It’s barely 8 a.m. in the Bay Area and North Oakland rapper, Mistah F.A.B., after having just dropped his daughter off at school, is grabbing a bite to eat. It’s an ordinary day for F.A.B.; on the surface, at least. But there’s something brewing on the horizon that has him excited, focused, and calm; in a way that only comes when you know you’re doing what you were put on earth to do.
He’s about to drop his first full-length album since 2007’s Da Baydestrian. Son of a Pimp 2 is set to drop on EMPIRE on May 27th. It’s a project that’s been over five years in the making, and is his most personal project to date. It’s one that he hopes will give newbie listeners and longtime fans a clearer glimpse–not only into his perspective on life but his capabilities as an artist and emcee.
“This album marks more than just music to me,” he says. “It fulfills a promise that I made to my mother. I told her I’d continue the is journey and go as far as I can and not just settle for okay or alright. I want people to know my true talents and to really understand the depth of my ability not just as an orator or emcee but as a writer, philosopher. I’m fulfilling a promise to my mother which makes it more personal. It meant more to me to put this album out.”
Indeed, F.A.B., coined “The Crown Prince” of the Bay, has earned his rhyme cred both as a battle rapper and one of the go-to emcees who gained prominence during the hyphy movement. After scoring a deal with Atlantic and later being dropped, F.A.B. further showcased his skills with a slew of mixtapes and releases over the past decade. Under normal circumstances, “Fabby Davis, Jr.” has no problem dropping music quickly, saying that in any given studio session, he typically knocks out five to seven songs. But the new album took nearly six years to put together, a time frame that was completely foreign to him.
“But I valued it more,” he says.
It was important for him to get everything just right, especially after his mom, who he says was really his best friend, passed away six years ago.
“On any given night you could see her at the strip club with me, at the basketball game, at a dice game… when you lose your best friend, it’s a huge change,” he says, remembering his mom told him to “man-up” when she knew her time on earth was coming to an end adding that she always “kept it G.”
“You never fully get over it. It never gets better You just get better at dealing with it.”
For a while though, he didn’t know if he’d be able to do it. He says after his mom passed, his music became really dark and he was unsure of his path.
“When my mother died I went into a musical slump, or really, a life slump. It was like, what’s important to you guys is just not important to me. I adopted the philosophy that i can’t have any more bad days, there’s no such thing as a bad day any more because i survived the worst day of my life and that was burying my mother. Never allow yourself to the concept of a bad day and that’s what the music is speaking about.”
The 34 year-old rapper knew it was time to put his story on wax, in a real, relatable way.
“The album talks about my life over the past 10 years,” he explains, “everything I’ve been through—losing my mother, trying to be a father to my daughter without ever having had a father, that’s hard, so I talk about my trial and error.”
Although F.A.B.’s socio-political perspective and knowledge isn’t necessarily widely known to fans beyond the Bay, the rapper has always been active in the community, and passionate about social issues. Get him talking about police brutality, the disenfranchised, mass incarceration, crime in urban neighborhoods or America’s often hypocritical foreign policy and he’ll go all day.
“America is going through a changing of the guard,” he says, lamenting the country’s willingness to allow a candidate like Donald Trump to become the republican nominee.
Now, his socio-political insights are going to be prominent on wax. He isn’t dissing rappers who talk about sipping syrup, jewelry and women, (”I participate in that, I can’t knock the hustle”), but this go-around he’s trying to make a different kind of connection. A soul connection that only comes from being vulnerable, open and real. He brings up Tupac as an example.
It’s the day after the sudden death of Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur and F.A.B. reminisces the connection fans felt to her, all because of her son’s openness in his music.
“Losing Afeni you felt like you lost your godmom,” he says. “You felt like you knew her. When I met her, I was like, ‘You’re the urban Virgin Mary.”
He laughs remembering Afeni’s amused but warm response.
“You felt like you knew her and that was from the music Tupac made. I miss those days.”
So, with Son of a Pimp 2 he plans on reclaiming that concept, alongside other current rappers he respects including Kendrick Lamar (who appears on the album), Drake and J. Cole. He’s open about his fears and his scars. He’s also exposing his personal politics—his criticism of Black Lives Matter, his disappointment in America’s overall racial politics that disenfranchises black and brown people, as well as its foreign policy. On one of the lead singles, “All Around the World” featuring Keyshia Cole singing a melancholy hook, he talks explicitly about his social and worldviews.
“It talks about what’s going on the world today, from America being on the brink of war, to the financial crisis,” he says. “How can they tell us to pray for Paris but everyday girls are getting kidnapped in Nigeria and kids are getting bombed in Syria? The inner-cities are like living in third world countries.”
Those familiar with F.A.B. know his political and social stance is nothing new. For the past 10 years, he’s been an active voice in the Bay Area, funding bookbag drives, hosting large-scale Easter egg hunts for kids, creating summer job programs to assist teens with finding jobs and funding football and cheerleading teams to keep low-income kids engaged in extracurricular activities they might not otherwise be able to afford.
“The community is far more important than anything I’ve ever done musically,” he insists. “When I’m done rapping, I still have to live in this world. I still have to live in the community that I claim I represent so hard. I can’t talk about change and I’m not changing myself, nor can I talk about change and do it from afar. It has to be done on the front lines.”
Even when you disagree with his politics—his criticism of Black Lives Matter is largely based on his ongoing question about why black on black crime is so prevalent in his community—his heart and sincerity are infectious. He launches into a story about how just the other day, he witnessed a drive-by, right outside of his local store.
“We need to change what’s going on the hood and what’s considered cool,” he says.
F.A.B.’s gregarious personality translates well onto wax, but also into his relationships. Take his new album for example. Son of Pimp 2 will be released on independent label, without the giant budget afforded to majors but his features read like who’s-who of hip-hop. Kendrick Lamar shows up on “Survive” also featuring Crooked I and Honeycutt, a track F.A.B. says he sent over and had back with K.Dot’s verse the same night, just based off of the love the Grammy-winning rapper had for him. Houston vets, Bun B and Devin the Dude make an appearance, as well as 2 Chainz, Snoop Dogg, Jadakiss, E-40 and Lupe Fiasco, who is notorious for not doing features. One of F.A.B.’s all-time favorite rappers, Raekwon also shows up on the 21-track album. F.A.B. is proud to say everyone showed up for him for free. Not one penny was spent on a feature.
At the end of the day, he says he just wants people to connect to his project in a way that may not have before.
“Nothing in life happens no sooner or later then when it’s supposed to happen,” he says. “I want people to walk away from this album feeling like they made a connection, like they know me.”