Fabolous has always been two rappers, really. A snarling, battle rapper lacking the ability to say “No” to marketing execs, his discography has ended up as a schizophrenic collection of Street Rap put downs, and syrupy songs “for the ladies”. The romantic side of Fab has always been a matter of contention to Hip Hop fans. Songs “for the ladies” are rarely successful when you actually try to make a good song, but Fab always seemed to call it in when he’s done them. The talent was always there, but it always seemed that he was holding back the acidity on his actual albums in an effort to push product. Even if “Breathe” was the best album track he has done, it has only been on no holds barred mixtapes that he could really let loose and push that snide bitterness to the forefront.
Unlike Fab’s last mixtape, the satisfying No Competition 2, he attempts to consolidate his two sides on S.O.U.L. Tape– creating a messy combination of love songs, and boastful raps atop a soundbed of soul samples. Unfortunately, The S.O.U.L. Tape is saved from being a complete failure by only a handful of tracks. Using fewer punch lines than he has in the past, Fab instead sticks to more conceptual disses and personal narratives. On “Wolves in Sheep Clothing” he addresses fake ballers and gangsters brilliantly- (“First of All Ben Franklin was never elected/ that means them and big bills have never connected.”) And On “Pain” he gives his mission statement to the listener over a Tupac sample. His similes and internal rhyme structure are strong as he attempts to explain his musical career choices- (“As an artist I’m just tryin to paint the perfect picture/ But see what waiting for somebody that’s perfect gets ya/ that usually leads to nothin’- like virgin kisses.”) and the one lady song that does work, the amusing “In The Morning” sees lecherous charmer Fab attempting to convince his girl to have morning sex with him.
Other tracks don’t fare as well with this long form approach to verses. Fab is never bad on The SOUL Tape, but much of the rapping is merely adequate, focusing on more travelled lyrical territory. The AZ borrowing “Mo Brooklyn, Mo Harlem, Mo Southside” isn’t really memorable because of Fab or a competent verse from Vado, but a fantastically atmospheric beat, and a feature from the now vindicated G-Unit member, Lloyd Banks., Even after a few listens, the rest of the tape passes by you, the beats and verses hazy, never quite sticking. And when they do stick, it’s not because of good decisions. The final track, for instance, starts off pretty well, but after Fab’s first verse, R. Kelly understudy Ne-Yo douches the track with the most jarring R&B hook I’ve heard in a long time. Taking us back to 2005 in his Bullshit time machine, his cloying, mediocre “soul bearing” hook mares any good that Fab contributes. It is mind bogglingly poor production choices like this that ruin the S.O.U.L. Tape’s worst tracks.
Recycled beats and poor R&B features aside, you can’t really be mad at Fabolous for trying. As a rapper, it must be difficult for people to talk about you as if you are good only when you aren’t trying to make money. If this tape is any indication, maybe all of the drippy love songs Fab made in the past weren’t commissioned, but because he thought they worked. Thankfully, though, even if he does think sap works on wax, he’s still got infinite punch lines to rely on for the next tape. There are some definite gems to be found on S.O.U.L, but as a whole it doesn’t really work. It begs for a No Competition 3.
you can listen or download The S.O.U.L Tape here