Fabolous
Like Me

fabolous1.jpg
It’s gotten to that point in the evening when someone suggests a strip-club run. It usually happens once the bill is paid, the bottles are empty and the conversation has petered out. Tonight, it doesn’t get past the idea stage, which is probably a good thing. “I want to lay down,” says Fabolous, who, minutes earlier, was the guy making the proposition. He’s now rubbing his belly like a pregnant woman. “The food and the wine got me in lay-down mode. If I’m not at a party, all drinks make me sleepy.”

Fabolous spent the last three hours in the wine cellar, which doubles as the VIP room, of Philippe, a posh Midtown Manhattan restaurant, entertaining his party of eight. And Fab was entertaining. He played pranks (sharing his appetizer, squab, with friends—only to inform them, after they’d declared it delicious, that squab is pigeon). He told stories (reminiscing about teenage days spent at Brooklyn’s Empire Skating rink). He cracked jokes. (When asked if he owns a pair of those $15 sneakers endorsed by New York Knick Stephon Marbury, he said, “Hip-hop ain’t dead like that. I ain’t doing that bad.”) Fully in his element, he was the life of the party.

If only the public could have seen it.

Fabolous has a bit of an image problem. Actually, the problem is that he doesn’t have much of an image. There are no shocking stories from his past. He doesn’t have a captivating presence. He’s not controversial. His real name is John Jackson, for Pete’s sake. He’s just a regular guy from Brooklyn who raps really well and makes good music. Sometimes great music. (His 2004 single “Breathe” is one of the best displays of pure mic skills in recent memory.) Unfortunately, that might not be enough. “It used to be just about the records,” says Fab. “Now, you have to make that connection imagewise, with charisma and personality. People have to buy into your brand… It’s a little stranger.”

“There are some artists who make that connection,” he continues. “I think I’m one of those artists where you don’t hate me, but people aren’t waving the flag like, ‘I fuck with Fab. I like Fab’s shit.’ They do like it. I mean, I have a fan base.”

That fan base, however, has never been clearly defined. Fab has spent his six-year career straddling the line between teenybopper pinup and serious street MC—rapping candy on R&B collabos for high school girls (“Can’t Let You Go” with Lil’ Mo), while spitting gristle for hard-rock hip-hop heads (“Keepin’ It Gangsta” with Styles and Jadakiss). His versatility, in this sense, has hurt him.

Compounding the matter, Fab has intimacy issues, lyricswise. He keeps his listeners at arm’s length. Yeah, there was “One Day” on his debut, Ghetto Fabolous, where he rhymed about the risks of hustling and the price of fame, but he’s never really bared his soul on a record. He’s never made a “Cleaning Out My Closet” or a “Regrets” or a “Many Men (Wish Death).” He’s not that type of artist. “I just don’t get personal on a lot of my records,” he says. “You see how Eminem makes a song about his mom? I don’t make personal music. I just try to make entertaining music… My personal story isn’t mundane, but it’s not spectacular. Everybody don’t want to hear your personal story.”

fabolous2.jpgThat’s debatable. There’s a reason why MySpace, Facebook and blogs are so popular: In 2007, people want to know everything about everyone. Especially their favorite rap stars. During our interviews, Fabolous frequently censors himself. Anecdotes about his family are preceded by, “This is off the record.” An admission to a recent two-year-long relationship is followed by, “I don’t want to let this personal stuff [be the focus of the article].” Even his age is confidential. Sort of. (“We can say late, late 20s,” he says with a smile.) But he realizes he has to make concessions. “In the last two years, I’ve grown a lot,” he says. “I’ve started to notice that you have to let people see who you are as a person.”

Like a lot of lessons, it was learned the hard way. Fabolous is opening up to the idea of opening up, in part because, while both Ghetto Fabolous and 2003’s Street Dreams were certified platinum, his last album, 2004’s Real Talk, barely scraped past gold. He faults his former label, Atlantic Records, for various mistakes: coming too early with “Breathe” as a lead single, not servicing the follow-up (“Baby”) until weeks after the album’s release, not releasing the Neptunes-produced “Tit 4 Tat” as a single (though they shot a video for it) and, finally, not “pushing” the video for “Do the Damn Thing,” which Fabolous shot out of his own pocket for $30,000. (That song, incidentally, gave an as-yet-unheralded Atlanta rapper named Young Jeezy his first major-label exposure.)

