Interview with Fabolous

Real Talk with Fabolous

Fabolous © Def Jam.

He's the rapper most likely to forgive you for misspelling his name. He's also one of the few to command commercial appeal and street dignity simultaneously. But things haven't always been this smooth for Fabolous. After his third LP, Real Talk, failed to match the chart success of previous albums, Fab went from Top 10 to not being mentioned at all. Now back with the aptly-titled From Nothin' to Somethin', Fabolous is more focused than ever.

In this About.com exclusive, Fab opens up on his relationship with Def Jam president Jay-Z, what kept him musically mum for two years, and why he would never rap about homosexuality.

Congratulations on your fourth album, From Nothin' to Somethin'. Not too many people make it past album No. 2. What's the secret?

It's all about consistency, to keep making good music. At the same time, it's about being able to evolve. I may have a demographic as far as who listens to the music, but I still want to evolve. Really, hip-hop doesn't want you to grow up. I think that's what happens with artists like Nas[/link">. Certain people didn't want to see him grow up out of Illmatic or It Was Written. The challenge for me is to be able to evolve and still keep people happy at the same time.

In hip-hop, 2 to 3 years away from the game means you're retired. Why did it take you that long to bounce back?

Switching labels, working on the album...it wasn't really easy for me to leave Atlantic to go to Def Jam.
I had to wait for the time for that to go through and not do anything that will shake that up. So, I didn't want to put out music and tamper with the whole switch-over, because then you could get hot and the label will be like "Nah, we're not letting you go."

Speaking of hot music, you've had your share of success and Top 10 singles. But sales have been dipping lately. Does that bother you?

Well, I think anyone in the music industry has to pay attention to that. But there are still ways to make a connection with the audience. You've seen some artists that have done well. So, it's really about making a connection. They say the internet is one of the things that's bringing the downfall of hip-hop, but you're gonna have to start paying the internet some attention. The internet is still broadening the music as a whole. It's still making hip-hop heard in other parts of the world; it's just slowing down the physical sales. People are getting the music, they're just not going to the stores to get it. So, you have to capitalize off the internet, and that's what I plan to do with my project. I can't let you in on my little tactic.

Other Def Jam artists, like Method Man and LL Cool J, have complained about the way their projects were handled in the past. Is this something you could relate to or are you getting maximum push for your record?

Well, it's stupid to complain and bash your label before coming out. I can see you doing that after you come out or after you get off that label. In my situation, I haven't had anybody to bash anyway. I can't say that LL or Method Man or whoever was stupid for doing it, because if you're having problems you should voice them.
But it's about the way you do it. You don't wanna disrupt everything that you've got going because something went wrong. All those artists have been long time artists, so they should be able to sit down and try to work it out, rather than going to a magazine and saying, "F**k Def Jam!" That doesn't really make sense.

What's your relationship with Jay-Z with regards to the label?

Our relationship is good. He gives me open answers to everything that I ask. I think the challenge for Jay was being able to be "Jay-Z" ...himself as an artist, and still be able to manage being the president without people looking at it like he cares for himself only. I think our relationship is great, we haven't had any discrepancies or anything that would tarnish it.

Is there a Brooklyn Anthem with the big homie on this album?

I would love that. You oughtta ask him that question too [laughs]. Of course I would be open to that. I definitely respect Jay's lyricism and what he's done for the game, everything that he's contributed. If the opportunity presents itself, I would love it.

What guest features can we expect on the album

We've got Swizz Beats doing the hook on a joint. He's not even doing the beat, Just Blaze actually did the beat. So that was a little crazy getting those two on a song...two different producers who're doing their thing in the game on the same joint. We've got Rihanna on the record. We've got Lil' Mo, Young Jeezy. Pusha T from the Clipse is on a new record I just did. We got a lot of diversity on the album, you know. We're still waiting on all the features, so I guess we'll see about that.

Looking at the on-going feuds between 50 Cent and Cam'ron, does beef help or hurt the NY scene?

I think it's entertaining, but it hurts in terms of isolating the fans. I don't think the southern rap region has that, and that's one of the reasons why they're winning. They got unity, you know. In New York, we don't have that unity right now. Everybody has isolated clicks.

You're saying they force fans to picks sides, right?

Exactly. It isolates them. It makes them feel like you can't like D-Block if you like G-Unit, or you can't like Dipset if you like Jay-Z. It isolates a lot of things, but at the same time it's entertaining because it keeps people's names out there.

Any song on this album that you want people to really pay attention to?

I did a song called "What Should I Do?" with Lil' Mo and it's really where people are writing me fan letters and they look to their favorite artists for guidance. They're writing me letters asking me what they should do about their situations, so I answered them. There's a lot of responsibilities that come with being an artist and I wanted to show them that. That song illustrates that and I want people to pay attention to it.

You cover a wide rang of topics in your songs. Is there one thing you would absolutely not rap about?

I guess...homosexuality. That's a touchy subject, you know. I don't bend back and forth with "gay" or "not gay." I don't wanna play with that. I heard Kanye was quoted as saying that he has gay cousins and he loves them. It's just a touchy subject. Everybody's not always open to everything. People still have biased feelings about certain things, especially in the hip-hop world. The hip-hop world hates homosexuality.

Who's your favorite rapper of all time?

It's between Biggie and Jay-Z.

Why?

I love the way Biggie really had the ability to make a record that you feel is the hardest s**t in the world. At the same time, he could make something very playful, as a comedy thing. He could say "Playa Hater" [attempts to sing "Playa Hater"]. Certain people you would look at them as a comedy rapper and you wouldn't take them seriously if they tried to make a hard joint. Jay-Z is just lyrically talented.

If you could say one thing to your fans, and one thing to your haters, what would it be?

To my fans: I know you've been waiting just to hear some new music. I'm back, and I appreciate the wait.
To the haters: Eat your hearts out because I'm back. Listen to the album so you can learn something from it.

Thanks for your time, Fab.

Thank you.