You’d think that someone who names their album “The Elephant in the Room” might be feeling a bit passed-over, but it’d be tough to overlook the consistent catalog of hits Fat Joe has racked up in his 15-year career. Staying relevant through collaborations with some of hip-hop’s resident hitmakers, Joey Crack continues to make his overwhelming presence felt. While he’s been successful at spreading East Coast mania down South, things at home seem to be less comfortable. His on-again, off-again tiff with 50 Cent picked up steam when G-Unit’s “I’m Leaving” diss-track leaked on the Internet a few days ago. With fans awaiting the Terror Squad Boss’s next move, we sat down with Joe to talk about retaliation, his new album, Remy Ma, and his take on the N-Word.
What difference will we hear on The Elephant in The Room compared to your last LPs?
Fat Joe: If you noticed Fat Joe is one of the very few rappers who have improved during his whole career, every single album. So all you can anticipate is if you like the last LP, this one’s going to be hotter on a different level. I just take it to another level, just making big music, man. Making movies on wax. That’s all.
Now you have been known for consistent-club anthems. What track on this album do you expect to really pop off?
Fat Joe: There’s a couple. Even I Won’t Tell has started to pop off in the clubs believe it or not. This one I got called Coca Baby, produced by Danja, is a definite club banger. I got a joint by Cool & Dre it’s called You Ain’t Seeing Nothing. And I got another one that Swizz made me called Drop.
Do you weigh the success of all your singles against Lean Back?
Fat Joe: No I actually don’t. I make different hit records, different singles, different songs. I’m never stuck on like Lean Back . The single after Lean Back was Get It Popping and it was totally different, it was more of a pop hit. Then we made Make It Rain, and had that bounce and there’s nothing like it. Now I got I Won’t Tell and I’m talking to the ladies. You know I just make different kind of music, as long as it’s popping.
In the past you’ve said making club songs for the ladies was a much greater challenge for you than doing street records, do you still feel like that?
Fat Joe: Absolutely. It’s true man. When you make records for the clubs and the ladies it’s got to be on some fly shit. I’m more of an underground gangster rapper, that’s me naturally. I hit about .400 righty, and lefty I’m about .350.
Do you think you nailed it with this J. Holiday record?
Fat Joe: I mean it feels like a huge hit record, it’s top 20, and it’s been number 18 for about four or five weeks. And it seems to be growing and growing and growing. I just hope for the best. So at the end of the day, all you could do is hope people play the record and hope that people buy the record. This whole rap game is a crap-shoot.
Has the decline of the rap game affected any of your business?
Fat Joe: Uh-I don’t think so, you know I follow this standard procedure I go by. Just promote the same way, the budget is smaller but we’ve put more of a focus on the Internet for sure.
How do you judge success nowadays?
Fat Joe: Success is about being relevant. People talking about you, people liking the music and an artist always having something hot out. Now there’s a different way of judging success. As long as you make money, that’s what it comes down to. The game has changed. 50 Cent’s last album [The Massacre] sold 10 million, this one struggled to sell one [million]. The game’s changed.
Your rap style has evolved over the years. Who do you look to for inspiration these days?
Fat Joe: Lil Wayne has always been inspiration to me. Young Jeezy, I love all the rappers. I always buy Fabolous albums, Styles P albums.
You’re a fifteen-year vet in the game. When was Hip-Hop most enjoyable for you?
Fat Joe: It was actually very enjoyable for me at the beginning when there were no type of egos involved, no type of competition. It was just camaraderie, artists getting together because they love music and rocking together. But my most enjoyable time would have to be the success of Big Pun. It was a very successful time for us, and we never witnessed anything like that.
Nowadays rap content is really under the microscope. How have you dealt with that?
Fat Joe: I really don’t care. It doesn’t really exist to me. Because most people that are watching the rap content are the people that don’t give a fuck about rap music anyway. Ain’t nobody who loves Hip-Hop watching you say “bitch” or “ho”. They just love Hip-Hop and have always been hearing that shit. It’s only someone like Oprah who doesn’t like Hip-Hop.
On Fugitive you take a stand against eliminating certain words from rap, what is your issue with censorship personally?
Fat Joe: You can’t censor rap. Rap is entertainment. First of all, lets just go at it real. The real is it’s entertainment. Because we’re poets, we’re painting a picture or portrait; we’re making a movie on wax. Because a rapper says you should be robbing a liquor store doesn’t mean you should go rob a liquor store. Because he ain’t robbing it. It’s just entertainment. We’re Scorsese’s. On the other hand you got your First Amendment and your freedom of speech. That’s the bottom line.
Are you ready to deal with the backlash from that song?
Fat Joe: Ready to deal with what? People don’t exist to me, this is what I’m trying to tell you. You know you could really be affected by some people existing, but these people don’t exist to me. They’re complaining about my lyrical content, they don’t like rap music anyway. It ain’t a Hip-Hop fan telling me I’m saying some shit. It ain’t a Hip-Hop fan saying, “I have a problem with that.” Yea, do you have a problem with the other 60 thousand motherfuckers?
As a Puerto Rican rapper, have you ever been criticized for using the N Word?
No absolutely not. Because blacks and Latinos anywhere you go in any hood, any ghetto, we’re right beside each other, and with each other all the time especially in New York City. They’ve been calling me “that nigga” my whole life. I go to Africa, and the Africans say “what’s up Fat Joe my nigga-ah?” So they don’t have a problem with it. It’s a term of endearment.
