Unoriginal Gangster: Fabolous pulls out a stale storytelling device.

Rapper Fabolous never seems to linger in the spotlight for very long. The Brooklyn MC stays largely out of sight and off the charts most of the time, but every couple of years, when you’ve almost forgotten about him, he’ll pop up just long enough to antagonize a new crop of elementary school spelling teachers and drop a breezy single. Fabo can always be counted on to deliver occasional gems, such as 2004’s aggressive Just-Blaze produced “Breathe,” and the silky 2007 Ne-Yo duet “Make Me Better.” This year’s fun little trifle is a tinkling duet with producer/singer the Dream called “Throw It in the Bag.” The song, an ode to shopping sprees on someone else’s dime, has enjoyed respectable radio play and even has a cute accompanying dance move. But instead of just swooping in, blessing playgrounds and cheerleading competitions with a summer anthem, and then disappearing from sight, during this year’s pilgrimage to the top of urban charts, Fabo has decided to use the opportunity to ram a half-baked concept album down fans’ throats. On Loso’s Way (the name an awkward play on Carlito’s Way, the 1993 Al Pacino film about a gangster’s attempt to escape the game), Fab ignores the fact that rappers pretty much got over comparing themselves to Italian mobsters, Columbian coke lords, and Harlem heroin dealers, like, 10 years ago. Thankfully, though, the whole Loso’s Way construct seems like it was just an opportunity for Fab to stage a cool photo shoot and film a mini movie: the album is really a very 2009 dance-rap album, complete with champagne sound effects (“I Miss My Love”), iPhone references (“My Time”), and a Keri Hilson feature (“Everything, Everyday, Everywhere”). As on his 2001 debut Ghetto Fabolous, Fab is only as good as his producers, but he knows how to pick ’em. “Imma Do It,” gets by on the strength of a sick DJ Khalil beat that intentionally sputters and skips like an aural strobe light; Ryan Leslie lends an inspired electronic R&B track for “The Fabolous Life.” Production can’t quite cover up Fab’s many transgressions against thoughtful lyricism, though. On the album’s intro, “The Way,” he lobs a dud reference to the 1988 movie Child’s Play: “Y’all done turned a good guy into a Chucky doll/I woulda been your friend to the end, bitch” and on “Feel Like I’m Back,” he launches a string of amateur open mic night rhymes, such as “I take it in/I blow it out/On the courthouse steps after they throw it out.” Loso’s Way doesn’t add anything to the hip-hop gangster cannon, but it does explain why Fab never sticks around for longer than it takes for his latest single to grow musty: he’s only got one single’s worth of good material in him at any given time.

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