Music » Music Stories

Fat Joe

All or Nothing (Atlantic)

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Like the Democratic party, New York hip-hop is suffering from a lack of a unified front. Superstars like 50 Cent and P. Diddy move units, but their celebrity status elevates them both beyond New York. Street favorites like Jadakiss and Cam'ron have trouble extending their popularity beyond the five boroughs. Meanwhile, Southern rap rules the charts. As the battle rages, Fat Joe stays in contention year after year. He ruled last summer with the enormous single "Lean Back" (with his crew, Terror Squad) and stayed on the mainstream radar by getting dissed by 50 Cent. But Joe's chances at the crown are marred by a series of lackluster albums, and All or Nothing does little to break the streak. For once, Joe's lyrics are not the problem. His relentless cadence and dead-serious gun talk sound good through most of the album. He kills the Just Blaze-produced "Safe 2 Say (The Incredible)" -- an Internet favorite for months now -- and even musters up some soul on "Hold U Down" with J.Lo. Joe's beat selection is also adequate, especially Swizz Beatz's weird "Listen Baby." But the biggest flaw in All is monotony. Too many tracks sound entirely the same, and -- save the radio-ready "Get It Poppin'" and "So Hot" (featuring Nelly and R. Kelly, respectively) -- none particularly stand out. New York rap is still up for grabs, but the rap public can agree it should be anything but boring.

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