Longtime fans, and maybe even casual listeners, might have felt they were already well aware of Fat Joe’s dark side, especially on his early work and the Jealous Ones Envy trilogy of albums. Surprise -- he’s got even more hate in his heart, as The Darkside, Vol. 1 amps the anger, spraying machine-gun style across the world of hip-hop so recklessly you’d expect he’d never be offered another collaboration or guest shot. Still, if you’re on his side, it’s well worth it at this point, something known to Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Clipse, Cam’ron, and even R. Kelly, who all make worthy contributions to this satisfying effort. The beef king can still draw the top-notch producers too, with names like Cool & Dre, DJ Premier, and Scoop DeVille helping here, but it’s the reliable Just Blaze who takes the prize with the '70s-flavored funk beat he lays on “I Am Crack,” a number where Joe’s bold enough to claim “If it wasn’t for me, there would be no Carter,” as if King Weezy himself wasn’t showing up eight tracks later. He’s still gunning at 50 Cent (“We can throw the biggest party when Curtis die”) and is happy to point out which macho rappers “sit down to pee,” but instead of sounding uninspired on topics he’s visited, revisited, and then some, he sounds on fire, as if this were his grand debut. Whether it works or not depends on whether you’re in the love him or the hate him camp, but no compromise is just what his fans signed up for in the first place. The Darkside, Vol. 1 is a mean beast of an album that will surely make Joe’s army re-enlist for Vol. 2.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries