How’s this for perspective? When Fat Joe released his 1993 debut album Represent, Jurassic Park was the biggest box office hit in the country, Bill Clinton had just begun his first year of Presidency, and Drake was a quaint seven years old.
The go-to line with the Bronx-bred Joseph Cartagena is that he helped re-claim hip-hop for his Latino brethren. But breaking down racial barriers and discovering one of rap’s most gifted talents (the late Big Pun) only reveals half the story. With his 10th work The Darkside Vol. 1 (featuring everyone from Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, The Clipse and Too Short to Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier, Trey Songz, and R. Kelly… damn, whose not on this album?) on deck for July 27—Fat Joe Da Gangsta dissects his rich history on wax from the highs to the lows. Pay attention. You might learn something. —Keith Murphy
"There wasn’t really any Spanish rappers out there rapping really heavy before me. I was representing my neighborhood in the Bronx just trying to show people that we were the hardest dudes out. That’s what you heard on Represent. When I stepped in the game, I stepped in very confidently. Maybe if someone had told me, “Yo, my man…you won’t be around next year,” I would have gotten the point and toned it down [laughs]. But I came into the game thinking that I was going to be here for a long time. But really, it was huge that the Diggin’ In The Crates Crew was co-signing me. It meant so much, but what you have to understand is before it was the Diggin’ In The Crates Crew, it was just us. I grew up with Showbiz, AG, Diamond D, and [Lord] Finesse. I’m mean, I literally grew up with them from five, 10-years-old. These guys knew me as Joseph. It just so happened by the time I came out they were the hottest dudes in the game.
When I look at my first video for “Flow Joe” I think about the hard journey it took to get to that place. You don’t understand. I was shot two months before the video shoot and night before we filmed “Flow Joe,” the police had kicked my door in looking for my brother. I thought my dream was going to be shattered. It only made me appreciate the support I got for that video. Grand Puba was in there and he was the hottest dude in the game. The Beatnuts were there; Greg Nice from Nice & Smooth, Lord Finesse…all the hottest dudes at that time showed me support. I was blessed."