Through the years, Fat Joe has carved out a path for himself in hip-hop, and somehow has managed to stay relevant in the genre for nearly thirty years now. Arguably the weakest link in the DITC chain of talented emcees and producers, he’s easily had the most commercially successful career and the most longevity out of the collective, but after listening to his 1993 debut album, Represent, no one would have predicted that. Thanks largely (no pun intended) to his DITC bredrin’s quality production, Represent was a solid listen, but Sloppy Joe was definitely a little green on the mic and light on the lyrical side. Despite the album’s poor numbers and reviews, Joe would return two years later with his sophomore effort, Jealous One’s Envy.
For Jealous One’s Envy (which is also an acronym for “JOE”), Joe would rely less on his DITC family for production and call on mostly outside parties to provide the soundscape for the album. Jealous One’s Envy would peak at number 7 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and 71 on the Billboard Top 200, and received solid reviews from the critics.
Jealous One’s Envy is yet another album that I didn’t check for back in the day. Based on Joe’s debut and all the other fire releases that ’95 gave us, this one wasn’t a priority. I bought Jealous One’s Envy used for a dollar a few years ago at one of the spots I frequent and this is my first time listening to it. Let’s see if Fat Joseph builds on what he did his first go round.
Bronx Tale – JOE opens with some dark mystic boom-bap shit (courtesy of Diamond D) that Fat Joe and the legendary KRS-One use to play hot potato with the mic. The Teacher’s presence must have lit a fire under Joe’s ass and pen, as his verses sounds ten times better than anything he spit on Represent. Speaking of represent, after nearly ten years in the game, KRS-One still sounds razor sharp on the mic being the “Ultimate, uttering ultimatums for the fun it”. This was a fire way to kick off the evening.
Success – Apparently this was one of the singles released from JOE. Domingo builds the somber backdrop around dark piano chords for this street hustler’s anthem that Joe dedicates to “everybody gettin’ money.” Joe continues to display his much improved rhyming as he rides this mid-tempo groove with confidence, delivering solid bars in the process. The instrumental is fire, and somehow the wordy superficial hook ends up being catchy and works well over the dope head-nod inducing backdrop.
Envy – Joe starts off the song reminiscing about his dysfunctional upbringing and surviving the notoriously tough streets of The Bronx: “Life’s trife and then you die, nobody dies of old age, but in the hands of another guy, that’s why, I keeps an alibi, Giuliani wants to see a brother fry!”. Then on the final verse he celebrates his rise to success, telling his “Momma look at me now, got a house in Long Ile (Island), for my spouse and my child”, while he jingles “Jewels in the face of past enemies” and hi-lariously tells them to “eat your heart out, son, you never was a friend of me”. L.E.S. (staying true to what I said about his production-style on my 4, 5, 6 write up) loops up Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” for the backdrop, and like most of his early instrumentals built around eighties R&B hits, it slaps, even if it’s an obvious sample choice and borderline lazy. The uncredited female vocalist on the hook and adlibs sprinkles a little extra flavor on the track as well.
Gangbanging Interlude – Joe plays a snippet from the 1979 cult classic film about New York gangs, The Warriors. Can you dig it? Can you dig it? Caaan yoooou dig iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit?!!!!!!!!
Fat Joe’s In Town – Joe uses this one to boast about his street pedigree and brag about how nice he is on the mic. And even though it was a bit comical to hear him try to force “Russell Simmons” to rhyme with “millions” (hey, on paper it looks like it might work), Joe still does a decent job mastering the ceremony. L.E.S. temporarily, steps away from his obvious eighties R&B sampling and digs a little deeper into the crates for a more obscure loop that conjures up the unsettling vibes of “Flow Joe”, which is also the energy Joe’s rhymes give off, just more refined. This was dope, and the Raphael Saadiq vocal snippet on the hook was a nice added touch.
Part Deux – On this one Joe sounds determined to show and prove to all naysayers and doubters that he’s a lyrical emcee. He handles Domingo’s hard backdrop fairly well, but I’m still not willing to put him anywhere near my top tier list.
King NY – A short interlude that uses a snippet from The 1990 Mafia-inspired movie, King Of New York, hence the song title.
The Shit Is Real (DJ Premier Remix) – The O.G. version of this song was on Joe’s debut album Represent and this remix was used for the video version of the single. Premo laces Joe’s grimy street rhymes with a beautifully melodic backdrop built around an ill xylophone loop. This is one of my favorite Premo joints, and it still sounds as amazing as it did twenty-five years ago.
Fat Joe’s Way – This minute long interlude finds Joe rambling on in Spanish, while his crew listens, laughs and occasionally chimes in over relaxing middle-easternish chords.
Respect Mine – Raekwon kicks the song off rambling on about nothing and re-emerges on the hook to recite a snippet from his classic verse from “C.R.E.A.M.”. Joe turns in a decent performance and Joe Fatal’s instrumental is respectable (no pun intended), but something is missing from this one, and it ultimately falls flat.
Watch Out – Fat Joe plays facilitator on this one, as he handles the introductions and hook, while three of his Full Eclipse Camp members: Armageddon, Keith Nut and the late great, Big Pun get a chance to showcase their talent, or lack of. First things first, I’m so glad Joe decided to dump the Full Eclipse Camp name and use Terror Squad instead. Pun makes his debut on this one and gives us a serviceable verse, but far from as potent as his flow and bars would soon become. Armageddon and the pedophile, Keith Nut (who’s line about kidnapping kids, molesting them and sending them back home in bandages is repulsive and takes the whole “shock value rhymes” trend too far) sound terrible and should have been dumped from the squad along with the old crew name. Diamond D turns in a horrible instrumental, which completes one of the worst posse cuts in the history of hip-hop.
Say Word – Domingo turns a slick Bootsy Collins’ loop into a smooth groove that, an always intense, Fat Joe uses to spew more hardcore street rhymes over. The hook was trash, but overall this was a decent record.
Success (DJ Premier Remix) – I love me some Premo, but this dull remix ain’t touchin’ the beauty that the O.G version blessed us with.
Dedication – Joe borrows a loop from Tyrone Davis’ “In The Mood” (that both MC Eiht (“All For The Money”) and the Beatnuts (“Lick The Pussy”) used prior) to help create the smooth backdrop that he uses to rap his shout outs over. This was cool.
Bronx Keeps Creating It – Fat Joseph wraps up JOE talkin’ more of his shit over a dope mid-tempo Joe Fatal backdrop built around an ill David Axelrod loop (that both Lil Wayne and Royce Da 5’9 would later rap over). Fatal’s instrumental has a regal feel to it that makes a confident Fat Joe sound triumphant rapping over it.
It sounds like Fat Joe used the time in between Represent and Jealous One’s Envy to study some of the great New York lyricists that emerged in New York during that time frame (i.e. Nas, AZ, Wu-Tang Clan and Prodigy), as his flow sounds more polished and controlled, and lyrically, he sounds like a new man. For the most part, the production by committee method works on JOE, with the handful of beatsmiths, collectively providing a quality batch of mid-nineties east coast-flavored backdrops that Fat Joe uses to spit street shit on and most of it entertains or at minimum, will hold your attention. Thank God for second chances.