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Mixtape Review: Mistah Fab – Welcome 2 Da Dope Era

September 10th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments



Mixtape Review of Mistah Fab – Welcome 2 Da Dope Era, courtesy of Skinny Friedman

Mistah Fab started as a cipher-wrecking monster, freestyling on The Wake-Up Show alongside rap royalty. But instead of staying in the battle lane, he flipped his noteriety into national attention during the Bay Area Hyphy movement. Nobody likes a trend-chasing sell-out but everybody knows a long career comes with a degree of flexibility. On Welcome 2 The Dope Era, Fabby goes back in time for trap-friendly material.

For some rappers, this D-boy makeover would be cringe-worthy and off-brand, but Fab’s attention to lyrics and topics keep things interesting. The tape starts off with the title track, setting the stage for a dope-dealing look backward with numerous references to Ronald Reagan and Contra (the alien-bucking NES game, although it could possibly refer to Iran Contra as well). “Waitin By The Doh” finds Fabby on a prototypical Zaytoven beat, describing the tension of waiting for drugs in the mail. He also might be the first rapper to make a Game of Thrones reference on a Zay beat. And on “Hola Connect”, he credits his education for a leg up in the dope game: “math for the money / science for the mixing / and Spanish so I could talk to the Mex”. N.O.R.E. gets the guest spot because he speaks Spanish, I guess.

There’s a self-depreciating streak on Dope Era, where Fabby finds himself dwelling on the circumstances that pushed him into the dope game. “Dope Era” sets the stage for the entire tape, knocking the “ballin-ass drug dealer” persona down a couple pegs, then following it up with the stress-ridden “Doh” to make that point clear. And on “Always Was Rich”, he disqualifies anyone else’s success if they didn’t start from the bottom like he did. Fab’s vulnerability isn’t as central to his project as, say, YG’s is to My Krazy Life, but it does add a wrinkle to what can be a tired narrative. He could have gone further with it (if only to temper “That Ain’t Me”, whose misogyny is gross even by modern rap standards), but this is a mixtape. Maybe Fab will open up more on legit album.

Meanwhile, Fabby is a technically gifted, versatile lyricist and at this point in his career, part of the appeal of Dope Era is seeing how he approaches modern hip-hop. For example, Fab uses a fair amount of auto-tune on Dope Era, notably on “Real Niggas Do” and “Breaking News”. He’s always played fast and loose with the pitch of his voice and he sounds comfortable on both tracks. “News” is better, but mostly because it features Kevin Gates. He sounds uncomfortable with the extra space on the super-slow “Woke Up This Morning”, but he shows a knack for a good dumb hook on “OJ” and “Damn” (although on “OJ” – we still doin Terrio jokes?).

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