The Darkside, Vol. 1
Release Date: 07/27/2010
The Terror Returns
Written by: Alex Groberman
The last decade has been up and down for the man known to his fans as "Joey Crack." Between losing his friend Big Pun, poor album sales and an ill-advised beef with 50 Cent, Fat Joe stumbled on the success ladder. To maintain some kind of recognition amongst his younger audience, Joe resorted to lyrically basic, feature-friendly singles that quickly wore out his credibility with his original supporters.
That all changed in "The Darkside Vol. 1," as Fat Joe returned to his original recipe for success: pure, unfiltered spitting.
The album begins with amazing choir note and blaring synths on "Intro" where Fat Joe shows he hasn't forgotten about his enemies with a bold exclamation regarding his old nemesis 50 Cent: "We'll throw the biggest party when Curtis die." The same refreshing gutter attitude carries over into "Valley of Death," a song with a triumphant production brought by Cool & Dre. Excellent beats continues to be the name of the game on to the Just Blaze tune, "I Am Crack" where Joe takes on the role of the drug, and speaks in first person as if he was the narcotic. It is on this song in particular that we understand what Joe meant by "returning to the darkside" when he proclaims: "It's crack baby, minus the incubators."
The albums first disappointing song comes on the Clipse and Cam'ron assisted, "Kilo." While the song is an unquestionable banger, Joe ends up being shown up by his guest features. In fact, while the tune appears on Fat Joe's album, it feels as if the subject matter and style of the song would have fit better if the final cut left "Joey Crack" off. The only other mistake on this album had to be "Heavenly Father," a Lil Wayne sampled tune that wasn't all that great to begin with.
Joe's first single, "(Ha Ha) Slow Down" is the ultimate hype-up song, and should have clubs and parties blasting it out all summer long. Young Jeezy provides arguably the best feature on the entire album, and a few seconds into the tune you instantly recognize why Fat Joe opted to use it in his return party.
Yet, the album truly becomes borderline classic with the DJ Preemo laced "I'm Gone." In perhaps Joe's finest showing over the last decade, the slow-and-simple piano and violin loop accompanies lyrics like: "Premo on the beat, yeah I know it sounds different / But his mans just passed, his soul's just risen / Cold, cold, world is the word that was given / As he see me fifteen with the burner out of prison / Gangster – f--k that, I'm Gang Starr/ Tell Nas Hip Hop's dead now, my man's gone / As I rise to the top, knee-deep in the game I survive every shot / Back to life like Thriller, back to reality / Flipped the light scoop, got everyone mad at me /…I'm hungry, … I'll eat your flesh / I'm a butcher, chainsaw through your spleen and chest /…Joe Crack, yeah man on fire / Conversate with the devil, rockin' diamond messiahs."
"The Darkside Vol. 1" is without a doubt the best produced and constructed Fat Joe album ever. Yet somehow, Joe manages to overshadow the phenomenal beats with lyrics reminiscent of his early D.I.T.C. days. Whether this is truly the return of "Joey Crack" remains to be seen, but for now, fans can sit back and enjoy as this blast from the past provides listeners with one of the best albums of the new year.
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