It has been nearly 12 years since Fabolous' debut album, and three years since his last studio album, Loso's Way, but the Brooklyn-born rapper won't get caught up in the numbers. Though he has maintained his clout on the mixtape circuit, Fab is now prepared to return to ruling the charts -- hence the title of his latest single, "Ready" featuring Chris Brown. In true Fabolous fashion, the rapper will pick up where he left off with his new album Loso's Way 2. As he plans to re-enter into the ever-changing game of hip-hop, the need to adapt is also ever-present. With nearly his entire album completed (including tracks featuring Future, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy and John Legend), Fabolous is gearing up to re-stake his claim this spring. VIBE chopped it up with Fab about teetering the lines of the past and the present, and what it all means for his return. --Iyana Robertson
VIBE: Do you have the realization that you've been in the game for 12 years?
Fabolous: That doesn't always hit me, you know? I have to hear some numbers sometimes, then I'm like "Oh shit, I've kind of been doing this for a minute." But I don't let any of that become a factor, and that's probably one of the reasons I'm still around today. Whether I've been here three years or 10 years, my agenda is still in the same place as it was when I first came in: it's to continue to make good music, and raise the bar to grow and evolve as a person, as an artist, as everything; just to be a better me.
So you don't think about it often, but when you do, what are some of the factors you think contributed to that longevity?
Me just being able to keep myself in the realm of what's going on. And I'm not saying I'm the most popular artist every year. I just wanted to make good music that people related to me and said "Yo that guy makes good music. When he gives us an effort, it's good music behind it. It's great lyrics, it's witty punchlines, it's great metaphors." Whatever I contribute, I wanna be up there with the people you associate that with.
Along with being appreciated in general, you're a Brooklyn hometown hero. How do you extend your reach to someone who may be from somewhere like down South?
Before, I felt like New York was in the lead as far as music and dictating the sound of music. Those people in other places had to adapt to us. Whereas now, the mainstream of music has changed; New York isn't in the forefront anymore. I address it as this: of course they know me over time, they know what I do, and I want to continue to be respected for what I do. So as long as you keep that respect wherever you go, I think that will translate.
Do you feel like you have to make sacrifices musically, with that in mind? That the style you came in with has to be tweaked to what's popular today?
I think you always do. I won't change myself and compromise myself, but I will make my music to be in the conversation with everyone else's. But it's a challenge because you don't wanna lose yourself in trying to stay relevant or stay competitive or stay in the loop. The challenge is being yourself and still being able to spread your music to places you're not as common in.
You are often described as "underrated." How does that feel?
It's weird. I think it's a statement made by people who respect my work and feel like I should be regarded amongst people who they say are the best in the game. I don't think my name is always brought up in that [conversation], and that's where that comes from. But I think overall, when you listen to the music you get a good feel of it. Sometimes I'm "too cool for school," so to say. But that's my personality. It's one of the things some people love about me. So I wouldn't change that to say I gotta be more crazy, more outgoing--
[Laughs] Yeah, ratchet. Because now if that's not you, you're compromising yourself to be what you think is poppin'. I just do what I do. And of course I love those people that say I underrated. Y'all gotta fight for me. Y'all gotta put it in people's ears; when they forget you gotta remind them. And and I try to do my part by doing it musically, but the fans are who keep you afloat and keep you name alive too. So we gotta work together.
Let's talk about the mixtape circuit. Mixtapes are like mini albums now. How has that changed things for you?
It's definitely different than it was before. There's a difference in the way you approach a mixtape. What I love about mixtapes though, is that you don't always have to compromise with format. With albums, it's a seller piece for you, so you try to make sure you put the right elements in it to sell. Certain fans lose that connection and they think "Yo, you should make your albums like your mixtapes," because mixtapes are like albums now. But you still have to pay attention to the one thing about mixtapes that's different from albums is that mixtapes are free. You have to cater to an audience of purchase, that buys.
Since Loso's Way, you've dropped several mixtapes. Do you feel a little spoiled with having to go back into album mode again?