While he accepts some blame for the falloff (poor album cover, his choice), Fab “wanted to get away from that system.” In early 2006, he was let out of his contract and officially signed with Def Jam Records, after a de facto trade that sent Def Jam R&B singer Musiq to Atlantic.

So it’s a new day. But Fab knows his album From Nothin’ to Something is entering an industry environment significantly different from the one Real Talk was released into. Younger artists like Jeezy, T.I. and Lil Wayne have been anointed rap’s new superstars—a position once seemingly reserved for Fabolous.

“I’m not bitter about it at all,” he says. “I don’t feel like they are in my lane. If it was somebody who made music exactly how I made music, I would be like, ‘Okay, I dropped the ball. Someone put the jersey on and stole my spot.’”

——- Read the rest of our Fabolous feature in XXL’s May 2007 issue (#91)
  • Holla

    This is the best story in the new issue.

  • DYOUNG

    1ST

  • ROBB

    first

  • brendanc

    FIRST, IM first

  • http://XXLMAG.com YounGuttaAkaPaperBoy(LongliveDaking)BkaCuzzoDaKing,MW

    Damn!da fuck is this man…faboulos is my nigga and he deserves more…shit , all his lyrics is banging wit glory, i mean da dude just don’t really do nuttin,But I like my nigga,just as long as this image and personality shit don’t take em out of character…Dis next cd gotta be tough or he going down,not for good,but as far as”who da fuck is fabolous…Im yo numba 1,2,3,4,5,6 fan,all day pimpin….much luv fab

  • k swanga

    Fab is one the best to come out since 2000…But unfortunately people want “theatrics” with there music.

  • GAMA

    Get em FAB fuck these wannabe’s show em how it’s done

  • 11kap

    Fabolous does not need to change one bit. He’s an outstanding musician the way he already is. Keep up the good work, Fabolous!!

  • Fuckthis

    Fabs mad good, but his jeezy song diamonds on my chains a sad attempt at sales, and it flopped

    Know what i noticed? The real music like nas jayz and game that didnt have huge tv debuts sold from 800 to 1.5 million, yet songs like ballin and shit didnt go gold.

    Fab, make a video for a real NY song, and trust me, you will sell.

  • Holla

    That Diamonds song is pure utter trash. Stop making Southern music – jesus. Plus, that beat is wack. Fab is a good lyricist but he can’t make a good album for his life. He’s gonna go down as one of the biggest disapointments in history. He’s never made an album over 3.5 mics.

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    I cosign Fabo all day…even back then my peeps use to clown me about listening to Fab (same with Weezy 500 degrees)…I told them and Im telling you…the boy got skills…

    Fabolous
    Weezy
    TI
    Juelz Santanna
    Jeezy (not a fan of second album but he had some hits)

    When they drop go get the album…oh boy!!!

  • John Cochran

    I’m a fan, as long as continues to be himself. I dont wanna see his face everywhere like every other rapper. I think the song with jeezy was an attempt to sell, but if you look at the last year, all those big hits didnt even translate into sales. Fab, and artists in general, should just do the music they are comfortable doing.

  • INTERSCOPE JACKSON

    FabOlous dissapointed alot of his fan’s with that wack ass waterdown generic single “Diamonds” that’s prolly one of the wackest singles out this year & he deserves to FLOP

    Fab ….step your game up kid your hella talented but your new project is in trouble & def jam knows it
    fab gonna FLOP bigtime cos he’s not being original he’s dickriding the south like that wack ass nigga Fat Joe & following a trend atleast just try to make a song with some substance & no more south dickriding too faggot

    mean LOSO is the man no doubt but this having to come out with a southern swagga and featuring southern rappers Fad is fuckin depressin man i don’t hate the south or nothin but we need New York, New Jersey, and Philly to sound how we sound all this actin and soundin like somebody else across the map shit gotta stop and “DIAMONDS IN MY DAMN CHAIN” What the fuck that shit is old and way too commercial damn is 2007 and we still talkin about iced out chains Man I ain’t got nothin else to say Niggas need to evolve……..
    WE’VE FUCKIN’ HEARD ABOUT YOUR HALF WHITE/HALF CANARY CHAIN ALREADY!

  • NIFTY

    i respect fabolous as a great hip hop artist i dont know wht hes chattin above but it luks like waste 2 me lol

    fabo n jeezy kill dat song in my books its a mint song!

