Leave it up to Joseph Cartagena, the given name of rap artist Fat Joe, to fuck up my series on him right from the jump. In case you two haven't been paying attention, I was planning on tackling Joey Crack's back catalog LL Cool J-style, meaning that I was going to work my way backwards through all of his albums as an experiment of sorts. So of course the guy fucking drops a new project right after the first article posts. (Okay, not right after: it was almost a year ago when I started this experiment.) It is just a mixtape, which means I would normally ignore it, but because Large Joseph saw fit to call it The Darkside Vol. 2, marking it as a direct sequel to the subject of my first Fat Joe article, The Darkside Vol. 1, I have no choice but to deviate from my original plan in order to fulfill my self-imposed mission.
Not that any of you two care about this shit anyway: I'm pretty sure most of you turned out the moment you noticed that Fat Joe was the subject of today's update.
Anyway, back to The Darkside Vol. 2. The first volume in this series was heralded (mostly by Fat Joe) as a return to the dark, violent street rap that our host first cut his teeth on way back in the 1990s, when he was a respected artist with an affiliation with the Diggin' In The Crates crew and an ear for talent (see: his signing and nurturing of the late Big Punisher). It ultimately didn't pan out that way for the most part, but according to my own review, the first entry in this series wasn't so awful that it stopped the whole enterprise in its tracks or anything. Large Joseph had intended to follow up that project with The Darkside Vol. 2 almost immediately, but apparently had a change of heart, since the second and third volumes of this series were intended to trigger Fat Joe's retirement. So he changed his mind, as all rappers who are prone to promising new projects tend to do almost immediately, but Joey Crack knows which side his bread is buttered (whatever the fuck that means), so instead of forcing the few fans he still currently has to wait, he decided to make The Darkside Vol. 2 a free mixtape, available for download starting on Halloween 2011.
The Darkside Vol. 2 consists of only ten tracks, eight of which are produced by someone named Mark Henry, and features a handful of guest stars (one of whom doesn't even contribute a fucking verse - more on that later), but Fat Joe tackles the bulk of it on his own, in an attempt to recapture his youth and render himself relevant in the rap game once again. Which will never happen for him, at least as a rapper: maybe if he moved into music production, he might be able to extend his shelf life by a few years. (His Terror Squad Records, a label that is pretty much defunct today, once signed producer DJ Premier, generally considered to be one of the greatest to ever do it, so it's not as though Joey would be hurting for possible mentors.)
But it's cute that he's trying so hard.
1. WELCOME TO THE DARKSIDE (FEAT. FRENCH MONTANA)
A note to all artists, whether veteran or rookie: it's usually not a good idea to start your album off with the voice of an entirely different artists. It's even worse when the guy who kicks off the project, in this case French Montana, has nothing to do with your camp. Joey's questionable artistic direction aside, I was thrilled to discover that "Welcome To The Darkside" is not, in fact, a mixtape rap album intro as the title would suggest, nay, demand. That doesn't make this track automatically good, or even all that enjoyable, though: over an inane instrumental from RoJ & TwinkiE (yeah, me neither) that heavily mirrors how shitty hip hop sounds these days, Large Joseph spits two below-average verses that make one wonder just how he and Big Punisher became friends in the first place, and Frenchy's hook is so obnoxious and unbearable that you'll want to choke out his mother just because. I don't have a good feeling about this mixtape.
2. DOPEMAN (FEAT. JADAKISS & DRE)
It's tempting to say that the reason The Darkside Vol. 2 was released as a free mixtape and not as an actual album is because of the sample from The Beatles' "Yesterday", which opens this track: no matter how much cocaine Joey pretended to move, he would never be able to afford to clear that shit. At least Large Joseph isn't a dummy, for the most part: the hook, performed by Dre (of production duo Cool & Dre,who may be the two only remaining members of the Terror Squad, as is my understanding), is also filled with references to the Fab Four, using the names of each band member as a different variety of drug in such a horrible fashion that you will want to shake your head, throw The Darkside Vol. 2 into a lake (or, you know, delete it from your hard drive: no need to get all dramatic on me here), and listen to pretty much any Beatles music you can find, just to erase your memory of this terribly weak shit. Also, Jadakiss was on here, too.
3. SO FLY (FEAT. ARLAND)
Hey, Joey, let me ask you a question. You were aware that The Darkside Vol. 2 was a mixtape, right? I assume so: you've been in the business for a long time, so I have to believe that you know what goes into deciding what makes the final cut of any project. So why the hell did you include a song with a wimpy R&B chorus (courtesy of guest star Arland) on the second volume of a series intended to celebrate your return to your hardcore hip hop roots? Just exactly what audience were you trying to attract? And the fact that you did this on a song that features an interesting (if a bit cheesy) Mark Henry beat and some actual decent verses from yourself blows my mind. If you're trying to play a practical joke on the listener, now is not the time. Get your shit together. Love. Max.
