After his massive 2004 hit "Lean Back" with his crew Terror Squad, Fat Joe returned with the full-length All or Nothing. The 2005 album stiffed, and haters egged on by Joe's rival, 50 Cent, let their venom roll across message boards. For them, the very gangsta and sorta indie Me, Myself and I is the desperate result of meager sales and the last gasp of Joe's career. Listen to it objectively, and it's anything but. Fat Joe's had a problem with the full-length for quite some time, and his best efforts were blunted by concessions to the radio and by collaborations that didn't fit. Recorded on his own and then released in cooperation with EMI, the incredibly focused Me, Myself and I breaks the chain by going back to the scrappy street days of his early hit, "Flow Joe," while reaping the benefits of his relationship with his Terror Squad brother DJ Khaled. While Fat Joe takes the executive producer credit, he follows Khaled's model of blending of New York's dirty street noise with Miami's trunk-rumbling thunder while putting one of the DJ's favorites, Lil Wayne, on the very short guest list. Joe and Wayne's excellent leadoff single, "Make It Rain" -- produced by extended family member Scott Storch -- is the perfect calling card for the album, since kicking beats with steal-toed boots and lean hooks is all you're going to get here. Storch works his minimal magic once again on "Think About It," leaving Joe plenty of room to work his simple and entirely effective chorus. Same goes for "Breathe and Stop," with producer Nu Jerzey Devil looping a short bit of Bob Marley's "War" under Joe and the Game's seriously infectious swagger. The Game and Lil Wayne are huge names in 2006, but that's it for guests, and it soon becomes obvious that just like the skeletal musical landscapes, this choice was made to make sure the man whose name is on the cover owns the album. With the spotlight so decidedly on himself, Joe comes off as a commanding veteran with a rare taste of freedom. Free of pop collaborations that push him to the side, Joe, who often is given the job of providing the vocal hook, indulges himself with the lyrics and freely goes from internal to external with a freestyler's heart. Right from the start, he name-checks his heroes Big Pun and Biggie on the opening "Pandemic," then powerfully boasts and brags before making an ungraceful transition to political commentary. Nothing on this album is graceful, and even at a tight 12 tracks, the relentless quest to get back to his hood roots will wear on the casual fan. On the other hand, hearing this high-profile thug so boldly reclaiming his street cred without any concessions is exciting and makes it easy to shrug off this driven full-length's one-track mind.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Lil Wayne
feat: The Game
feat: Lil Wayne