  • INTERSCOPE JACKSON

    sorry loso I haven’t gotten any pussy in 4 months. again I’m sorry you mad nice I still bump “BREATHE”

  • Bang

    his music sucks now, no one gives a fuck about his image

  • LakeShoreDriven

    diamonds kinda sucked but just wait for Return of the Hustle

  • http://realestniggas.com brodel34

    I fuck with Fab. I like Fab’s shit.

  • sick of people sayin first

    whats up wit u niggas sayin first and all that. damn bloggers r fuckin whack! lol y would u admit to bein here first meanin u have no life and hang out on a magazine website. sad just sad

  • DATATLBOY

    Fab got love in the south too no doubt
    a
    t
    l
    a
    n
    t
    a HOE

  • http://NONE KILLABLACK

    INTERSCOPE JACKSON, HIT IT RIGHT ON THE NAIL, ALL THESE NEWYORK NIGGERS DICK RIDING THE SOUTH LIKE THEY STARTED THE SHIT, AND IAM NOT HATING ON THEM,EVERYBODY GETS THERE TIME TOO SHINE, RAPP ALWAYS LEAVES N.Y,THEN COMES BACK, AND IT WILL COME BACK, SO THEN HOW SHOULD WE TREAT OUR TURN COATS, OH KNOWS, BUT IT WILL COME BACK. (myspace.com/blu-black)

  • skizzle

    Diamonds single is alright reminds me of Do the Damn thing. But hopefully he drop a street video for Return of the Hustle!

  • mikenice

    The Diamond joint was aiight when I first heard it now I’m knockin that shit crazy…I understand what everybody is sayin about tryin to cater to the south but look at the state of NY rap right now its boring, listen to every mixtape outta of Ny you have all these rappers tryin to spit like FAB and I know niggas got selective memories but hands down FAB was the first nigga spittin that puchline shit…in my opinion Fab and Lloyd Banks need to do an album or mixtape together that’ll bring some excitment back to NY if they bring they A game on it

  • 11kap

    Keep it gansta, son. keep shining, yo.

  • Retro

    Fab been hott! Before he was shot..now he on Def Jam screamin “Show me what you got”….

  • Retro

    hkhkknknkl

  • 816_KC_Killa

    My boi Fab is wassup right now!!!The single is crazy and it dont sound like nuthin else on the radio…the beat is hot!! and like Fab said ” They Gotta Love It, If Not then I guess They Hatas”…lol

  • yadadafeelme?

    fabolous never fell off, he is still a hella good rapper, atleast top 5 in new york. he has crazy punchlines, always comes hard on every song, even though SOME have waccass beats. even on the song “diamonds” fab came hard as fucc; even though it’s a commercialized song, another one of those jewelry-braggin’ songs, he still came hard: “you can call me carrot jeter or maybe canary bonds…” props to big fabo, lookin’ out for that new album it’s gonna be fire…by the way, “diamonds” beat was hella sicc too, i don’t know why niggas be hatin’ on it…

  • heltaskelter

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
    OHshit fabulous brawt a song out and it was…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
    get the fuk outta here

  • RO

    FUCK ALL YOU NIGGAZ TALKIN DOWN ON THE SOUTH DONT HATE CUS WE IN NOW ACCEPPT THE FACT AND ADJUST BITCHES AND BIG SHOUTS TO FAB THE BOI AS ALWAYS BEEN A TALENTED DUDE KEEP DOING WUT U DO 100

  • Hip-hop is on the phone

    this guy always made songs with catchy hooks and crazy punchlines, he was here before there ever was a lloyd banks or papoose, fab has had somewhat of longevity in this game, he’s from the same place as biggie and Jay, u know he’s nice, look out for fab.

  • peezee the jeteye

    so basically he is a borien rapper!!!! I love fab but he got to relize swagg can only get u so far, u gotta dig deep for those lyrics bra……u get wat u put into it! and that single is jus not gon cut it(except if he would of kept wayne’s verse!)