4. BIG BUSINESS
On the first track from The Darkside Vol. 2 to not feature a guest of any sort, Large Joseph proves that he occasionally watches the news by referencing both the Occupy Wall Street movement and Herman Cain's "9-9-9" tax plan...all within two bars. And now that you're caught up with current events, feel free to enjoy Joey's Rick Ross-esque flow, and I mean that not in a "Fat Joe likes to rap about cocaine"-kind of way: I literally mean that Fat Joe, a guy who was one of the early members of the Diggin' In The Crates crew, actually sounds like he's consciously mimicking Officer Ricky's style. "Big Business", taken from the Lily Tomlin / Bette Midler film of the same name, isn't entirely awful: Mark Henry's beat was passable, and the decision to skip the hook in favor of a dialogue sample was kind of inspired. But Joey Crack himself is pissing me the fuck off.
5. ANGELS SAY
Poor Large Joseph. Every time he wants to sit down and reminisce about bitches (only those of the "bad" variety, of course), he's rudely interrupted by the sounds of gunfire or by one of his weed carriers delivering terrible news. But our host doesn't want or need your pity. No sir, all Joey Crack wants is to fucking talk about bad bitches while alleged "angels" half-ass what is supposed to constitute a "chorus". This track wasn't entirely awful, though. Fat Joe completely loses the point of the song approximately three words into the first verse, but I'd be lying if I said that I outright hated this. It isn't all that good or anything, but for Joey, it'll do, pig. It'll do.
6. PUSHING KEYS (FEAT. RAEKWON)
Our host earns twenty points for convincing Raekwon the Chef, a man who has been on a bit of a comeback streak as of late, to appear on The Darkside Vol. 2, but then loses everything, including his shirt, his car keys, his fortune, his family, and the respect of his coworkers by only getting the guy to phone in some bullshit ad-libs that close out "Pushing Keys" in a wholly nonsensical way. Joe's verses, broken up by an overly wordy hook that I didn't realize even was the hook until I heard him reference Alicia Keys for the second time, are semi-tolerable (over a terrible Mark Henry beat) because the listener is waiting on pins and needles for Raekwon to completely overshadow his host, but that moment never comes to pass, and now I just feel fucking cheated. Nice work, dick.
7. DROP A BODY
This was, apparently, the first song leaked from the project, identifiable as such because our host advertises that The Darkside Vol. 2 is "coming soon" at the end of it. Over a beat that essentially rips off what Just Blaze was going for on Jay-Z's "U Don't Know", Large Joseph adopts a Hova-esque conversational flow that clearly illuminated his modern-day shortcomings: specifically, the fact that he no longer has a style to call his own, as he brazenly steals from any and all influences in his path, morphing himself into the image of said influences as if he were more malleable than gold. It's kind of weird that he would look to Jay-Z's 2001 album The Blueprint for the inspiration for a coke rap song in 2011 with an asinine chorus that conjures up absurd images of dropping cadavers onto your enemies as a shock tactic, but I'm not questioning Joey's artistic mind. Just his methods. And his usefulness moving forward in our chosen genre.
8. MY LORD
Large Joseph uses Mark Henry's trifling loop of a beat to completely avoid talking about religion, unless he's trying to imply that all he worships are kilos of pure uncut cocaine, in which case the guy's priorities are more fucked than I had ever believed possible. This song may last for less than two minutes on paper, but it feels like it goes on for at least ten times that amount, as you'll spend the one-verse wonder trying to figure out just how much Fat Joe must hate his fans.
9. FUCK THEM OTHER N----S
Mark Henry's instrumental sounded better suited for an introductory missive and not so much a lethargic threat appearing near the end of the project. Our host's two verses weren't awful, but he sounded awfully generic, especially when compared to all of the jerks I heard on Sirius XM's Hip Hop Nation during my drive home from work. All I have to say is this: when the chorus, liberally borrowed from C-Murder's chorus from Snoop Dogg's "Down 4 My N----z", makes you want to actually listen to more music from a No Limit Soldier, you know that Fat Joe has fucking failed.
10. AROUND THE WORLD (FEAT. ARLAND)
This was not the Daft Punk cover I was promised.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? Um, no. The Darkside Vol. 2 is an ultimate waste of ten audio tracks that will collect virtual dust on your hard drive, and you can put that space to better use downloading porn. Fat Joe appears to have almost completely lost whatever spark he had when he first conjured up this particular series of projects, and he feels that aping whatever the radio sounds like today is the best route he has toward longevity. And he's wrong: I don't think anybody out there was asking for a second guy to sound like Rick Ross, and with everyone and their respective mothers rhyming about selling cocaine, that sub-genre has also grown stale. The Darkside Vol. 2 is also not really all that dark: there are a couple of bleak spots, sure, but two of the songs feature R&B singer Arland, and it's kind of hard to reflect on your life choices when Joey is trying to get you to dance and/or convince a female audience to care. The first volume in this series had at least one song that kept it from being submitted to the scarp heap: The Darkside Vol. 2 has no such luck. Avoid this one at all costs, unless you enjoy punishing yourself. In which case, please refer to that pornography I referred to earlier that you should have downloaded instead.
RELATED POSTS:If you care to continue, this link will help you along your Fat Joe quest.