Over eleven years and five albums, Bed-Stuy's Fabolous had intermittent successes perfecting proven mainstream rap formulas. Don't expect anything too adventurous from his albums, which typically consist of club bangers, suave R&B and feature-heavy street anthems. At best he redefines those genres, like when he murdered Just Blaze's perfect party beat "Breathe" on Real Talk (2004) or upstaged Jay-Z on the epic "Brooklyn" off From Nothin' to Somethin' (2007). However, mediocre pop rap tracks generally weigh down Fabo's albums. Still, the smooth-talking MC regularly musters enough charisma to turn obligatory duets with R&B crooners into catchy guilty pleasures. That's how Fabo scored his first hit, the Nate Dogg-assisted "Can't Deny It" from Ghetto Fabolous, and his biggest single yet, 2007's "Make Me Better," with its Ne-Yo hook.
Fabo's latest, Loso's Way - inspired by Brian DePalma's Carlito's Way, inviting unfavorable comparisons to Jay-Z's American Gangster - lacks a surefire summer anthem, but doesn't feature any outright failures. (Except the tacky short film that accompanies the deluxe edition.) More than previous Fabo records, Loso's Way deals in club- and radio-ready beats that reflect his ongoing aspirations to crossover success. He's great at sounding slick and laid back over hot production, but those choice instrumentals tend to overshadow his clever lyrics and introspective moments. For instance, the Blackout Movement's beat for "There He Go," with blips sprinkled over rattling synthesizer bass, is so engrossing you might miss Fabo's great verse: "Only be with winners, they should put me as a prize/And you pussy niggas should be put between some thighs/These diamonds here clearer than HD/Them niggas over there squarer then a H3."
This habit of cruising on stellar production means that when Fabo raps over lackadaisical beats, like the generic Ryan Leslie-produced single "Everything, Everyday, Everywhere," you really notice stupid lines like: "Somebody better tell 'em that we in this bitch like an unborn baby." Comparing your career's longevity to a fetus entombed in a woman's uterus sounds bad no matter how smooth you rap. Loso's Way's middle section features several similar tracks that don't deserve multiple listens, like the silly lead single "Throw It In The Bag." None disappoints more than the Jay-Z-assisted "Money Goes, Honey Stay," with its half-assed Jermaine Dupri beat. Jay and Fabo trade lazy verses, and it takes Lil Wayne's show-stealing appearance on the marching band-backed "Salute" to bring Fabo back in line.
After filling his radio quota with the forgettable ballad "The Fabolous Life" and another funky Ne-Yo appearance on "Makin' Love," Fabo finishes strong. He opens up about parenthood and his father on the moving songs "Last Time" and "Stay"; goes solo on "Lullaby," the album's grittiest; and proves his storytelling skills on "I Miss My Love." Besides those closers, Fabo sounds best during the opening suite, which includes Loso's Way's closest thing to a bonafide party jam. Passable verses, the Runners's grandiose beat and Jeremih's gently Auto-Tuned chorus on "My Time" make it the album's best, though it won't replace "Breathe" or "Tit 4 Tat" at the top of your Fabo playlist. He raps defiantly: "I don't even need a watch, I don't even see a clock/Soon as I walk in, it feel like me o'clock," but Fabolous still doesn't seem ready for his time in the spotlight.