Fat Joe has been in the rap game for what's about to become his 20th year in the business. That's quite an accomplishment as we've seen many rappers debut with one album, never to be heard from again.
Born and raised in the Boogie Down Bronx, the Puerto Rican rapper made it his goal to put Latinos on the map, introducing himself to the hip-hop masses with "Represent" in 1993. Over his career, he's been involved in some feuds, most famously with 50 Cent, with both New York rappers quashing their drama. Fat Joe has put together 10 albums with one more on the way next year, which could very well be his last.
When Fat Joe is not in the studio during the months of the basketball calendar, he's either home in Miami watching his beloved New York Knicks or in the front row at Madison Square Garden.
Fat Joe spoke with Playbook about discovering Big Pun, James Harden and the Rockets, Raymond Felton, and his theory that the Knicks will knock off the Miami Heat this season.
You released your first album in 1993 titled "Represent." As you sit at home today, did you think you would be around the rap game this long?
[Laughs] Hell no, man. No way. No way man. I was just a kid from The Bronx that had something to say. Being Latino -- you know, the Bronx created hip-hop -- and since day one Latinos and blacks [have been] in the hip-hop culture since it started. So I just felt like there were never no Latino rappers before me that were really, really big that could tell the story or could really represent Latinos in hip-hop and I knew, if not for anything else, I would fill that void. I knew I had to speak up, but to think that we would make it this far and this long, no way. Impossible. I still can't believe that we're relevant till this day, man. We're still making good music. That's amazing.
You introduced us to Big Pun. He left this world on top of his craft. He was able to accomplish a lot in such a short time.
You know when I discovered Pun, I just was like, I've always been a big fan of hip-hop. I always used to listen to Nas. Nas at the time was the best rapper in the game. You know Nas had just typically grown to being the nicest. We used to listen to Kool G Rap and everybody but when I heard Pun I just lost my mind. I couldn't sleep that night. Just feeling like, wow, like I just met the nicest guy, lyrically, in the game. To put him out and to be honest with you, to see what Puffy did with Biggie, I knew, like yo, I gotta take that route. I could really develop him as an artist and make him as the next Biggie, the Latino Biggie.
Is there a day that goes by where you wonder what it would be like if he was still around?
I would say he would have been a giant. You gotta understand, me, I make music. I love to make music, but with me it's like a schedule. With me it’s like, "I gotta be with my family, then I got to do some interviews, then I got to do this and take time to meet with other people." You know with Pun it was all rap. It was all just 100 percent rap. He would fall asleep, wake up and start writing rhymes. Stay up all day writing rhymes and go to sleep. With him it was totally music and rap. He didn’t have time for nothing else. No social things. No nothing. All he cared about was music. So I know the longer he would have been here, the more incredible he would have been. That's all he really, really love to do.
You’ve released two songs, “Love and Joy” and most recently “The Yellow Tape.” Is there an album in the works in the near future?
Yeah. We're going to drop an EP called "The Yellow Tape." That's going to be around out Christmas time. We're working on an album. My new concept is I want to take it to back to the days where people used to drop five, six singles before they gave you their album. I just want to let the fans, for some reason, sometimes these guys be sleeping on me. I just want to hit them with five or six bangers back-to-back so that people can know, "Yo this boy, he got it." That's the plan.
Would that be your last album?
I don't know. Yeah it's feeling like it but I don't know. You never know.
What's your take on the New York rap scene with guys like A$AP Rocky and French Montana?
I know A$AP is like the biggest, the next biggest, biggest star in hip-hop. You know, like Kanye and Jay-Z and Eminem. Something like that nature. Frenchie is my brother. He got the hottest album coming out in the game right now. His album is crazy. I love guys like Joey Badass. Fred The Godson makes some hot music too. I love what the New York rappers got. In general I just like the whole climate of young rappers as far as Kendrick Lamar, what he is bringing, and Don Trip out of Memphis.
It's the passing of the torch right now. It was the Rakim era and KRS-One, [Melle] Mel, [LL] Cool J and then they passed it over to Nas, Jay-Z, Big Pun, DMXs, Fat Joes and now you see a turning of the tide. Finally we got some young rappers that are really, really making music with some substance and they're their own future leaders. They're not somebody that somebody had to put in the game or nurture them. They had to make a name for themselves.
How surprised where you when OKC traded James Harden just days before the season tipped off?
Oh man, I was super duper surprised. I think they really, really messed up. I know they keep saying it's a good trade but I would have never let James Harden go. He would come off the bench. First of all he should have started. He would come off the bench and do all the intangibles and make these shots under like the most pressure in the world and make it happen. Clutch shots. You can not get rid of a guy like that. No way on earth would I have gotten rid of James Harden.
Because of that I got the NBA package and I have been watching my guy Jeremy Lin and James Harden bust everybody down. I'm watching the game every day. I'm a fake Houston fan because of Jeremy Lin and the excitement he brought to the New York Knicks, and James Harden, he's badass.
Does the Lakers' sluggish start surprise you at all?
I picked them to win the world championship, as crazy as it sounds. Surprised? I'm beyond surprised but look at the Knicks. We got Amar'e Stoudemire. We got Carmelo Anthony. We got Tyson Chandler and last year we just couldn't jell together. It just shows you that you got to at least play a year or two together before the team can really, really jell together. Look at the Heat. They came together. They lost that first year.
