Published Feb 17, 2015While mourning the recent loss of his friend and mentor A$AP Yams, Long Beach rapper Joey Fatts has unveiled his cinematic mixtape Ill Street Blues, packed with evocative and descriptive West Coast street tales, originally set for a commercial release. An A$AP affiliation and acknowledgment as one-third of the rap group Cutthroat Boyz (alongside fellow California rappers Vince Staples and Aston Matthews) back Fatt's cred, but the Cali rapper has chosen to handle the mic and the boards for the entirety of the seven-track opus. Only Curren$y and JMSN feature on Ill Street Blues, and only because they enhance Fatt's self-produced frenetic world, as he attempts to balance his dual roles.
Joey starts at the beginning — the very beginning — as a skit of his mother giving birth introduces the tape before Fatts' gritty beat kicks in and his colourful storytelling takes over. Throughout the brief yet potent project, it is Joey's emotional investment that sells his tales, as the Cali artist tackles his own issues from family life to his Sunday morning hustle. Regardless of the enthralling street savvy concepts however, the project lacks any defining street anthems. The JMSN-assisted "Everybody" comes close, as the vivid imagery highlights the repercussions that come from a desperate approach to success, as JMSN's sultry voice adds to the morose mood. But on the upbeat "How We Livin" and the Curren$y-featuring "Same Shit," Fatts is often limited by sonic technicalities like off-key and off-beat hooks and melodies that stop the project from realizing its full potential.
Named Ill Street Blues after the 1992 Kool G. Rap single, the project may fall short in comparison to the timeless track it pays homage to, but Joey Fatts' authenticity and storytelling savvy carry him. Let's hope his next project is the full package. (Independent)