Fat Joe has truly paid his dues in this game called Hip-Hop. Arriving on the scene in 1993 with his debut album "Represent", which was a gritty street enthused ride through the rough streets of the Bronx. Joe was able to duplicate that success two years later with the critically acclaimed "Jealous One's Envy", which help put Fat Joe on the album as one of the realest emcees in the industry. While never lyrically creative or witty, he true to life image and raw intensity earned him a solid underground backing and praises from within the Hip-Hop community. However, while Joe was the streets underdog, he was never able to break through to mainstream America or get constant radio play at that. The formation of The Terror Squad, especially one member by the name of Big Pun, helped change all of that. This huge monster of an emcee came in the industry with an intense sense of hunger and lyrical passion never seen before. Big Pun's catapult into the lime light helped Fat Joe reach the mainstream stage he always wanted. 1998's "Don Cartagena" was the start of this movement, as the slept on album was a street corner success while getting the mass appeal it deserved. However, after the passing of Big Pun, the Terror Squad was all but gone. The group went through internal struggles, leaving Joe the job of saving the crew. 2001's "Jealous One's Still Envy" was the success Fat Joe and the Terror Squad needed to get back to the top. The album was a good mixture of hard-core joints that Joe has been putting out for years but also a mixture of the more softer, commercial side of Joe. While die hard fans didn't accept the change with open arms, tracks like "We Thuggin" and "What's Luv" helped spring Joe into mainstream rotation on radio stations and music channels all across America, something Joe never was able to do in the past.
Looking to continue on this trend, Joe releases his fifth album entitled "Loyalty". While only a year since his last effort, "Loyalty" picks up where Joe left off and continues on the same path. The album features the same mix of commercial/R&B joints and gritty street tales that we have always loved. However, the outcome doesn't warrant the same as previous efforts, as most of "Loyalty" tends to follow the same predictable pattern and becomes very boring and predictable after awhile. The lead single "Crush Tonight" featuring Genuwine is another club banger for Joe. While a club success, the track isn't of the highest caliber and is definitely going to irritate your eardrums for months to come. "Turn Me On" featuring Ashanti is another blatant attempt at recreating "What's' Luv" but falls straight on its face right from the get go. The Irv Gotti produced cookie cutter sound is no where as catchy as previous singles from Gotti which contributes to the tracks overall forced feel as neither Gotti, Ashanti or Joe vibe off of the track or display any chemistry. More commercial attempts from Joe include the lackluster "It's Nothin" and "All I Need".
Even when Joe try's to keep it for the streets he tends to run into problems, which is something most would not expect out of Joe. "Bust At You" featuring Baby of Cash Money and Scarface is a stale attempt at recreating a classic song. Alchemist laces the production side with a solid beat, not his best. However, the tracks concept and sample was done before by N.W.A in 1991 with "I'd Rather Fuck You" on the classic "Niggaz4life". To make matters worse, Baby continues his Birdman persona, displaying all his talents, which add up to about none. Scarface puts forth a good performance, as his 2pac dedicated verse is solid but its direction is questionable.
While the production is somewhat solid throughout "Loyalty's" entirety, Fat Joe gets too repetitive and boring with a lot of material on the album. Tracks such as "Life Goes On", "Loyalty" and "We Run This Shit" are prime examples. Also popping up is the lame hooks disease on a couple of occasions as seen on "Gangsta" and once again "We Run This Shit". However, Joe does lace the album with a couple of sure-fire hits with the grimy into of "Take A Look At My Life", which also features some amazing production. "Shit Is Real Part 3" is a great look into the life of Fat Joe and he discusses his current situation and those of the past, including Big Pun.
The legendary Ron Isley comes through with the hook for "Born In The Ghetto" which provides a good mixture of reality rap and insightful lyricism. "Prove Something" is your typical Fat Joe track but succeeds due to some good production. And while not the finest moment on the album, but maybe the most enjoyable, "TS Piece" is a certified club smash, as it should definitely be Joe's next single. Tony Sunshine laces the hook with some flavor as Joe vibes perfectly with the track. While a commercial attempt, it definitely succeeds as Joe goes the right route with the track, not making it too corny. Remy Martin also appears on the track, but her straight jacking of Jay-z's verse from "Somebody's Girl" is nothing short of blasphemy.
While Fat Joe deserves all the recognition and spotlight he is getting, many wonder if he is swaying away from his roots just a little too much. "Loyalty" is proof that Joe hasn't forgot about the streets, however only one year after his last album it seems as if Joe rushed this album in order to continue his commercial success. Most the tracks are nothing but your average material and will fall into obscurity soon after its release. "Loyalty" is just your typical Fat Joe album nowadays that can only be described as average. Diehard Fat Joe fans will appreciate it, however most will soon realize there is not much punch or creativity that comes along with "Loyalty".