Though he dons the grim nickname “Funeral Fab” and hasn’t released a studio album in three years, Fabolous’ career is far from dead. In fact, his recent show at The Bowery Ballroom showed that his career isn’t even in critical condition; it’s doing quite well.
Before the funeral service began, Fabolous was preceded by fellow Brooklynite Troy Ave, a short and stocky emcee with a 50 Cent-like image and penchant for chanting “Powder!” No, he’s not a fan of that old Jeff Goldblum movie. Beginning his set with “Snow,” a track from his mixtape Bricks in My Backpack 3, it was very apparent that the powder Troy Ave [allegedly] deals with is much more literal. Even though he didn’t distribute powder at the show – probably a good decision on his part – he did distribute alcohol, much to the joy of the audience. Troy Ave probably wanted to end his set with his song “Merlot,” which features Fabolous, but that didn’t happen. Nevertheless, he left the stage with a huge smile. Despite his uncanny stylistic resemblance to 50 Cent (Exhibit A: his bulletproof vest; Exhibit B: “Shame”), the audience showed him immense love.
Shortly after Troy Ave made his exit, Asher Roth rocked the stage. “Rocked” isn’t being used casually here. Playing with a wicked band, the rap world’s favorite college kid was a far different artist that night. Conscientious and soulful, Asher Roth’s set featured surprisingly pensive lyrics like “What happened to rap?” and “The shiny things are only temporary.” Asher Roth showed this more introspective side on his mixtape Pabst and Jazz, but it was intriguing to see these songs performed at a concert where you’d expect him to simply run through his greatest hits. Hinting that this side of himself may be the side he wants to be more known for, Asher Roth equivocally declared, “College was fun.” What exactly this means remains to be seen. Hopefully his upcoming album, Is This Too Orange?, will clear things up.
After Asher Roth and his soulful band finished their striking set, Fabolous emerged, triumphant and extravagant. Noticeably wearing the literal antipode to “Brian Pumper jewels,” the lyrical funeral director started the set with his version of “You Don’t Know Bout It.” Randomly performing with a band, it seemed strange for Fabolous, a prominent artist, to begin his set with another artist’s song. That being said, the choice set the mood for the night. Fabolous is a well-known artist and a veteran emcee, but much of his recent career has been characterized by strong feature verses and mixtapes. That’s not a diss. The truth is just that recently Fab has released so many strong mixtapes and feature verses that he’s become known for repossessing songs. Fab’s penchant for repossession was apparent when he followed “You Don’t Know Bout It” with “Black City,” his version of Tyga’s hit “Rack City.” As soon as the band started playing the instrumental, the crowd knew what was coming and responded with ear-shattering cheers of anticipation.
While Fab began the set with new material, he eventually started performing his classics. The tracks “Breathe,” “ Young’n (Holla Back),” and “Into You” sounded notably fresh with the band backing them. In true New York concert fashion, Fabolous brought out two special guests, Lloyd Banks and Ryan Leslie. Both guests were well received, but Banks definitely drew the most love from the crowd. Performing Banks’ song “Start it Up,” Fab and Banks somehow amplified the crowd’s already-frenetic frenzy. New Yorkers love their own.
All in all, Fabolous performed about 20 songs. The benefit of having so many well-known feature verses is that you can have a very varied set. While songs from The Soul Tape and There is No Competition 3 filled the set and kept the tangibly younger crowd amped, at the end of the show Fab declared that his next album, Loso’s Way 2, is his next big project. Considering that Fabolous has previously had two platinum albums, it’s not surprising that he wants to go back to being known for his own tracks. That being said, judging from the crowd’s reaction to his more recent songs, New York probably wouldn’t mind another mixtape or guest verse in the meantime.
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