Joseph Cartagena's ninth solo album, Jealous Ones Still Envy 2 (which I will refer to, as the project's very own cover does, as J.O.S.E. 2 from this point forward) is ostensibly a sequel to his 2001 release Jealous Ones Still Envy. Which itself was, ostensibly, a sequel to his 1995 album Jealous One's Envy. Which makes this a sequel to a sequel, which already doesn't bode well by me: the third entry in any series, even one as poorly planned and loosely-connected as whatever the shit Large Joseph was trying to pull here, tends to not be a good idea in most mediums.
However, since my whole side project-slash-experiment here is to work through Fat Joe's catalog in reverse chronological order, perhaps I'll have a different take on J.O.S.E. 2 than what I'm sure most of you two are assuming I'll have. I probably won't, but it's nice to know that I have the option.
J.O.S.E. 2 was released in 2009, but the first thing that struck me is how much it sounds like today's hip hop airwaves; whether or not you believe that to be a good thing will depend on how much you like today's hip hop airwaves. Nearly every track is populated with a guest of some sort, as though Large Joseph was as afraid of being alone as he famously was (is?) of flying, but what surprised me the most is the caliber of producer he was able to commandeer at this point in his career: absolutely none of these guys are household names, and odds are pretty good that you've maybe heard of, like, two out of ten (and there are only twelve songs on J.O.S.E. 2, with no skits (yay!), so that already doesn't make this sound like a cohesive body of work). Was Joey Crack, a guy who obviously has the right connections to score A-list beats whenever he wants (apparently he can get DJ Premier to lend him an instrumental just by hitting him up on Twitter or something, since Primo contributed to both the album preceding and the album following J.O.S.E. 2, and don't forget, he still has his membership card for the Diggin' In The Crates crew in his wallet, right there next to his Costco card and a shriveled-up condom that has been residing there since 1989), actively trying for something different, or did his label literally give him no money to record this album?
The world (or, more importantly, me) may never know.
1. WINDING ON ME (FEAT. LIL WAYNE & RON BROWZ)
The project gets off to an inauspicious start with a Ron Browz acapella, one which leads into his minimalist instrumental (one that makes it sound like Large Joseph was trying to recreate his favorite goddamn Rush album) but still manages to sound off beat. Things don't exactly pick up when Joey grabs the microphone, either: "Winding On Me", predictably, is an ode to all of the anonymous bitches (you know who you are) in the world who use their ass-shaking abilities and the power of promiscuity as a form of social currency. So this was destined to be terrible, but Fat Joe is hardly the worst aspect of it: hell, he actually sounded like he gave half of a shit during his second verse. Weezy presses the self-destruct button and goes down with this ship, drowning in a sea of meaningless metaphors and unclever sexual advances, while Ron Browz, who was riding a wave of inexplicable popularity at the time thanks to his collaboration with Jim Jones, "Pop Champagne", just flat-out cannot sing, even with the aid of Auto-Tune, which I believe he installed directly in his sinus cavity. Not the best way to kick things off, Joey. I don't have the highest of hopes.
2. JOEY DON'T DO IT
DJ Infamous's beat continues the rock-tinged theme inadvertently initiated on "Winding On Me", but unlike the previous track, this was actually a decent song. Through his two verses, Joey Crack's violent asides and Hova-esque cadence are actually entertaining as shit, and Joseph sounds like he's actually enjoying what he does for a living for the first time in fucking years. Yes, there's a tiny potshot thrown 50 Cent's way, because Fat Joe apparently didn't realize at the time that Curtis was and remains as far from relevant in our chosen genre as one can get, but nevertheless, I actually kind of liked this shit. Probably not coincidentally, this is one of the tracks on the album that doesn't feature a guest star. Huh.
