Under the Leather: Fat Joe keeps a thick skin despite changing up his sound.

“Nigga nigga nigga nigga nigga, bitch, ho,” Fat Joe raps at the beginning of his new album, The Elephant in the Room, responding to his own question: “Now who’s gonna tell me that I can’t say ‘nigga’?” This isn’t quite the same thing as Jay-Z’s “Ignorant Shit” on American Gangster. When Jay-Z raps, “This is that ignorant shit you like/Nigga fuck shit ass bitch trick plus ice,” he’s having a soul-­searching moment, but Joe feels no need to evolve. He’s more than content to perpetuate the bad-guy “Joey Crack” persona we’ve known and loved for years, and gangsta-rap clichés pervade Elephant from its album cover—a close-up of Joe smoking a fat ­stogie—to the threats to snitches on “K.A.R.,” which stands for “kill all rats” and features the disturbing couplet “Kill ’em, spill ’em, hang ’em off the ceiling/Fuck it, throw ’em off the building watch him land on his children.” A decade ago, the New York MC was known for his fairly versatile flow and lyrical dexterity, but in recent years he’s taken up the philosophy of associate and Miami-based hype man DJ Khaled, whose two albums have oodles of Southern-­skewing hip-hop megastars rapping over easy, club-ready beats. (Joe even lives in Florida part-time these days.) So, much as he did on his previous album, 2006’s Me, Myself & I, Joe swings for ghetto-anthem home runs on most tracks, enlisting many of the producers and MCs from Khaled’s albums for the task, including Plies, Cool & Dre, and Pooh Bear. (Khaled himself produces “Get It for Life,” which won’t change his reputation as a lackluster beatmaker.) Producer Scott Storch and Lil Wayne contributed to Joe’s hit from last time around, “Make It Rain,” but their efforts here are a mixed bag. Storch’s clean, electric-guitar sampling “Preacher on a Sunday Morning” works, but Wayne’s “The Crackhouse” is weak: “Welcome to the crackhouse,” Wayne croaks, “man, I’m talking more parties than the frat house.” Cool & Dre’s “You Ain’t Saying Nothing” and Swizz Beatz’s “Drop” are top-notch club bangers, but the requisite for-the-ladies track, “I Won’t Tell,” has R&B crooner J. Holiday on it and not much else—call it hip-hop Muzak. The album works best when Joe steps away from modern-day luminaries and calls in a couple of golden-age colleagues. DJ Premier cooks up the album’s strongest track, “That White,” which features a simple beat that doesn’t try to blow you out of the water with bass, and, wonder of wonders, even features scratching. And on “My Conscience,” Joe and KRS-One exchange a few memorable lines. “Let’s take it back to Don Cartagena [Joe’s seminal 1998 album]/You and Big Pun had the whole Bronx demeanor,” KRS-One raps. Joe would do well to heed this advice more often.