Thursday, 2 March 2017

Fat Joe - Jealous Ones Still Envy (2001)

This being a rap album, it has occurred to me that I might like to skip the usual preamble about middle class wankers, given how I always end up writing the same thing. It would be nice, but I'm still reeling from Monday's facebook encounter with one David Yeomans, an Australian gentleman with a home page dominated by the Sonnenrad and praise for President Trump. The Sonnenrad is a symbol which was very popular amongst high-ranking members of the Third Reich, and surprisingly Yeomans is not a fan of rap music.

Hip hop is not my thing though, I do not like the beats or the culture and environment it emerged from. To support it is to popularise ghetto culture and that is wrong. You cannot say it doesn't either, just remember the number of teenagers in Australia with gang bandannas and acting like "homies".


Yep, but it is a very destructive one and a very vicious one. For the most anyway, I will not deny there are a small few who do not sing about rape, violence and drugs, but it is the minority, and for certain not the popular ones.

I'd bother to address some of this, but 1) the opinion of a person who knows nothing about the subject upon which they have chosen to opine isn't really worth taking seriously, and 2) neither are the views of anyone with a big fat Nazi sun wheel as the masthead of their facebook page, so screw you, Dave.

This was Joe's first album following the death of Big Pun, his partner in rhyme and best buddy - a bereavement which led to the hugely acrimonious bust up with Triple Seis and Cuban Link of Joe's Terror Squad. I never quite worked out what happened there, but it sounded like a series of stupid misunderstandings piled one on top of the other. Anyway, at the time I was surprised that he even had a new album, given the circumstances; but I suppose I shouldn't be because those circumstances are what shaped this record. There are lighter moments, but it really isn't a happy collection.

He is really singing a lot about rape, violence, and drugs, Dave.

Joe has often spoken about how, whilst Pun was lyrically a natural, he himself has always had to work at his art, but it doesn't really show here. He isn't in Pun's league in terms of the weirder crossword puzzle clues, but there's nothing shabby or obviously laboured about Joe's testimony and he makes up for shortcomings with a delivery which renders almost every other track a declaration of war - complete with the trumpets in a few cases. King of NY and My Lifestyle both attain face-punching levels of bellowed swagger you wouldn't ordinarily expect to hear outside an M.O.P. record; and then M.O.P themselves guest on Fight Club a couple of tracks later so that all gets a bit sweaty and no mistake.

I guess they must be his "homies", Dave.

Half of Jealous Ones Still Envy sounds like the work of a man who just had his best pal die, and who's going to keep on cracking skulls until the pain goes away - supported by dirty, steel-toecapped east coast beats of the kind which otherwise customarily fail to score in the pop hit chart parade, which nevertheless became one of our fat friend's specialities - namely smuggling that grimy, uncommercial shit right into the heart of clubland and getting everyone moving like it's Britney Spears. The other half of the album makes concessions and is arguably more musically populist, but somehow without it ever quite feeling that way. The bittersweet What's Luv?, for example, could almost be the theme from My Little Pony, and yet there's a rough edge keeping it in line with the rest if you listen close. Only the Latin-tinged It's OK really spoils the pattern with a little Ricky Martin dance, but Joe is of Latino heritage so I guess he has as much right to indulge as anyone - although it's the only point at which I noticed what a long album this is.

I spent roughly fifteen years listening to little else but rap music, and mostly the stuff where they sing about rape, violence and drugs; and with hindsight I've noticed how this period was also the one during which my life became pretty tough going in certain respects. It makes sense, because there's nothing like this kind of music when you feel as though you're living under siege conditions by one definition or another. It really gets you through the tough times. Coincidentally, since January the 20th, I've found myself listening to a lot more rap than has recently been the case, and I've a feeling I may be listening to little else over the next couple of years.

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