John Jackson, bka Fabolous, is just a quiet kid from Brooklyn’s Brevoort housing projects, who first hit the music scene in 2001 with the release of his breakout LP Ghetto Fabolous. The first hit from the record, “Can’t Deny It,” established Fab as a rising East Coast MC with a lot of crossover appeal—someone who could appeal to gritty New York fans while infusing Southern sounds into his music. Since the release of Ghetto, Fab’s seen consistent commercial success and has proved himself a force to be reckoned with. After releasing five studio albums and three mixtapes to date, Fab hopes to continue his successful streak on June 18th with his sixth studio album, Loso’s Way 2: Rise to Power.
As part of his thirty-city Life Is So Exciting tour with G.O.O.D. Music signee Pusha T, Fab performed at NYC’s B.B. King’s last week and ran through a mix of surefire classics and new tracks to a sold-out crowd. After the show, he sat down with XXL to discuss the tour, his unexpected love of Evanescence, and his dream collaboration.—Written by Anastasia Williams (@AAAAAnastasia)
XXL: How’s touring with Pusha T?
Fabolous: Touring with Pusha is great. The thing about me and Pusha is that we relate in a lot of ways, just like what we are into and even down to the fashion. We have a lot of similar tastes, and it’s just easier to roll with somebody when you have a lot in common.
You’ve come a long way since your debut and have done a lot to stay relevant. What have you done to maintain your sound while still adjusting to today’s music?
I guess I just pay attention to what’s going on, you know? I always watch the change of the sound of music, but I don’t really change my sound. I think it’s just about being able to adapt but still being competitive and still making music that works with what’s going on. But right now, I feel like it’s the turn-up, ratchet period of hip-hop. [laughs]
Yes! Bands and strippers in the club music. That’s not really your sound.
Exactly! That’s not really my lane, but the challenge for me is being able to find music that could still work on different platforms and still compete with the ratchet shit.
So who would people be surprised to know that you have on your iPod?
Evanescence! I have their album.
Ah, okay! I love them too.
Yeah, they’re a dope band. I like rocking with them and feeling out their music because it’s different from hip-hop, and they just have those dope melodies. Right now, I’m getting into more live instrumentation—that’s why I had the live band with me tonight—so I’m all about that sound.
It was really cool that you brought Lil’ Mo out tonight, she’s one of my favorite female rappers so I really enjoyed that.
She’s great. Mo was one of my first collaborations, so it was dope that she was able to come out and rock with me. We hadn’t rocked on stage together for years.
You’ve been in the game for more than a decade now. Do you ever step back and feel like this is all kind of surreal, in terms of your success and accomplishments? Or do you just roll with it and enjoy the ride?
I kind of just roll with it, but at the same time I recognize that I have an opportunity that a lot of people don’t have. You know, when I started doing this, it was out of a passion for the music–it was just a hobby for me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I was blessed to do it on a professional level. Even when I started doing it, it wasn’t something that could be a career. It was more like you rap just to get you a big chain and some girls. And now, I’m twelve years in and I just look at it like, “Wow.”
What do you think of the new hip-hop movement coming out of Brooklyn with acts like Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers?
They’re dope! It’s a new generation. With the era before this, you’d just put an album out and go on tour, but now you can’t do that. You have to be consistent and I think the guys of the new school are taking advantage of that, you know what I’m saying? They put out new music, they put out mixtapes, they put out viral videos, then they do these intimate shows all over the city. It took me a while to even adapt to that, but that’s one of the reason I wanted to do this intimate run with Pusha, because you want to connect with the people who supported you from the beginning, you know? I want people to come out and see a great show, then go home and be like, “Yeah, I still fuck with Fab.” But yeah, I like Joey and Action Bronson, because they’re reminiscent of old-school New York hip-hop. When I was coming up there wasn’t a mixture of Southern-flavored music, it was just Nas, Mobb Deep, and Jay-Z. But now, with the Internet era, the sound of hip-hop has changed, so a kid from Brooklyn can listen to Rick Ross every day. Rick’s from Miami, but there’s the Internet.
Which makes it all accessible.
Exactly. When I was growing up, I wasn’t listening to Trick Daddy every day because it wasn’t something that was getting played where I was. But now, the market is more open, and I praise guys like Joey and Action so much for bringing back that New York sound.
What advice would you give artists who are also trying to come up, especially now when everyone is a rapper?
Everyone is a rapper! My mom just started rapping. [laughs] But I don’t know, I guess you gotta just go hard! Especially now. There’s a lot of avenues that I didn’t have when I started rapping, you’ve just gotta use those tools and go hard.