Fat Joe’s ‘Loyalty’ imitates rap’s finest

Fat Joe, the late Big Pun’s right hand man, has fully emerged from the shadow of his mentor with his latest release, Loyalty.

From the opening track, “Take A Look At My Life,” Joe begins to explore the results of having extremely hard-hitting, hip-hop beats, mixed with flossin’ Cash Money-type lyrics. “With ice so bright/we don’t need headlights at night.”

The combination proved to be an effective head-nodder, despite the “Still Fly” lyrics we have become so accustomed to.

On “Bust At You” produced by Alchemist and featuring Baby, of the Cash Money Millionaires and Scarface, Fat Joe seems to channel the spirit of Tupac to create a combination reminiscent of the late great. “I’m a motherf–in rider! /you can see the pain in my face/I got no problem with exchanging the hate!”

At the end of Scarface’s verse, the Def Jam South CEO dedicated the track to the fallen soldier, another example of Tupac’s influence on the track, as well as on all of hip-hop.

Joe used grimy lyrics mixed with Rocafella type beats to create “Prove Something” produced by Cool and Dre. “You can tell by the scar on my neck/I spar with the best/Joey boom by yay!/hit hard with the left…I puff haze to keep my mind at ease/can’t wait for the day to see Shyne released/this hip-hop sh-t is unjust/who you gone trust/when most those record execs is dumb f–ks.”

Fat Joe really stepped up his game for “Born In the Ghetto” by filling the song with tales of his personal battles along with lyrics that really make you think.

“But still you out to ruin me/who you foolin B?/I’m out for unity/latins and blacks/could you fathom the strength we’d have if the two would attach.”

He continues the track with tales of racism and reality.

“How could the same crackers be 20 years in office/when it’s clear the only thing rising is unemployment/abortion/little kids having kids/the school system failing us/ ain’t that some sh–t/while the rich keep getting richer/the poor are dying young/I can’t hide it no more the time has come.”

The rest of the album is filled with club songs and your occasional lust/love tracks like “Crush Tonight” featuring Ginuwine and a few more hard-hitters like “Gangsta.”

Loyalty qualifies as one of the better hip-hop albums I have heard in a while. With the exception of the few club songs, the album in its entirety is well produced, and the lyrics gave a reminder of the greats that inspired Fat Joe.