This season could easily be deemed the summer of Fabolous. In the past few months, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based rapper has popped up on remixes for such artists as Lil' Mo and Jimmy Cozier, not to mention

This season could easily be deemed the summer of Fabolous. In the past few months, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based rapper has popped up on remixes for such artists as Lil' Mo and Jimmy Cozier, not to mention his guest appearances on Philly's Most Wanted's album and the latest "Violator" compilation. And with his Sept. 11 Elektra debut, "Ghetto Fabolous," the marquee act for DJ Clue's Desert Storm imprint will likely become a hip-hop staple.

The 21-year-old rapper got his break after freestyling on DJ Clue's "Monday Night Mixtape" show on WQHT New York in 1998. He impressed not only Clue and station listeners, but also Def Jam recording artist Noreaga. Not bad for someone who didn't take the "audition" seriously.

"I thought it was a joke," Fabolous says. "If I had really believed it, I would have been better prepared. Once I got there, I knew this was my opportunity."

That opportunity led Clue to take the rapper under his wing and sign him to the fledgling Desert Storm. "I started doing freestyle for his tapes, which gave me some street buzz," Fabolous says of his early days with Clue. "Lil' Mo heard me on one of Clue's mix tapes. She came to do the 'Superwoman' remix with him, and she asked about getting me on."

Lil' Mo returned the favor by guesting on the album cut "Take You Home." Fabolous also worked with Rockwilder, the Neptunes, and Just Blaze, among others.

While known for his laid-back style, Fabolous does get serious on his debut. "You can't make every song a party song," he says. "You may feel like partying all week, but by the end of the week, you're exhausted. So you have to have a little diversity. We have some East Coast joints, West Coast joints like 'Can't Deny It,' and some down South joints. We also have two deep songs like 'One Day.' You can't do all of anything -- you have to mix it up. That's what makes a good album."

Although the rapper has built his name on guest appearances, the featured artists on "Ghetto Fabolous" are few and far between. "I wanted some other artists on there, but time fell short," the rapper says. "We were just banging songs out, and if something isn't broke, there is no need to fix it."

That was obviously the case with the album's first single, "Can't Deny It," which features Nate Dogg. The single currently rests at No. 19 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. "It just had an automatic feel to it," Fabolous says. "Either coast can get a feel for it, and that's what I was trying to do. I just wanted a feel that either coast could enjoy."

According to Al Branch, senior director of marketing for Elektra, "The time is right for an artist like this. We're looking to take what Clue and [Desert Storm co-CEO] Duro have done and take it to a larger scale." The label launched a 30-city promo tour that began July 12, and there are also plans for a back-to-school campaign and a school tour.

From a retail standpoint, Fabolous' recent visibility has bolstered interest in his debut. "They're checking for him in the streets," says Tony Rome, co-owner of Vision Quest Music in Yonkers, N.Y. "Every day we get requests. He hasn't done anything that hasn't been hot. I think he's going to hold his own. There's no reason for him not to -- the quality is there."

Others might feel the pressure of being the debut act for a new imprint, but not Fabolous. "Being the first artist doesn't put any pressure on me," he says. "You have to have the same expectations of yourself, whether you're the first, second, or last artist. I'm just trying to win by making good music, period."