Fat Joe Is Ready for a 2016 Comeback

“Ey Nasty, you showed up for work!” Fat Joe shouted at DJ Nasty, long time friend and collaborator, as he walked into Basel House’s backstage Swarm office. It was a Sunday night, but Joe, ever the businessman, was just getting to work, ready to perform a free show for Bushwick Collective’s Block Party.

Joseph Antonio Cartagena, better known as Fat Joe, has been making music since around the same time I was born ('92) but it’s been five years since he dropped an album (Darkside Vol. 1) and two years since his last mixtape (Darkside Vol.2).

“I like quality over quantity,” Joe explains. And I can tell. He’s decked out in black and gold everything: Nikes, velour tracksuit, Terror Squad diamond chain, and sunglasses to match.

“If you go through the [Darkside] series, the series really rocked, but I’m working on a new project right now that I’m beyond excited about,” he teased. “I teamed up with somebody that the fans are gonna go crazy for.” Joe wasn’t ready to name his surprise collaborator, but he is ready to step back into the ring.

“It’s very hard to be an artist who’s been in the game as long as I have been in the game and adjust to what is currently happening now,” he says. “Right now, it’s more like, turned up, you know. It’s turned up, so you know you gotta turn up.”

And turn up we will. Before I even knew I was interviewing Fat Joe, I had been unknowingly playing his most recent single, “Hacerte Mia” for about two months. The song, which hasn’t really gotten much Internet traction, is a collaboration with stylish reggaetonero, J. Balvin, and features a rare Spanish verse from the Don himself.

What happened to Fat Joe?
What happened to Fat Joe?
Photo by Adam Hendel

Many probably assumed the days of leaning back with Fat Joe was over, and he, like so many musicians before him, would slip into obscurity. But Joe assures us that is not the case. In the rapidly changing hip-hop world, he’s desperately searching for the next hot sound that might inspire him.

“You know there was a time I would listen to an album, and I would feel really influenced. I would be like wow, it’s like drugs you know. But, I haven’t heard anything like that,” he admits. “I can’t, I ain’t find the drugs.”

In the meantime, Joe has settled as a family man here in Miami with his wife and kids. “I felt the love in Miami when I came over here 14 years ago and I never left. I love the vibe. I love the Latino empowerment.”

Joe, who is half Puerto Rican and half Cuban, has worked to bring over his family to Miami from the Communist country.

“The Cubans were in Jersey and Miami and I was up in New York with all of the Puerto Rican side of my family. But, I’m a mutt,” he says. He'd also love to visit Cuba in the future. “I would one billion percent play a show in Cuba.”

Here on the mainland, Joe seems in touch with the current political climate.

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“Without getting too political, I think gentrification is terrible,” he says. “These art places, they take over the neighborhoods, put the taxes up, families are forced to sell their houses so we can have a fancy neighborhood.”

This must really hit home for Joe, who was born and raised in the South Bronx, or what he calls his ‘four corners’: an insular Latino community which his own abuela never really left.

“In '93, when I made my first album, it was about my neighborhood, but I didn’t know that my neighborhood was just like your neighborhood, so everyone could relate.”

Coming up now in 2016 Fat Joe expects to put out a new album, and some movie scripts.

“You need more than ten minutes with Fat Joe to get to really know what I’ve done in hip hop and I’m real, all the way, authentic.” Fortunately, we had 15.

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