Fabolous scored a bit hit, “Can’t Deny It,” right out of the gate in 2001, instantly establishing himself as a rising East Coast rap star, the song’s combination of street-savvy toughness and pop crossover appeal representative of the rapper himself. Streetwise and hardened yet young and graced with poster-boy good looks, the Brooklyn rapper (born John Jackson on November 18, 1977) was one of the first East Coast MCs to embrace the bling mentality of the South as well as the gangsta swagger of the West Coast, all the while incorporating a subtle undercurrent of pop-rap into his music. He was among the first of a new breed of New York City rappers, later and most notably to include 50 Cent, who were able to cross over well among multiple markets without losing street credential. His youth was key, but so was his bravado, and when Fabolous could balance this persona optimally and find himself a production formula to fit, commercial success resulted.
His breakthrough single, “Can’t Deny It” — a Rick Rock production featuring a 2Pac sample and a Nate Dogg feature, as well as a catchy hook — preceded his debut album, Ghetto Fabolous (2001), and generated quite a bit of buzz. The album also featured production work by the Neptunes, but only managed one other single, “Young’n,” which failed to match the success of “Can’t Deny It.” When Fabolous returned with his sophomore album, Street Dreams (2003), he capitalized on his initial renown, racking up three major hits: “Trade It All,” “Can’t Let You Go,” and “Into You,” with the latter two breaking into the Top Five of Billboard’s Hot 100. Later in 2003, More Street Dreams, Pt. 2: The Mixtape hit stores just in time for the holiday season. Comprised of various street-level recordings originally released on mixtapes, this compilation didn’t spawn any hits, but it did reaffirm Fabolous’ hip-hop credentials in the wake of his string of pop crossover singles. The following year brought with it another album, Real Talk (2004), which didn’t offer any major pop crossover hits (“Baby” was a minor one) yet did boast a monster Just Blaze production, “Breathe,” which further shored up Fabolous’ hip-hop credentials.
The young rapper took most of 2005 and 2006 off, and shortly before the scheduled release of his next album, in late 2006, he made headlines when he was shot in the leg and subsequently charged with weapons possession (police found two guns in the car that transported him to the hospital). Def Jam — which signed Fabolous after sending Musiq to Atlantic in a unique trade situation — released From Nothin’ to Somethin’ (2007). The album debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (number two overall) and spawned a series of singles, including the Top Ten hit “Make Me Better” featuring Ne-Yo. Two years later the hit single “Throw It in the Bag” would land on his album Loso’s Way, a loose, conceptual full-length inspired by the film Carlito’s Way. In 2010 he released There Is No Competition 2: The Grieving Music, a âconcept mixtapeâ which aimed to bury rival rappers.