(AllHipHop Features) In 1993, it was “Flow Joe.” In 1996, it was “Envy.” In 2002, it was “What's Luv?” In 2006, it was “Make It Rain.” In 2011, it was "Another Round.” And in 2016, it was "All The Way Up."
That’s just a sample of the numerous hit records attributed to Joseph “Fat Joe” Cartagena. Over his three-decade career, the Bronx emcee’s name has been a constant fixture on the Billboard charts.
In addition, Fat Joe racked up several RIAA platinum and gold plaques. His work as a guest artist on projects by Jennifer Lopez, Big Pun, DJ Khaled, and others earned Don Cartagena even more industry hardware.
Following February's Plata O Plomo with Remy Ma, Fat Joe returned this summer with his new single “So Excited.” The Gil Green-directed music video for the cut premiered on Tidal this week.
I got the opportunity to chat with Joey Crack about his latest release. Our conversation included Joe discussing “So Excited” featuring Dre, his appreciation for rap icons Jay-Z and LL Cool J, the expansion of Hip Hop culture, and a lot more.
AllHipHop.com: “So Excited” is coming off last year’s successful “All The Way Up.” You’ve managed to have hit records in three different decades - the 90s, the 2000s, and 2010s. Do you have a particular formula when you’re creating music that allows you to continuously be able to connect with people in different eras?
Fat Joe: I don’t know. I just try to stay relevant and up to date with what’s going on and stay true to the people who’s been supporting me for all these years. It’s a great mix of speaking to the youth, but at the same time, speaking to the people who are the parents now. I don’t know. I figured it out. It’s countless nights and nights of being in the studio and believing in myself. I like to speak success and winning into existence. Sure enough, it works.
AllHipHop: Hip Hop seems to be in a great place in the sense that you can have a 60-year-old Hip Hop fan and you can have a 12-year-old Hip Hop fan. It’s aged to the point where it’s not seen as a “young man’s game” anymore. What are your thoughts about that?
Fat Joe: I don’t think it was a "young man’s game." The most old school rapper is 50-something years old. When you turn around and talk about [Rock & Roll legends] Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and all these guys, they’ve been doing it for years. So the whole genre of Hip Hop is a baby.
You can look at our OGs. They’re 53, 54 - the pioneers who created this art form. Hip Hop is just starting. So I don’t know who would put a label on it like it's a “young man’s game” when the whole art form is young. It’s up to the person to decide if they feel like they still got what it takes to put out hot music.
It’s no different than the boxers. You’ve seen some boxers be great and be champions for ten years, and then they start getting knocked out in the ring so it’s time to retire. It’s the same thing with Hip Hop music. Guys look at themselves and realize: “I don't got it no more like I used to” or “maybe I do, so I continue to do it.”
Another thing is whether you’re doing it to have mass media and mainstream success. Or you’re doing it ‘cause you just love it. There are some people that do it just ‘cause they love it. They can have five people listen, but they love to do it. It’s therapeutic.
AllHipHop: That’s true what you said about Rock artists. They can rock out until they’re 90 years old and still get the same level of support.
Fat Joe: As long as you love to do what you’re doing, then you should continue to do it.
AllHipHop: Going back to “So Excited.” You worked with Dre from Cool & Dre again. What is it about the collaborative process with him that seems to mesh with you so well musically?
Fat Joe: He’s the man behind the scenes for a lot of the music I do, as well as DJ Khaled. He’s a team player. It could be a time where I’m trying to catch a break, and he’ll be the guy to call me and say, “Yo, come on, B. Come to the studio and start working. Let’s go.” He’s that guy. He’s the motivator for us.
He actually did the track as a reference. He killed it so much that I was like, “I might as well stick with the team, stick with my brother.” Sure enough, the video’s amazing. The song’s amazing. It’s getting great reviews. People love it. We’re excited about the outcome.
AllHipHop: Last year, you released a couple of songs on Tidal. The “So Excited” video premiered on the platform. Do you plan on exclusively releasing a project with Tidal?
Fat Joe: We haven’t discussed that. For now, I’ve been releasing videos and I released the Jay-Z remix of “All The Way Up” on Tidal. It’s been a great marriage. They’re very supportive. I’m independent, so I can use all the help I can get. These guys help promote with me and give me a place where it’s special for me to drop my music and videos. I’m proud to be working with Tidal.
AllHipHop: In a lot of conversations I’ve had with artists, they said the same thing about being very supportive of Tidal because they feel like Tidal is very supportive of them. But at the same time, Tidal has gone through some rough patches over the last few years, and there’s been some public pushback. It may or may not be accurate, but it’s a perception that’s out there. How do you see the company balancing those two things?
