Me, Myself & I
veryone is going down south for vacation. Even Fat Joe, Bronx’s self-proclaimed conduit for the spirit of Big Pun, chief of the not-so-fearsome Terror Squad, and general pile of ham-fisted New York lyricism, has hoisted his generous frame down to the Keys and started basking in the comparatively equatorial warmth. For My, Myself & I he enlists Miami synth-and-horn beat welders of note (DJ Khaled, Scott Storch) and then squats on the shiny new beats.
Worse still, he’s bringing a boatload of emotional baggage and the gauche trend that’s been spreading around Tri-state microphones recently: self-beatification.
Blame it on East Coast paranoia. Fat Joe, a decent supporting actor, good for a hit single and Def Jam: Fight For NY appearance, is insecure. New York is confused. One-off mix tape jocks are trying to “save the game,” and previously content veterans are calling themselves rap’s elect. Like Busta Rhymes and The Big Bang (to be fair, a far, far worse album than this), Fat Joe has suddenly leapt for a throne that he shouldn’t have been within spitting distance of in the first place.
While Fat Joe compares himself to Joe Pesci on Myself’s opener, the punny “Pendemic,” he’s much closer to being rap’s Ray Romano (this is what made 50 Cent’s bullying of Joe so ugly and unnecessary). He’s best as a peripheral, good-natured, dispensable gimmick.
Don’t be fooled, Joe isn’t self-effacing enough to play it for laughs. One minute he’s the peripheral nice-guy gangster and the next he’s the mournful boss, the center of the universe. He’s either shockingly unfunny (“I said ‘Homie gon’ die tonight’ / Then his jaw hit the floor like Napoleon Dynamite”) or painstakingly scraping bits of swagger left from other glossy mob showcases—50 Cent’s The Massacre, Rick Ross’s Port of Miami, Young Jeezy’s Thug Motivation: 101—and trying to transplant hustle-rap’s general momentum to his own tired enterprise.
But such grafting is old-hat. If you’ve been listening to Fat Joe’s recent records (2002’s Loyalty, 2005’s J.O.S.E.), you already know the deal: dutifully derivative beats cribbed by the most watered-down producers (paging Mr. Storch) create the landscape that Fat Joe plods all over. Two years ago he was ripping off amiable Midwest party jams (“Get It Poppin’”) and begging Just Blaze for a beat. This year it’s “emotional” pleas to the “streets” and aping as much southern slang as possible. (Doubly ironic, considering Joe, not too long ago, lambasted the entire region as having “no lyrics.”)
Even when he’s at his raunchiest, Fat Joe is still laughable: “She told me that she learned that from the porno flicks / I said, ‘Mami, stop talking and suck on this dick’.” Myself’s “creativity” isn’t of the messy and confrontational type, Joe just taps the Runners to reproduce “Hustlin” organ mash for organ mash (“Clap & Revolve”) and spits up the same playground gun talk: “I let the chopper mash, and the mac’ boogie.”
The mob talk hits a wincing low on the album closing “Story to Tell,” a DJ Khaled produced melody whose aching, jumpy EKG synths are only matched by Joe’s bloated, half-assed prayer: “They say you hustle, you going to hell / Nah / I know God loves me, I know that he fucks with me.”
It almost sounds fumblingly sincere. Don’t buy it. He’ll be back next year saying the same thing, synth-de-jour in tow.