The only surefire way to enjoy Lil' O's Da Fat Rat Wit Da Cheeze is to not take a single ounce of it seriously.
For his first album on a major, nationwide label (there was a botched 1997 deal with MCA), Lil' O attempts to be all things to all rap fans -- an equal-opportunity studio gangsta. Fat Rat is shot through with contradictions, mostly supplied by the performer himself. Is he the thug all thugs straight-up envy? A ruthless, bloodthirsty son of a bitch who doesn't have the time or patience to deal with pesky playa-haters or complaining hoochies? ("Y'all broads wanna drink / The bathroom's got a sink," he says on "The Throwdest.") Or is he just a brotha trying to find that silver lining on the hood's dark storm clouds? On such tracks as "Beg, Steal & Borrow" and "I Wonder Why," O shares this positive side, though he never lets us forget he isn't afraid to plug some slugs in a fool's ass.
Like other "Lil'" Houston rappers, O fills up his album with guest spots from various local MCs. O spars with Big Pokey on "Thug Niggaz Pt. 2," a jam with No Limit-style staccato beats. Big Moe takes time out from rapping about syrup to provide some chorus hooks on a few tunes, including "Slow Down," which sounds like O's very own "I Need Love." O actually lifts a line from P. Diddy, asking for "one bad bitch so I could spoil her." Zero, Hawk, ESG and other Screwed Up Click-ians also lend their talents, assuming ride-or-die stances for their road dog O.
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Listeners can view Lil' O's schizoid approach to street philosophizing as either highly perplexing or highly entertaining. The latter is better; if you dwell too long on this is-he-glamorizing-or-debunking-gangsta-life thing, you're putting way too much thought into this album. Besides, you may even get a sick kick out of hearing O spew out his pimp rhetoric.
But with Lil' O, even the most do-ragged, screw-loving street urchin has to realize that it's more about the hustle than the struggle. Coming from every bandwidth of the ghetto-rap spectrum, O tries to make himself look all nice and playarific for the out-of-state consumers. He's not fooling his hometown folks, though. We know he's a bullshit artist with a good production team. On one track, he even admits it: "Yeah I'm bad / But I still gotta eat." It's not thug life this dude is rapping about, it's a thug fantasy.
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