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Overlooked: Rapper Big Pooh’s “Fat Boy Fresh Vol. 2” (Album Review)Posted by Dharmic X on 11/26/12 | Filed under Opinion, Album Reviews, Overlooked, Rapper Big Pooh
I’ll be totally honest: I had completely overlooked Rapper Big Pooh’s "Fat Boy Fresh, Vol. 2: Est. 1980" record until today. If you haven’t been able to tell from this series and from your daily perusals of the internet, there is a lot of music coming out these days, and it is damn near impossible to keep track of everything. It doesn’t help that I follow over 2000 people on Twitter, my main news source for new music.
In fairness to myself, this project from Pooh had been on my radar for nearly a month now, thanks to the release of the lead single, “Friends.” I just didn’t know what the release date was for his project. After dropping two solo projects in 2011, "Est. 1980" offers great insight into what the Virginia representer’s mindstate has been and will likely always be: connecting great artists together and making elegantly simple dope music to vibe to.
Usually, starting to break down an album by going into the features attached to it indicates that the artist’s voice was drowned out in a cacophony of other voices. While this is definitely not the case, I would be remiss if I didn’t start by mentioning the beauty in the collection of MCs Pooh brought together to accompany him on Est. 1980. As Pooh puts it on “Epilogue/Whattup,” “You’re sick of corny rappers? Well, this is penicillin.” Penicillin comes in the form of long time homies Chaundon, Joe Scudda, and Jozeemo, emerging talent from the North Carolina scene in Raleigh’s King Mez and Charlotte’s Lute, and West Coast buzzers in Thurz and Fashawn. There isn’t a single phoned-in verse on this project, and each collaboration makes sense.
Take “They Aye Aye” for example. The track features Jozeemo and Fashawn, and each MC on the track plays a specific character offering their perspective on a violent encounter over money. Each character is fleshed out in rich detail through their verse, and the narration between the verses holds the track together like glue. It’s dope to hear Fash rhyme from the perspective of a crime boss, and he offers his take convincingly.
With that said, the standout guest verse on this project comes from an unlikely source: Big Sant. The Mississippi native brings home “Frienemy” with the right amount of energy and intensity without sacrificing the lyrical dexterity to make it a killer verse. Anytime you hear someone say “Pussy, pussy, pussy... ass N...” to start off a verse, you know shit’s going down. Known more for being Big K.R.I.T’s hype man, he’s really trying to make a push as a solo artist (as evinced by his latest mixtape, MFxOG), and I’d say this verse is a glorious coming out party.
While the guest verses bring life, the star of "Fat Boy Fresh, Vol. Two" is the “fat boy” himself. This album finds Pooh very introspective throughout, trying to find discover where he stands when it comes to relationships, both romantic and otherwise. The album opener, “Preface,” starts by putting his career in perspective, dropping jewel upon jewel, such as “I wasn’t raised in this type of climate [the rap industry], I’m okay being an outcast.” He doesn’t name any names, but even if you don’t know his story, you can relate to the Virginia native as he talks about being “a man with pride,” saying “I don’t need a shoulder to lean on, as I’m listening to phenoms, seeming like I’m eons away from ever shining.” With the delivery increasing in ferociousness to match the vibe of the Astronote-produced beat, this is an auspicious start to the album.
From there, Pooh spins a marvelous narrative throughout, topics ranging from love (“Like Me”), loyalty (“Friends”), to the risks/rewards of the rap game “Exercise in Futility.” Another standout cut is “Sorry,” which is pretty much the cut where Pooh addresses the end of Little Brother and his goals to be a successful solo artist moving forward. The VA-native sums it up best when he says, “I wish N... the best, I digress on this road less traveled means for me less stressed. Stop arguing who’s the best: just listen.”
The production on Est. 1980 is pretty decent from start to finish. Almost all of the beats are handled by Astronote, whose work comes to life especially on “Friends.” It’s not going to blow you away, but the simplicity serves as the perfect canvas for Pooh to get personal and reflective. That said, the album’s highlight sonically comes from the only beat done outside of Astronote. “Cognac,” produced by Focus... is by far the liveliest track of the album, as Pooh and Chaundon go back-and-forth, trading bars and playing off the energy each MC brings to the table and the rich sample that’s used. Hearing “Cognac” makes you wish Focus... had had more of a role in crafting this project (or perhaps a future album from Pooh), but at the same time, the album’s sound and production isn’t going to scare people away from listening if they are into the mature reflection that Pooh brings to the table.
Overall, at this stage of the game, the idea of a Little Brother (or even a Justus League) reunion is a pipe dream that at this point should be forgotten. Each artist from the group has carved their own lane and is beginning to really mature into that space, and Pooh is no exception to that. By the end of "Fat Boy Fresh, Vol. 2: Est. 1980", the listener definitely can see the direction the Virginia native is taking his career: linking and putting-on the next wave of future stars while simultaneously planting himself in the center of the action. The result is a quality body of work that deserves to be listened to.
See Also: Overlooked: Roc Marciano’s “Reloaded” (Album Review)