Even though he’s been active on the rap scene for almost a decade, “FatBoy” is the first OFFICIAL album from James Baker b/k/a BlocBoy JB. In the early 2010’s JB linked up with producer Tay Keith (of “Tay Keith, fuck these niggaz up” fame) which given their Memphis residency was probably inevitable; still it was a fortuitous break in the young artist’s career given the super producer reputation Keith has garnered since. The fruit of this good fortune came when Tay Keith fan Drake wound up on his single “Look Alive,” a track which propelled JB from a regional favorite to the national spotlight. 327 MILLION views later here we are.
Although he’s declaring himself a “FatBoy” and parodying Fat Albert on his album’s cover, the fatness is like ShowBiz & A.G. in that it’s entirely in the pocket. JB is not hesitant about flashing his wealth, his chain, his candy painted lowrider, or the big titty big booty white girl who likes all of the above on “Hot.” Matter of fact her booty is so big it’s practically devouring the Daisy Dukes that she’s wearing. It’s undoubtedly chauvinistic to say I’m not complaining about her attire, but I’m pleased to watch her shake what her momma gave her while JB proclaims himself to be “your resident President, bitch I’m Barack.”
JB has certainly made the most of his recent explosion to the mainstream if the videos are any indication. By now though we should all be savvy enough to know if you haven’t got it like that, you can always rent it for a day to make it look that way. Perhaps that’s why he expressed his support for Donald Trump, saying POTUS 45 “might would’ve got my vote if I wasn’t a felon.” Despite going bankrupt multiple times, Trump has kept up the facade of wealth and power all the way to the White House, even going so far as to claim that his $421 million in debt is a “tiny” amount. Vote any way you want between now and November 3rd if you’re a U.S. citizen and able to do so, but I don’t feel like endorsing Trump helps your credibility much as a rapper and more than likely has the opposite effect.
On the flip side of the credibility equation is JB’s admitted felony record. He’s been arrested multiple times on gun charges, robberies, home invasion, drug charges, et cetera. It’s an unfortunate reality that the image a rapper cultivates can be validated by a long rap sheet, but when JB brags that he “trap(s) in all states” on “Bronny & Bron” there’s reason enough to take his claim seriously. It’s a careful tightrope to walk though as you can have enough credibility to be taken seriously, or so much credibility that you end up doing long stints behind bars. As always my hope for JB is like that I have for any young successful rapper — he talks it more than he lives it so he can continue to enjoy his wealth and freedom.
It’s an equally tight rope to walk as a critic when discussing BlocBoy JB’s merits. He’s a real rapper that’s really rapping and not singing his way through “FatBoy” so that’s automatically a plus. His speedy and nimble delivery shows he’s spent years cultivating his flow and breath control. There’s a rhythm to it that’s mesmerizing and easy to get lost in with the quality of production he gets. Speaking of that production, the heavy bass bottom of songs like “Excuse Me” featuring Yo Gotti and “What You Want” featuring Trippie Redd make for perfect cruising with the top down. It’s a shame the album came out in the fall instead of the summer.
With all those positives there’s one thing that just can’t be overlooked — JB doesn’t have much to say beyond Gangsta Rap 101. He traps, he flosses, he’s got haters, these hoes suck dick ’til they choke, and if you fuck with me or mine the bullets are gonna spray. It certainly paints an evocative image, but it’s the same brush and canvas familiar to any Memphis rapper, and not the kind of art that stands out from the crowd. “FatBoy” works because of who he works with and who he’s friends with, not because he drops incredibly memorable bars or has the best camera lens on the scene of his peers. It’s like a Hollywood blockbuster in that respect — big names, big checks, big box office, and an experience that’s largely average despite the millions in revenue it generates. It’s not poor, it’s not terrible, it’s just “okay.”