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Not as extreme as he thinks

June 12, 2005|Soren Baker

Fat Joe

"All or Nothing" (Atlantic)

* * 1/2

This talented Bronx rapper was the personification of hard-core New York hip-hop when he debuted in the early 1990s. But since the death in 2000 of his revered protege Big Pun, Fat Joe has gradually tried to assume Pun's position as a Latino rapper who can make lyrically adventurous, radio-ready songs as well as gritty gangster material without losing his credibility.

He's never managed to reach Pun's artistic level, and his solid sixth album (in stores Tuesday) again illustrates that he is better suited to edgier music. Last year he scored one of the biggest hits of his career fronting his group the Terror Squad's "Lean Back." A sizzling, percolating remix, produced by Lil Jon and also featuring blazing, boast-heavy performances from Eminem and Mase, was also released last year and is this album's best song. Here, Fat Joe has a vocal energy and a sense of purpose that also emerge on the thunderous "Safe 2 Say" and the engaging two-part caper "Temptation."

But Fat Joe generally misses when he aims for the ladies. On the lively "Get It Poppin," for example, he lacks the charisma and inventiveness to turn the upbeat cut into something special. It's something that happens too often on "All or Nothing," which in the end is somewhere in between.

Soren Baker

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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