Fat Joe: I can’t get into the politics of it. I don’t know what the perception is out there. I know I’m in an industry where people leave their favorite artists to die on a street corner. When you got a platform for up-and-coming artists and legendary artists, that treats everybody with respect and helps promote them, I can’t have nothing but positive things to say about that.
AllHipHop: You mentioned before about being independent. So, just for clarity, you’re signed to Roc Nation management, not the label?
Fat Joe: Yeah, I’m signed to Roc Nation management, not the label part. I’m independent. I have my own label, and it gets distributed through Empire distribution.
AllHipHop: Speaking of Roc Nation, I saw your interview with The Breakfast Club. You talked about having conversations with Jay about music. What are those conversations like? Is it specifically about your music? Or do you guys talk about the culture in general?
Fat Joe: The conversation I talked about on The Breakfast Club was based on me sending Jay-Z my single and what he thought about it. I can’t tell you about all the conversations I have with Jay-Z, but what I can say is that he’s somebody I’ve view as probably the greatest of all time rapper or top three of all time. So whenever you can get an opinion from a guy like that, it’s like doing a science project, going to Harvard and getting a co-sign from them. [laughs]
I respect the guys who put the time into the game, respect the culture and are still successful after all this time. You gotta understand, a lot of your favorite rappers and my favorite rappers started to deteriorate as they were getting older. They were getting rusty. They were flowing off beat. The music wasn’t really hot. So when you see a guy like Jay-Z who’s been around 20-plus years and puts out a phenomenal album, you gotta respect his opinion.
AllHipHop: I think Jay is definitely one of the GOATs. I think another GOAT is LL Cool J. It came out that he’s going to be recognized as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. What was your reaction to hearing that news?
Fat Joe: He deserves everything. I think he’s an excellent role model for Hip Hop artists about where you can end up in the future. I think he’s a great family man. He’s never been involved in controversy. He’s just been working hard his whole life. He transformed the game. He’s one of the artists to have the most longevity in Hip Hop history.
He’s also my idol, so I’m a little biased. When you're a 13-year-old kid loving Hip Hop, and you pick an idol that sticks around for 20-plus years, dropping hits after hits, and he always remains positive - that’s a guy who deserves all the praise.
AllHipHop: When you were that 13-year-old fan, could you have seen Hip Hop being where it is now, like being honored at The Kennedy Center and rappers partying at the White House?
Fat Joe: You’re talking to the wrong guy. You’re talking to the guy who believes that Hip Hop is everything. Hip Hop came from the rubble in The Bronx. It’s actually a natural resource that has generated billions and billions of dollars for the U.S. economy. Hip Hop is the CNN of the streets. We deserve all the awards from all the academies and all the so-called scholars. Hip Hop, the art form, is nothing short of a miracle, it came from nothing. And it’s American made.
AllHipHop: With your own legacy, I feel like you get the recognition musically, but I don’t know if you get the recognition for all the other stars you helped introduce to the world. Obviously, Big Pun and Remy, but also DJ Khaled and French Montana. Even Jennifer Lopez, to an extent, because you were on her first album, and that kind of gave her a Hip Hop stamp.
Fat Joe: It can’t just be Fat Joe mentioning it all the time in interviews. These guys have to acknowledge it and say it. But for me, I was thinking about it today. I love this kid, Fred The Godson, a young rapper out of New York. I’m a fan of his, and he got a new song he’s about to put out. I’ve been giving him advice and knowledge on what he should do and how he should put it out.
As weird as it sounds, I was thinking about this while I was brushing my teeth. I was like, “I want to see this kid win. I hope his song really blows up." Then I checked myself for a second, and I said, “Man, you did this for a lot of guys.” I think that’s what people don’t see. Being that my image is tough, I don’t think people see the side of me where I’m constantly wanting to see other people win, people that I have no financial connection with, just for the art form. I always want to see good people win.
AllHipHop: In a way, I think that kind of answers my first question when I asked you why do you think you’ve been so successful for so long. Maybe since you want to see other people win, that energy comes back to you. And that’s why you keep winning.
Fat Joe: I hope so. I dropped the single, and the Remy Mafia is acting like it’s Remy’s single. They’re going hard for me. [laughs] And I appreciate it. I’m like, “Alright, let’s go!” [laughs]
Fat Joe’s “So Excited” music video is now available for viewing on Tidal.