Fabolous appears to be in a comfortable space. The Brooklyn, New York-born rapper recently released his critically acclaimed sixth album, The Young OG; he’s delving into fashion by collaborating with Packer Shoes and Teyana Taylor for the release of a signature Ewing sneaker; and he has teamed up with Jay Z’s Roc Nation to take his brand to another level.
Indeed, life is fabulous for an artist who always used his wit instead of gimmicks to sell records. In an age where most rappers are lucky to remain relevant after a five-year span, Fabolous continues to create high quality music nearly 15 years after signing his first record deal.
There are some who probably thought that he couldn’t do it this well for so long. But Fabolous constantly embraces the underdog role only to eventually quiet the naysayers.
On the day Fabolous released his debut album, Ghetto Fabolous, he was not only overshadowed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but he also took a backseat to the release of Jay Z’s classic Blueprint album and the subsequent rap beef with Nas. Fabolous may have been the forgotten man that day, but he went on to sell over one million copies of his debut.
Another example of his persistence came at a time when New York rappers were being viewed as an afterthought due to the resurgence of the Southern rap and the West Coast‘s dominance of the charts. Fabolous’ The S.O.U.L. Tape mixtape trilogy proved that a New York rapper could still make New York hip-hop while also appealing to a youthful audience. The lyrically impressive mixtape series also kept Fabolous inside of the ever-changing debate of who holds the crown as the best rapper in hip-hop.
But while Fabolous deserves a mention, he seems more content with focusing on releasing good material versus an attempt at rap domination. With his latest album, The Young OG, Fabolous reminisces on the nostalgia of the ‘90s era and brings it full circle.
This is the story of a Brooklynite, rapper and father who has seen it all and continues to come up with brilliant ways to express his journey through rhyme.
With The Young OG, you reference the ‘90s era a lot. What made you go back and focus on that era with the new album?
Some of it came from the different music that people were sending to me that had samples from the ‘90s. I also saw how some of the kids of this generation were dipping back to the ‘90s with their style of dress. So it showed me that they had an appreciation for it at the same time. I was one of the guys who grew up on hip-hop in the ‘90s. I wanted to go back and try to show this generation where those styles came from. I came from that era and that was the golden era of hip-hop for me. It was kind of like my tribute to the ‘90s.
One of the things that has separated you from other rappers is your ability to use wit within your lyrics. Although lyricism appears to be a lost art these days, why is it important for you to hold onto a high standard of lyricism?
I challenge myself not to write the same one-liner hooks. Lyrics have gotten simpler because the listener’s patience has gotten shorter. But sometimes it can just be a catchy line that sticks with people as well. With me, I just try to challenge myself, challenge the listeners a little bit, and express myself in different ways. Even if I’m selling the same story, there are all these different things happening where you could say it in a different way. There are different ways of creating music. So I think that people can explore that and exercise it. Don’t just say, ”all right, we’re going to make a song and just say turn the club up.” There are other ways to say that.
You recently signed with Roc Nation, but you’ve known Jay Z for a while. What have you learned from being around Jay Z?
I’ve even seen his progression as an individual, as a man, as a human being, and as an artist. That’s what I’ve seen the most. One of the key things is that he shows you how to move in a room full of vultures. That’s one of the things that I have definitely seen Jay be able to do. You can put Jay in any room and he’s going to be comfortable. You can put him in the ‘hood in Zone 6 Atlanta, or you can put him in Midtown Manhattan, or put him in the Brooklyn projects and he’s able to navigate each one of those places well. That’s a gift. Everybody can’t do that. There are certain people who would be able to do one and can’t do the other. [There are] certain people who would be able to do two and not all three. That’s one of the reasons why he is so successful today. He is able to move in those rooms and also be able to deal with the people that are in those types of rooms. I’ve seen that. That’s one of the key things that I’ve seen from being around Jay.
What have you learned about balancing a relationship and the music business?
Sometimes it’s complicated because I try to keep my personal life a little private. Now we are in an era where all of that is exposed and people like to buy into that. They want to see what you’re doing with your significant other. They want to see your family. But to me, I’m here to entertain through my music and not my family. I do share moments. I do take pictures. I do things that I never even post on Instagram just because I want those moments to be [special] moments and not moments just for everybody to see. I want some things to just be our moments. They’re our moments, our pictures, and our accomplishments. I just try to live in our life instead of living in what people want you to show them or expose or what everybody else is doing. It gets complicated. But I think if you find the right person to understand that, then it works.
Your son will have a different experience than you had while growing up in Brooklyn during the ‘90s. As a father, what do you want most for your son?
My son is 7 years old now. I’m just trying to show him different things. I want to take him to a fashion show, I want to take him to a Broadway show. I posted a pic on my Instagram of my son at a fashion show and someone was like, ”why would you want to take him to a fashion show?” But that could be something that he ends up liking. It could spark something in him. I just want to provide the opportunities. I never got to see those types of things when I was 7 years old. I lived in New York my whole life and first went to a Broadway show in my late 20s. It’s a big thing. Big shows happen in your city and you walk by it every day or get on the train without ever getting a chance to see them.
Did becoming a father change your approach to music?
I want to make music that represents who I am and where I’m from. But at the same time, when you have a child, it comes into play with the kind of music you’re making. I remember there was like the cheesy rappers who made songs that were kid-friendly. But right now, there is no more of that. So now these kids are listening to twerk anthems and turn up songs. They’re explicit and they’re all about money and girls. This is what your 5- and 6-year-olds are listening to. This is what is getting programmed into them. And they’re singing the lyrics. Even the R&B music is more harsh. I think about that while having a kid, but I also know that those artists are expressing themselves because I’m an artist myself. So those artists are expressing how they feel, what they see, what’s going on around them.
How do you want your latest project to be remembered?
I’m really not looking for approval or acceptance. I hope people enjoy the music, respect what I do, respect the music and take from it what they can get from it. I want people to listen and hear certain things in there that comes from the ‘90s. [There’s] an education in the album too. That’s what the project was really about. It’s really a tribute and [I’m] hoping people got it and enjoyed the theme of it. But for people giving their ratings, that’s for them to do. I just wanted to make some music for people to vibe to.