  • http://myspace.com/sheen3 $tack$

    i liked this article alot but fab as an artist he in my top 5 he always has been since he 1st came out you jus gotta really listen to his lyrics and he has his own style he mad laid-back and cool wit his flow and his swag s just sick and my nigga is also fly as fuck but i dont care what anybody say he could rap wit the best of them and i respect that he likes to keep his personal life personal he dont want no strangers in his buisness i wouldnt either but fab just need to keep doin his thing cuz he got some hot as punchlines and he could freestyle and make a good track

  • http://young_c_jones south duval904

    interscope jackson stopin hatin on da south. we runnin da rap shit. fab nice so dont get me wrong. FLA stand da fuck up

  • Bad Newz Brizz

    Fabo fell off !!!>>>.!!!>!!!!!!!!1

  • Sky

    Maan Loso dddddddammmm! You know you been spittin da ill shit from Street Dreams and really represented that “BK style, see Big how” but you let Real Talk throw you. Don’t dumb down ya lyrics like these other wack ass NYers to bring it back. You, Jay, Nas, Ja Rule and even cokehead DMX can bring NY back to some state of conciousness. Shit even Fat Joe can throw in some single hitters. Hit ‘em with another “Breathe” and knock da wind outta these busters. I hope I don’t gotta wait till Redman decides to let the monkeys back out.

  • http://ITSMEAOL.COM ITSME

    LOOK OUT FOR DAT LOSO’S WAY PART 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    FAB IZ GONNA KILL IT
    1

  • chillin mayne

    dis foo LOSO, is sick wid it mayne…homie wreckin erry single line dat he spit…i know, i been down since ghetto fabolous…dat boy make u say DAYUMMMM, wen he flip his punchlines…talkin bout jacob spent more time makin da band dan diddy did hahaaaaaaaaaaaa…mayne dis foo is sick..diamonds he wrecks,new album, he finna go platinum, den get dem XXL, 5 mics, win sum prizes, and cum back even harda on da next one…now DAS wat i call a good chain of events HAHAAAAAAAAAA

  • http://www.myspace.com/zeeprod Zee Productions

    Tupac & Biggie – Deadly Combination Zeemix
    Nas – Hope Zeemix
    Eminem ft 50 Cent – You Dont Know Zeemix
    Eminem – Jimmy Crack Corn Zeemix
    Nasty Nate – Piece Of Me

    Produced by Zee…Hottest Production coming from a 16 year old in the UK

    http://WWW.MYSPACE.COM/ZEEPROD

  • TariQ – force 1 solider!!

    Hands down, Fab is hot, he just gots to build up an image thats suits the indust and reflects his persona…. he´s one of the illest rappers in the states, but needs the right promo… Hot article XXL!! Force 1…

  • Aint That Somethin?

    So according to the posters here..Fabolous is the first to bring out punchlines? rofl….At least the Southern Fans no the history from they city

  • JABU

    LOSO

  • http://outlawz_585hotmail.com M.C

    Hope he does hes numbers or more…I’m feeling the kidd”but fucking with Jeezy –unnnhhh, well that’s another story… STick to the script at the end of the day it should pay off–don’t switch your style kidd.

  • killa the dawn

    noone gives a *uck about his lyrics? Fab weezy & wayne is the best out…and lyrically aint to many dudes that can mess with em, Loso my fave rapper he should of kept weezy in the diamonds song….jeezy didnt kill that

  • Vendetta

    man fab real, niggas is dumb they think to be real you gotta bring it like the next nigga, thats why niggas got they own style and fab style right..niggas aint ever gonna forget “breathe” and his new shit nice i got it..man “breathe” was some shit tho…lol damn

  • Dread

    New York will be fine. Aint nothing going to be able to stop New York’s future success. Just in case no one is paying attention, slowly but surely the south is starting to lose its grip of the crown. Who really from the south is making a long term impact anyway besides, TI, Ludacris and Outkast. That’s only 3 people/groups that’s really saying anything anyway. And you ask these people who inspired them, they aint just gonnas say UGK in their list. You gonna hear some NYC artists thrown in there. Besides New York getting some fresh blood now. Folk like Papoose, Jae Millz, Joel Ortiz and cats like that. YHou really can’t say anything bad about thse people. My thing is, if you can listen to shop boyz, you can listen to these people too.

  • Nyc’s finest

    It’s funny how pwople say that New York rap is dead when sells are at a low level right now. I mean think about it. How many records do you think that shop boyz are gonna sell. Riddle me that.

  • Knowledge

    My nigga Fab is one of the illest MC’s 2 eva do it. And in my opinion no 1 can fuck wit him as of right now. 2 me he’s “THE GREATEST IN THE GAME RIGHT NOW.” If I’m wrong please tell me how.