I think we anticipate so much from the Lakers because of their firepower. Pound for pound, no one can mess with the Lakers. Pound for pound, Dwight Howard is the most dominant player in the NBA. He's in the post and you've got to double-, triple-team him. You got Steve Nash, a two=time MVP who is incredible to give up the ball. Whenever he feels like shooting it, he hits it. Then you got Pau Gasol who is my favorite power forward in the league. If he gets tough and that's what he got to do, he's crazy. Then an afterthought is Kobe Bryant, who, mind you, would have won the scoring title last year. Everybody is calling him old but he really won the scoring title last year. He just sat down the last game against Sacramento. All he had to do was score like eight points and he would have been the scoring champion. Right?
So now you got him and you got your man Metta World Peace, Queensbridge. He's Queensbridge tough. ... He'll hunt you down and can get you some scoring. Pound for pound if you look at it on paper, nobody can mess with the Lakers. I'm looking forward for them to come together. I definitely went into this basketball season more excited than any other season I've been a basketball fan because I wanted the Lakers to get Dwight Howard. On the other side, my Knicks, we are looking amazing.
They made some moves this summer.
I'm saying watch out, Miami Heat. That's what I'm saying. I'm saying watch your back, Miami Heat. That's what I'm saying because Raymond Felton has been an underrated point guard since day one. He is key. I seen him over the summer and I'm a big fan, man. I know you didn't do good over there in Portland but we love you in New York. You got to understand, Amar'e has been hurt. [Felton] and Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll is deadly. So I knew this before he played one game. So you got Raymond Felton, the pick-and-roll with Amar'e, and you've got to double-team him. They showed that the can do this successfully, right? You double-team Amar'e, he kicks it out to Carmelo. Carmelo, you got to double-team him because one-on-one, no one can stop him. Let's say you double-team him, he gets it out to Novak to hit the 3 or Raymond Felton just alley-oops it to Tyson Chandler.
This is very dangerous. I know they said we got old, but who wouldn't want Jason Kidd? He’s a floor general. He makes the right choices when the time comes. We got J.R. Smith off the bench who can go loco for the cake at any given time. I mean we got Sheed Wallace. I mean these are vets. Marcus Camby and Sheed Wallace, they gotta give us three minutes apiece. That's it. They may be old, but Sheed Wallace is a future Hall of Famer. Marcus Camby is tough as s---. I'm excited about our chances. I'm saying watch out, Miami Heat. That's all I'm saying. I don't see nobody else in the East messing with the Knicks.
You think the Knicks get past Miami?
I really believe the Knicks are going to get past Miami. I may be crazy, and I’m a Knicks fan, and I know it's way too early, and it’s all based on no one getting hurt. I really believe we’re going to get past Miami.
Even though the Heat made some changes, primarily bringing Ray Allen aboard?
That's like me signing to G-Unit. ... When he went to them, I didn’t even respect that man. I didn’t respect that. It's sad because I m such a fan. I'd be lying if I didn't think his jump shot is crazy. But I don't love Ray Allen. I don't respect the move.
Did the Knicks make the right decision in not bringing back Jeremy Lin, not matching the contract the Houston Rockets offered?
You know what, I'm going to tell you I've seen it both ways. I told you I became a fake Rockets fan because I love Jeremy Lin. I was hurt as a Knicks fan because the only thing that brought the excitement last year was Jeremy Lin. It was some magical moments. Me, personally? I would have kept Jeremy Lin. I understood what they were doing when they brought in Raymond Felton. Lin wasn't even going to get that play like that. He wasn't, because Felton is nasty. He's beyond underrated. He may be the Fat Joe of the basketball league. I'm telling you ... he may be the Fat Joe of the NBA. They have Felton and then they have Kidd and then they brought over the guy [Pablo Prigioni] from overseas. He's a 35-year-old rookie.
Everyone says Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire can't play together. Do you hold the same belief?
If you saw even when Linmania, the Knicks were uncertain. They needed a point guard to put the team into play. Even though we're winning, and I'm not going to make too much of that, if you see the ball movement, nobody has to try too hard. It isn't a bunch of one-on-one play. It's two point guards. We didn't have a true point guard. And then we had the little run with Lin where he gave you hope and then he got hurt. So we never had a true point guard last year. Everyone basically had to play one-on-one ball.
We got a point guard to run around and do pick-and-rolls with Amar'e and then kick it out to Carmelo Anthony. I think you're going to be very, very surprised at how the Knicks jell together. I know for a fact Jason Kidd won't let them play stupid basketball. Not going to happen. We got some real vets. We got Rasheed Wallace on the bench. We got Kurt Thomas -- "Crazy Eyes" -- on the bench. We got Marcus Camby. These aren’t little kids. These guys who went to [championships] and these guys played at the highest level in the game. This isn’t no pickup game of basketball. Last year what you basically saw of the Knicks was pickup basketball, a lot of one-on-one. That's not happening this year.
And there's that Brooklyn love for the Nets.
All I can say to the Nets is more success to them, more power to them. I respect what they've done going to Brooklyn, making a beautiful stadium and everything. But you know. I'm a diehard Knicks fan. So I'd love to crush these guys. We're going to that first game in Brooklyn dressed in orange and royal blue to the brightest with my leprechaun hat. That's the way it is for me. I wish them much success. I think they have a real decent team. I love their bench, but we're looking to destroy these guys.