Fat Joe

Don Cartagena

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The third album from power-Bronx Latino rapper Fat Joe tones down his once-prevalent gangsta leans -- they're still there, though, from the album's title to rhythmic gunshot bursts guiding the cuts -- and builds up his hood and familial loyalties through a series of melodically enticing (and vaguely Wu-Tang-ish) songs. Like he did on Big Punisher's album from the same year, Capital Punishment, Fat Joe works Don Cartagena's slinky street beats into a semi-sublime hip-hop opera that's more than a sum of its parts. Only the between-song skits (which are juvenile and mood-dropping) and the overloaded guest list (cameos from Puff Daddy, Nas, Big Punisher, Raekwon and the Terror Squad merely skim the surface of the overwhelming uselessness of this overplayed genre trend) wear down Don Cartagena's often mesmerizing and noble attempt at a late-'90s rap resuscitation.

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