I feel I have to get back in that place. I have to get back into the artist place of making an album versus being at my own space and making mixtapes and doing things pretty much to my own leisure. It's a different grind with the album, but I'm ready for that. That's one of the most symbolic things about the single being called "Ready." It's also about me preparing too, and me getting ready. Preparing people for the new me that's three years later from my last album. It's still Fab, but it's like an older, a more in-place Fab.
You said the single title "Ready" was symbolic. Tell me exactly what you're ready for.
This is a new generation almost to me. The music is in a different place, but I'm more-so ready to get my music known to that generation. I think that a lot of people know my music from the past generation. If you had to reverse it to this generation, Big Sean would kind of be the me of last generation. But I still want to continue my music and get the world of this generation to know it.
"Ready" is for the ladies, so I'm assuming you'll have something for the streets coming out as well?
Yeah, but I just wanted to do "Ready" first because I think it's a genuinely good record overall. It's a radio record, but overall, even if you're a guy, while you're riding to it, when it comes on it's gonna get a head nod out of you. From there, we can have other things, cover different bases as far as the streets and online. With The Soul Tape, I'm still continuing to work with that and putting out videos for that, so that'll always be there. And we'll throw out some joints for the streets and other things off the album before it comes out as well.
So you hooked up with Chris Brown for a new feature, and now you're working on a different video concept for "Ready." Do you have locations in mind?
I want to somewhere tropical. I want to go to an island to get a different type of look and feel in the video. I like when videos used to make you sit at home, and you'd watch it and be like in awe like, "I wish I was at that place, man. I wanna go on a vacation."
Like a Snoop and Pharrell "Beautiful" kind of joint?
Yeah, like when you look at that video, you thought "Damn yo, Brazil looks like it's crazy," you know what I'm saying? And that's what I want to bring back to the table. Videos now have turned into everything being really viral and of course cheap, and trying to keep it simplistic. It's not a lot of artistry out there.
You're a man of series, with TINC, the Soul Tapes, and now Loso's Way 2. Why did you decide to do a part two?
I think the first one drifted off the story a little bit from where I wanted to go. So with the second one, I had more time and more dedication to making the album sonic, and making the music fit together. I also got with a new producer that I'm working with by the name of Marley the Martian. He's helping me cater that sound to where I wanna be. He was evident on The Soul Tape 2, and he's somebody I wanted to bring on this album too, to keep that same sound rolling.
So you're bringing a little bit of that soul to Loso's Way 2?
A little bit. That's part of why I did the Soul Tapes too. It's kind of helping to pull the fans along, but they don't really know.
You're tricking us!
[Laughs] Yeah, I'm pulling y'all in like "Get used to me on this kind of thing," because I want to bring that along with Loso's Way 2 as well.
Let's talk about the subtitles to Loso's Way 2. One is "Rise to Power" and the other is "Celebrate Life." You said that "Rise to Power" was for you to solidify New York hip-hop.
Right, it's time to step in those shoes, like I'm the ambassador for the city now. I wanted to say that I rising to the occasion so to speak. We just had the Inauguration and Barack had to get sworn in; it's that kind of thing. I feel like that's what the music is gonna do for me, that's gonna be my inauguration.
And "Celebrate Life?"
"Celebrate Life" is the other side of it. You're having a good time, the more uptempo, more good vibes. I don't even just wanna say party, I just wanna say good energy, good vibes. Great times, stuff that you would pop in and just rock out. Wherever you're at, it should be a good time.
With Loso's Way 2, it kind of sounds like you might be doing something different, you might go a little further with integrating into this new generation. How do you plan to reassure your fans who still want that old Fab?
I mean, it's still gonna be a taste of old Fab in there, but I have to grow as well. So I can't just have music of my old times. There's always my old albums that you can go pick up. I think that was Jay line, right? "Niggas want my old shit, buy my old album." If you really wanna go back, you can just really go back. For those people that want to move forward with me, I think they'll enjoy the music.