views updated


Rap musician

The American Library Association may not approve, but the errant "o" in John Jackson's assumed name ranks among hip-hop's savviest marketing moves. It gives Fabolous an excuse to spell his name in almost every song, and hooks fans, deejays, and journalists into talking about the handsome young rapper from Brooklyn. "Now people get it," Fabolous said of his name in Jet. "That's my signature for people to know who I am. I started hearing people's grandmother saying it."

Actually, until 1998 nobody knew who John "Fabolous" Jackson was. A "quiet kid" from Brooklyn's Breevort Houses public housing project, according to his website biography, Jackson wound up performing live on DJ Clue's prominent Monday Night Mixtape radio show on New York City's WQHT. The appearance didn't seem significant to him at the time, however. "I thought it was a joke," Fabolous told Billboard, several years later. "If I had really believed it, I would have been better prepared. Once I got there, I knew this was my opportunity."

The performance ignited his career, and Clue started featuring Fabolous on his influential mixtape collections. After rapper Lil' Mo heard Fabolous she included him on her "Superwoman, Pt. 2" remix. The resulting MTV video was a smashFabolous claimed it transformed him from regular guy to star overnight. He signed with DJ Clue's fledgling Desert Storm record label and spent the summer of 1999 touring with Clue, Jay-Z, Method Man, Redman, and DMX on the Hard Knock Life Tour.

Fabolous's breakthrough came in 2001. After his smash "I Can't Deny It" made him a major hip-hop player during the summer, Elektra signed a productin and distribution deal with Desert Storm and arranged to release his debut album Ghetto Fabolous. It jumped quickly to number four on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Like Jay-Z, who released his own CD that same day, Fabolous has a knack for spouting coarse language in a nursery-rhyme delivery that's proved popular on pop radio and MTV.

Fabolous, who poses on his album covers in a baseball cap tilted just so, a baseball jersey, and the requisite gold chains and bracelets, knows how to make successful pop music. His style, he told MTV, is "a mixture. It can be street sometimes, but it can be ... I don't really want to say commercial, but it can be [a little] commercial. I'm not making it for [the mainstream], but I see the world through both sides. You can't have a street person who don't respect commercial [tastes], and a commercial person who don't respect the street. I'm trying to just bring the two together. Somewhere they can meet and just make some good music."

"You can't make every song a party song," Fabolous continued to Billboard. "You may feel like partying all week, but by the end of the week, you're exhausted. So you have to have a little diversity. We have some East Coast joints, West Coast joints like 'Can't Deny It' and some down South joints. We also have two deep songs like 'One Day.' You can't do all of anythingyou have to mix it up. That's what makes a good album."

Occasionally Fabolous takes the concept of "street" a little too literally. In early 2003 police arrested him twice in two daysfirst for allegedly possessing a weapon, the second time for driving without a license. The gun charges were dropped two months later, but Fabolous was arrested a third time in late March when police discovered a loaded nine-millimeter handgun in a car in which he, a bodyguard, and several other people been riding. Fabolous's lawyer denied all the charges and, later in 2003, publicly threatened to sue New York City for $5 million. The suit has yet to be filed.

During that same year Fabolous toured Boys and Girls Clubs around the United States. He also announced that in addition to endorsing products for Nextel, Lipton, Reebok, and EA Sports, he would promote literacy for the American Library Association. Having a spokesman who fractures the English language for a living, however, seems a bit ironic. "We like anyone who supports kids reading," spokeswoman Laura Clark told the Houston Chronicle in 2003. "And maybe the librarians get it. Librarians have a sense of irony, too, you know." Fabolous gets it, too, as evidenced in lyrics like these from "Get Smart": "I feel like a genius / Look at it from a playa's position / I got a scholarship, I get smart without payin' tuition / My classes be like two three hours / That's why I'm the smartest young guy since Doogie Howser."

Fabolous released his follow-up album, Street Dreams, in March of 2003; it went gold in six weeks and platinum by early fall. Like all smash hip-hop albums, Street Dreams went heavy on celebrity guest appearances. Rappers P. Diddy and Snoop Dogg, respectively, appear on "Trade It All, Pt. 2" and "Up on Things"; R&B singer Ashanti appears on "Into You." During that same year Fabolous was part of the Rock the Mic Tour with headliners 50 Cent and Jay-Z. By early 2004 he was talking about doing movies. "I wanna tackle it all," he told MTV. "I think I can pull off a comedy. I'm really trying to see if I can do a thriller or drama."

Fabolous told MTV he was planning to release his third album in late 2004. "I wanna talk about real situations, real things going on with people's lives, real things going on at a party, real things going on when you're chillin'," he said. "I just wanna be 100 percent real."

Selected discography

Ghetto Fabolous, Desert Storm/Elektra, 2001.

Street Dreams, Desert Storm/Elektra, 2003.



Billboard, September 8, 2001; September 15, 2001; March 8, 2003.

Chicago Sun-Times, January 18, 2003.

Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2003.

Jet, June 16, 2003.

New York Daily News, March 25, 2003.

Rolling Stone, April 3, 2003.


"Fabolous," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 9, 2004).

"Fabolous Completing Third Album, But He Really Wants To Act," MTV, http://www.mtv.com (January 4, 2004).

"Fabolous Dreams Up New Record," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (December 10, 2003).

"Fabolous: Ghetto Superstar," MTV.com http://www.mtv.com (September 9, 2003).

Fabolous Official Website, http://www.fabolous.com (February 9, 2004).

"Fabolous Plans To Sue New York For False Arrest," VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com (February 16, 2004).

"Fabolous Strikes Gold," Rap News Direct, http://www.rapnewsdirect.com (April 22, 2004).

Steve Knopper