In honor of hip hop turning 50, XXL Magazine is using its “Legends” cover series to highlight some of the genre’s best storytellers. Today (March 9), their latest issue featured an interview with Fat Joe, who spoke about his 30-year rap career, discovering Big Pun, and some of his truest friends in the industry. Fat Joe, whose real name is Joseph Antonio Cartagena, first got his start at the Apollo Theater in New York. He then bursted onto the hip hop scene in the early 1990s with his debut album, Represent. He has since released 10 solo and four collaboration albums, and established his label, Terror Squad. Some of Joe’s biggest hits include “Lean Back,” “What’s Luv?,” “All The Way Up,” and “Another Round.” “It’s 30 years later, since I dropped my first album, and we [are] even more relevant today,” said Fat Joe in the interview.
The South Bronx native stated hip hop was a vibe back in the day. “It was the class of ’92 and ’93. So, you had everybody from Diggin in the Crates, Lord Finesse, Diamond D, to Gang Starr, Craig Mack, Biggie, early JAY-Z, and early, early Nas. This was the era that would change the whole game. It was just everybody trying to help each other… collaborating, you know, just lifting the hip hop culture to another level,” he explained. He then revealed some of his proudest career moments, including working with his mentor and idol LL Cool J on “I Shot Ya.” “It was just a breakout. It was letting people know I was real,” Fat Joe said. His second proudest moment was discovering the late Big Pun.
The pair worked together on the 1998 single “Still Not a Player,” which Fat Joe said had everyone asking him if he had any artists who were similar to Pun. “By the time I made it to the lobby… every executive you name in the world was waiting for me at the lobby like, ‘Yo, you got any other Spanish cousins? I wanna sign them now,'” he continued.
But when it came to his true friends, Fat Joe said that N.O.R.E., DJ Khaled, Remy Ma, Cool, and Dre were there for his low moments. “They were there for me at times I was depressed, and I needed to get talked [into coming] out [of] the house,” Fat Joe noted. When asked about a story that he hasn’t told yet but wants to share, the 52-year-old rapper replied, “I don’t know what story hasn’t been told yet, but I could tell you, uhh, that if you study my story, if you study how hard it was for me, if you see what I had to go through to become successful, it’ll teach you to never give up.”