Joey Crack season has returned. Many know him as the blimp-sized, PordaReecan emcee who was recently on MTV performing topless over Ashanti and R.Kelly's bubblegum hip-hop beats. For some, he's just the guy who used to hold the umbrella up for Big Pun -- the only other emcee who could overshadow Joe in his own presence. But none of that is really Fat Joe.
The true Fat Joe has thankfully resurfaced, bringing classic New York state of mind with him. Like The Beastie Boys, Terror Squad is paying tribute to the five boroughs (with special focus on the Bronx) while Joe makes claim to the highly coveted King of NY seat, supposedly left open when Jay-Z retired. That tribute means: Crunk music without Lil' Jon screaming anywhere on any track; sample-heavy, yes, but without the Kanyeezee; straight gangstaism without any help from Dr. Dre or Snoop or the nomadic 50 Cent; and easily danceable without any Timbaland or Neptunes disco-ish beats.
Fortunately, we can speak on this CD track-for-track, as there are only 12 songs. Note to rappers: That's all the songs you need; that's all we can stand in one sitting. We don't need the double and triple CDs, or the CD with 12 songs listed but seven hidden tracks and an additional three bonus tracks and the two remixes of the lead single, or the CD with 26 tracks, half of which are skits, intros and outros. Twelve songs -- that's it. Check your classic albums -- Illmatic (Nas), Voodoo (D'Angelo), How I Do (Res), For You (Prince), Innervisions (Stevie Wonder) -- if you don't believe me.
Based on a True Story opens with "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me," the song with the least lyrical input, but which says more than any other song on the disc. It's a preamble that summarizes Fat Joe's, and maybe also hip hop's, whole freakin' point. An old Marilyn McCoo voice sample carries that point, looped thoroughly the entire song. Like the club let-out soundtrack "Take Me Home," it's a fast-forward sample, a la Kanye West, but be assured it's not him. Joe was a member of the legendary Diggin' In The Crates collective who was employing that production method way back when Kanye West was still filling out applications for Foot Locker.
Songs aren't created on this effort so much as are anthems. You won't go to any party or club where the bangers "Lean Back" and "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" don't get burn. You might even hear them at a few bar mitzvahs. But the True Story this disc is based on is Remy Martin -- the female lyrical juggernaut who, when rhyming, causes Tom Ridge to up the terror alert to red.
Her voice ends the CD on the grand finale, "Terror Era," on which, over a beat that pounds like a bucket hitting every single pothole in Hell's Kitchen, Remy Ma spits: "For every rhyme I spit I get ASCAP figures / so fuck ass-clappin' / I clap yo' ass nigga ... / smack the shit outta any female who fuckin' with my scrilla / see a nigga he can get it too / fuck what ya dick'll do / even if I stutta, I'll still sh-sh-shit on you."
Let Ashcroft hear this Terror Squad and he'll begin drafting the third Patriot Act