With his tenth studio album dropping next month, Fat Joe has a new agenda that feels oh so familiar. This time around it’s not about making it rain or dances for thugs. Nah, Joey Crack simply wants his recognition as one of rap’s top five, dead or alive, so he's returning to his rough-edged "Flow Joe" days. Fresh off a show-stopping performance at this year’s Summer Jam concert hosted by NYC radio station Hot 97, Fat Joe checked in with VIBE to discuss his forthcoming LP (aptly titled Darkside), his NBA finals predictions and his thoughts on Diddy’s Biggie and Rick Ross comparisons. —Mikey Fresh
VIBE: New York is still talking about your recent cameo during DJ Khaled’s set at Hot 97's Summer Jam alongside Rick Ross, Barrington Levy, Cam’ron and Vado.
Fat Joe: Listen, ever since Summer Jam any place I go to in New York City there’s someone telling me that we ripped it down—the grocery store, barbershop, hotel… I swear it feels like the whole city was there. It comes down to us being the truth. People can feeling that. They know we’re 100 percent real. Our show is about passion, emotion, and getting the people excited. It’s almost like we’re fighting for our lives when we go out there. We came in there specifically to shut the shit down.
How is Khaled always able to bring some many different artists together?
DJ Khaled is a Hip-Hop ambassador. If there was a Hip-Hop U.N., he’d be the leader. Everyone shows love to Khaled and he’s passionate about what he does. He had everybody from Barrington Levy, Cam’ron, Nicki, Busta, Luda, Ross—I feel very honored to be a part of that special moment in Hip-Hop history. The whole stadium had there hands up on his command!
Was this your favorite Summer Jam moment of all time?
Nah, it was my second favorite. My favorite was in '04 when I did “Lean Back” and there was 70,000 people leaning back with me. And I’ve been to a lot of Summer Jams, but when that record dropped there and everybody moved at the same time—it was feeling that can never be replaced.
Let’s talk about your new album Darkside, we haven't seen this side of Fat Joe in a while...
This is nothing but New York, Diggin In The Crates rap. I just took it back to doing what I know best. I’ve made a lot of albums but this one is a classic—and I don’t use the word classic lightly. I really feel like I have one here. It usually takes me a month to do an album and I’ve been working on this one for eight months—not going out, just living in the studio. No lie, I pulled a Lil Wayne—living in the studio.
"I don’t think Ross wants to be Biggie. He can’t be Biggie. There’s no replacing Notorious."
What makes this album a classic to you?
There are a lot of concept songs on the album. I have one produced by Just Blaze where I actually rap from the perspective of the drug crack. [Joe raps] “Down in DC, shit got kind of scary/almost lost my political connect with Mayor Berry/they mix me with embalming fluid, it’s unreal and Jada said he cook me on the Foreman Grill.” That one might be one of my favorites from the album. This album is all about my place and my legacy in Hip-Hop, and I’ve always wanted to deliver a classic album.
You spoken out before about how you feel overlooked as a top five MC, was your thought process different on this album?
I just knew what I had to do—this is an album that New York itself forgot about. This is the heart and soul of New York City. I got Cam’ron and Clipse on one track called “Kilo.” Another track with Lil Wayne where I’m just pouring my heart out about my life. There ain’t nothing pretty about this record. I even got R. Kelly singing on a real, real street record. It’s all about preserving Hip-Hop. I feel like a champion with this record.
Speaking of champions, who do you think will take this year’s NBA championship?
I’m going with Boston in 7 games. They are the OG’s—Paul Pierce, Rasheed, and I don’t go against Ray Allen for nobody. I’m lookin for Rondo to break Derek Fisher down. He’s phenomenal. Rondo needs to dance on Fisher and retire him. I’m really looking for Rondo to do pretty embarrassing things to Derek Fisher.
Did you catch those photos in the New York Post of 50 Cent after he dropped over 50 pounds for a movie role?
Yeah, that's his thing. I'm not mad; he's trying to get money. I could never do that, though, I wish I could. Fat Joe loves food too much. I'm scheming on some Pinkberry right now. [laughs]
One last thing, as someone who knew Biggie and is friends with Rick Ross, how do you feel about Diddy calling Rick Ross “The Biggie of the South”?
He said that? I don’t know man. Diddy’s a smart guy and Rick Ross is smart guy, but I don’t think Ross wants to be Biggie. He can’t be Biggie. There’s no replacing Notorious. No disrespect to Ross’s talent though, because I think he’s one of the nicest rappers in the game. But they always compare new artists to the greats. I understand Diddy though, because I knew Biggie very well and I know Ross. They both are kind hearts and they have a similar aura and demeanor about them. They're similar in that way.
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