What about your response to people who don’t think like you or someone like Khaled who’s a Palestinian-American should be using the word?
I guess Khaled is a sand-nigga. He’s a sand-nigga. (Laughs) Khaled that nigga, did you ask the 36 black rappers that are on his album with him if they have a problem with it?
For a while the South was on the top, people were talking about the need to bring New York back or the West Coast back, keeping in mind that album sales are across the board, do you think anybody’s really on top right now?
Fat Joe: It’s one genre of music, it’s called Hip-Hop music. So, you could be from the West Coast, the South, the East, and it doesn’t matter. If Snoop Dogg makes a hot record-my favorite record right now is Sensual Seduction. Do I say I shouldn’t like that because that’s West Coast music? I’m like, “Yo, Snoop’s got that shit.” Same thing with what’s that kid name? Shawty Lo. That record is crazy out there you know? I love that shit. Just like I don’t judge anybody because of his or her race or ethnicity, I don’t judge music by region. I love it all.
You’ve been in Miami and linked up with the South for a while, adapting to new sounds and experimenting with your music. Why do you do that?
Fat Joe: Because New York Hip-Hop for a while was pretty stale. You listen to the mix shows, you listen to mix tapes, and everybody’s rapping the same way, about the same shit, using the same sound. I had to get away and spread my wings and do different things.
Do you think that separates yourself from the rest of the New York rappers?
Fat Joe: Absolutely, I definitely think I’m ahead of the curve. They’ll tell it to you another way but I think I’m definitely ahead of the curve.
Does the revival of New York even matter to you?
Fat Joe: Of course man, I’m from New York City, I love New York City and I’m living in New York City. I’m living in New York as well as Miami. I want New York Hip-Hop to survive. New York, New York was the anthem we gave the city and stayed proud. I represent New York to the death.
What do you think is the main factor holding it back?
Fat Joe: Egos, and people not making hit records is a big thing. The bottom line of the whole shit is like, we got to make better music, that’s it. It’s sad, see the South, they all rock together, I be in Miami, we all rock. No egos. Everybody loves each other. You know New York, they want to fight each other. Every fucking little mix tape rapper to, you know, everything. It’s just disgusting man.
Speaking on that, a few weeks ago, you called 50 out on Rap City. He responded on a track called “I’m Leaving.”
Fat Joe: What do you mean he responded? Like what, he threatened me on the record?
Yeah, How do you take that?
Fat Joe: I don’t know how to take it. I take it as people being mad because we’re winning and we’re successful. As far as him, he’s got shot by people who he knows and he doesn’t do nothing about it. He sees Ja Rule, little Ja Rule, and he never even fought him one on one. He’s going to come fuck with Fat Joe? Are you serious? He still don’t leave his house.
Does this take the so-called “battle” to the next level?
Fat Joe: I mean, battle what? What, you want me to battle rap him? I just want to know what does he want to get out of it. (Laughs) You know, make a hot record. Like, what are you doing? I’m going to curse him out again. If that’s what you’re asking, yeah, I’m going to curse him out. So we’re going to curse each other out and four years from now, most likely, we’ll still be here. He’s wasting his time.
He’s looking for attention, I’m gonna diss him. I’m gonna tell him to suck my dick, everything you can think. I’m gonna tell him that.
What does he want out of me? He’s gonna tell me, “Oh, Fat Joe, you’re a sucka.” This, this, that and I’m gonna be like, “suck my dick?” “You punk ass mother fucker.” And that’s it. And then, you know, do a survey and go out to the clubs and go to the ghetto and see who’s really out there and who’s not. He said, come down to Madison Square Garden and see him or something. Get the fuck out of here.
Now what’s the benefit of having distribution through Imperial Records?
Fat Joe: Some big differences. I went double platinum and never made a royalty. I sold 380,000 albums and made more money than I might have made on any single project in my life. There’s a huge difference.
There’s a rumor that Lil’ Kim might sign onto Imperial. Do you know know anything about that?
Fat Joe: I think so, I think so. Well not sign on, just get distribution as well. It’s a great place to be. People want work.
Speaking of Lil’ Kim.
What went wrong with the Remy Ma and Terror Squad?
Fat Joe: I can’t tell you what went wrong. Just the fact that she felt we didn’t promote her stuff as well, so, it’s been about two, three years since…when was it the last album came out? So, when’s the next album, when’s the next hit record? At the end of the day we can argue with each other and all that mumbo jumbo, but I make hit records. I want people to bring hit records to the surface.
Right. Was it hard seeing her on stage with G-Unit?
Fat Joe: Oh, it was terrible man. But I know what happens to those people. I know what happens to those people, it’s called karma. I know what happens to these people. It is what it is. You get somebody who lived in the projects, had nothing, then they down with you, you put them on a hit record, get them a record deal. Now they live in a house in Jersey with seven Benzes and Beemers and they tell you that you didn’t do nothing for them. Of course it’s going to bother anybody. But to me, loyalty is everything. So thanks for letting me know. The problem is, what has she done since she [Remy Ma] left us? It was such a rush. It was such an important part to leave Fat Joe. All we?ve done is put out hits and have been more successful. We had hits with Khaled’s “I’m So Hood,” and “We Taking Over.” We’re winning. Jealous ones, envy.