Fat Joe The Darkside Vol. 1

After 17 years on the scene, Fat Joe has come full circle. The Darkside Vol. 1 doesn't sound like the work of a hip-hop veteran enjoying the trappings of fame and success. Instead, it sounds like the return of Fat Joe Da Gangsta, a hungry, pissed-off youngster barely removed from the street life. Darkside is absolutely full, to the point of overflowing, with tales of dealing coke ("I Am Crack," "Kilo"), exacting bloody revenge ("Valley of Death") and running pimp game ("Money Over Bitches"). It's also free of the R&B-hooked rap ballads that made Joe a rich man. There's no "What's Luv?" on Darkside, no "One." The beats are just as aggressive as the lyrics ― gunshot snares and rumbling bass litter the album. With nothing to offer the pop audience, there's a strong chance Darkside won't be a commercial success, but if anyone was wondering if success has made Joe Cartagena soft, either on the mic or the streets, they can consider the question answered. (E1)