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“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.