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Album Review / POP

* * * 1/2 Fat Joe, "Don Cartagena," Mystic/Big Beat/Atlantic.

September 05, 1998|SOREN BAKER

When Fat Joe released his debut album, "Represent," in 1993, he became one of the few Latino rappers to make serious inroads into the primarily black realm of hip-hop. Although the South Bronx resident's album failed to make an impact on the pop music charts, his credibility within the rap community was rock-solid.

His second set, 1995's "Jealous One's Envy," featured a blazing collaboration with KRS-One and led to Joe's being featured on LL Cool J's "Mr. Smith" album. While Joe was switching record companies, he stayed busy co-executive-producing fellow rapper Big Punisher, whose debut album entered the pop charts at No. 5 earlier this year.

"Don Cartagena" stands as Joe's triumphant return project. As in his recent guest appearances, Joe largely sticks to ultra-violent lyrics and gangster story lines. The album's appeal rests largely on his ability to effortlessly mix gangsterism and braggadocio. Joe's menacing voice and thunderous production create a masterful musical atmosphere that thrills and intimidates.

Strong guest performances from Nas, Big Punisher, Noreaga and others add to the record's appeal. A superb blend of hard-core sounds and sensibilities, "Don Cartagena" places Fat Joe among rap's elite.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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