3. ONE (FEAT. AKON)
Well, so much for J.O.S.E. 2 experimenting with its sound: "One" sounds like any random song playing on the radio right this second (which is pretty bad, since this album came out nearly four years ago: has hip hop really not evolved all that much?), and that's even with the anachronistic Akon feature, as he hasn't been especially popular since David Guetta's "Sexy Bitch". I think this track, which is, sadly, not a cover of U2's "classic" that I don't even really like (my wife really likes U2's "One", though, so I'll just say a quick "sorry, baby!" and move on), is supposed to be about finding your soulmate, but all of the emotions present are artificial at best, and Fat Joe doesn't manage to sell it to the audience (although he gives it the old college try at the very end, subverting the alleged meaning of the entire goddamn song). Unappealing on pretty much every level imaginable.
4. ALOHA (FEAT. PLEASURE P & RICO LOVE)
Sadly, it is never actually explained why it is that a girl telling you "Aloha" somehow makes you "the shit", so this song is rendered pointless right from the jump. Well, that, and because it's really fucking embarrassing for all parties involved. Remember, this is the same Large Joseph that is allegedly still a part of the Diggin' In The Crates crew. Are you mad yet?
5. PUT YA IN DA GAME (FEAT. T-PAIN & OZ)
Basically the same song as "Aloha", although Joey has seemingly lowered his standards by an incredible degree, as he chases after girls who appear to be borderline retarded (one of them almost accidentally eats his necklace because she confused it for some Skittles (I am not making this up), while another one he nicknames "Gump" (as in Forrest), unless I misheard that line because I just didn't care or something). T-Pain essentially torpedoed his entire career earlier in 2009 by performing (brilliantly, I might add) on The Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat": it's really hard to take the man seriously on anything now, and as such, he doesn't fare very well over this Schife concoction. I also have no idea what an Oz is supposed to be, but I don't give a shit either way, so...
6. CONGRATULATIONS (FEAT. RICO LOVE & T.A.)
The third song in a row to sound exactly the fucking same, despite "Aloha" and "Put Ya In Da Game" being handled by different producers. Joey Crack drops a silly verse and runs the fuck out of the studio, leaving the bulk of the heavy lifting to his guest stars. Rico Love returns to sing another hook, one that has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with the actual verses, including his own, because he also raps, apparently. Fat Joe may have only picked up guest rapper T.A. because he collects artists with nicknames made up solely of two capital letters, not unlike one may collect vinyl or tax liens, but he isn't completely terrible, although it is hard to listen to a guy who has had no career before or since J.O.S.E. 2 boast about his riches. Way to alienate your assumed audience right out the gate, guy.
7. PORN STAR (FEAT. LIL KIM)
At least "Porn Star" separates itself from the pack by including a female rapper as the invited guest, but said guest, Lil Kimberly Jones, is Auto-Tuned so heavily that she's unrecognizable, which makes absolutely no sense, because everyone already knows how she sounds behind the mic, so why change into something you aren't for the sake of a crappy song where the listener is also forced to contend with the sounds of Large Joseph faking an orgasm? You would think that "Porn Star" was intended as a companion piece to 50 Cent and Kim's "Magic Stick", but all of the Auto-Tuning (including that of our host, who wasn't immune to jumping onto every single trend available in 2009: shit, I'm surprised he hasn't released his own remix to "Harlem Shake" at this point) makes it sound like two robots who have recently become sentient and can only focus on sexual intercourse in the most clinical of ways. I'm never getting these four minutes back, so fuck you, Fat Joe.
8. CUPCAKE (FEAT. BENISOUR)
The only way this bullshit coke rap would have been even remotely interesting is if everyone involved was really talking about selling cupcakes, possibly out of a food truck or a newly-renovated storefront in an underpopulated shopping center. Alas, the cocaine metaphors in hip hop are just getting sillier and sillier. I blame the Clipse.
