by Premier. At the end, Joe speaks for several minutes about the late MC's career.

"It feels like Gangstarr is the purest group in hip-hop," Joe declared. "They was shooting videos on the beach in the winter when the water was ice. Razor-blade music. A bunch of guys in front of the project steps. 'Mass Appeal,' 'Dwyck.' 'Stick up kids just out to tax ... ' It's just so much, man. When [Guru] passed, and I'm hearing all these rumors, I just wanna kill everybody. I want to shoot the computer, 'cause I'm like, 'No, this ain't what we do when our legends, our icons, pass. We salute them. We don't go for rumors; we salute these dudes.' He was an icon, man. It's the purest group in hip-hop, in my opinion. DJ Premier, this guy is like a god, a walking god. Guru, he put it down legendary.

"Preemo, I was waiting for Preemo to give me a 'Ten Crack Commandments' or a shoot 'em up, bang bang," he continued, recalling his expectations when he got the track for "I'm Gone." "He sent me the beat when Guru died — the day Guru died. It was a somber ... sad beat. I was like, 'Ah, man.' I knew where to go with it. It really troubled me and I knew Guru passed away. I knew Preemo was hurting; I been through that with Pun. I knew how it felt. I had to pay homage and salute."

Tuesday night at S.O.B.'s in New York, Joe is celebrating his 10th with RapRadar.com, fans and several surprise guests. He'll be leaving the singles at home, instead performing all of his street hits and of course records from The Darkside.

"My favorite song on my album is 'Valley of Death,' produced by Cool & Dre. We gonna go to the desert and shoot that video. It's a record for the streets. It's a record I could have saw Game doing, saw Kanye doing, something with that real soulful sample. Then I'm talking that 'ish,' legendary. I love the Just Blaze [track, I'm Crack]. It's a lot of sick records on the album. Of course Scoop DeVille, 'No Problems,' that's gonna paralyze the city when we drop that. We got some gems on the album."

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