9. ICE CREAM (FEAT. RAEKWON & T.A.)
First off, the fuck is Chef Raekwon doing participating on a song that shares its title with a classic track from his own back catalog? Secondly, once Large Joseph stops rhyming, this shit actually becomes decent. Not great, or even good or decent, but better than everything else on J.O.S.E. 2 thus far. T-Weed's beat is a hell of a lot better than the last time Rae tried to revisit "Ice Cream" (see: The Lex Diamond Story's "Ice Cream Pt. 2", or, better yet, don't, since that shit blows), and T.A. and the Chef do alright by it, although Rae is back in his narcoleptic-flow mode. Still, this could have been much worse, and at least T.A. can put a Wu-Tang collaboration (of sorts: I'm sure the two men have never actually met) on his resume, so everyone wins. Except for Joey. He sucked.
10. OKAY OKAY
Sounds so much like a Rick Ross song that I wouldn't be all that shocked to discover that Fat Joe specifically wrote it for Officer Ricky as a reference track, even with all of the shout-outs to himself throughout. Bland and uninteresting, but at least it isn't "Aloha", and Joseph shows he can still handle a song all by himself when necessary.
11. BLACKOUT (FEAT. SWIZZ BEATZ & ROB KASH OF KAR)
I have yet to hear a single uttered sentence from Swizz Beatz that doesn't sound like he's aiming for a call-and-response hook: I imagine it must be really awkward for Alicia Keys, especially when they're trying to get intimate and he's just shouting catchphrases. Anyway, Swizzy predictably fucks everything up, but aside from his mere presence, "Blackout" isn't terrible, as it is salvaged by Joey Crack and guest rapper Rob Kash, whoever he is. The beat isn't all that dark, but it hits you in a way that every other instrumental on J.O.S.E. 2 fails to, and Large Joseph sounds energized, as though he finally found a beat that he actually liked. Not perfect (again, see: Swizz Beatz), but not bad if you have to listen to this album.
12. MUSIC (FEAT. CHERLISE)
I don't remember Fat Joe being so reflective on his early projects, but on The Darkside Vol. 1 and now on J.O.S.E. 2, he ends the album with a look back on his past. "Music" sees our host claiming that he chose the crack game over playing basketball and chose the rap game over selling drugs, which is the same shit nearly every other rapper says, so it's list all meaning. However, he spends his second verse rattling off a list of artists he's had a hand in putting on, all as an alleged response to haters who claim that Fat Joe never helps anyone out. Aside from Big Pun (R.I.P.), though, I found it hard to give much of a shit about his apprentices. Remy Ma? DJ Khaled? Scott Storch? Seriously? Especially Storch: I very strongly doubt that Fat Joe played a larger role in his career than, say, Dr. Dre or his own former group, The Roots, or even his former paramour Lil Kim. Groan.
THE LAST WORD: As it is a sequel to a sequel to a project that wasn't supposed to have sequels in the first place (rappers truly do need to quit with this sequel bullshit: it's not that hard to come up with an album title, folks), J.O.S.E. 2 lacks in most of the arenas required for it to sound consistently entertaining. Although a few of the beats are decent, the lack of experience from most of the producers shined through during my listen, with most of the instrumentals coming across as not quite finished (even the "good" beats could have used some extra time in the oven). And the guest stars were entirely unnecessary, as they serve to distract the audience from the star attraction, Large Joseph. For his part, Joey Crack's newfound persona as a radio-friendly harpie is something that he has fully embraced, which isn't a good thing for our chosen genre but probably works fairly well for his bank account (if not for his tax bills), but when he slips up and actually gives a shit about his work, there are flashes of the guy who could have potentially discovered Big Pun. Those moments are few and (very) far between, though, so the bulk of J.O.S.E. 2 is just another awkwardly-titled rap album that none of you two will give a flying fuck about anyway, so why am I even wasting my time writing about it? Because I like to try to finish what I started, and besides, I don't have to answer to you, so get out of my room! God! (*slams door, storms off*)
Short version: don't seek out J.O.S.E. 2. But if you're feeling especially masochistic, you still shouldn't seek out J.O.S.E. 2. Nothing good will come of it. Please and thank you.
There are a few more Fat Joe-themed posts to read on here; why not take in another one?