Born August 19th, 1970 in the Bronx area of New York City, Fat Joe was heavily influenced by the Zulu Nation culture (and parties) as a youth. His brother, Angel, would bring home tapes of the music played at these events, and the original sounds piqued the interest of young Joe.
As he got older, he became involved in the whole Hip Hop culture, taking a liking to not only rap, but graffiti art and breakdancing as well. Fat Joe joined a tight-knit team of South Bronx natives, who were heavily involved in the drug trade. It was here that his name “Joey Crack” came about. However, returning to his younger roots, Fat Joe discovered in time that his true love was indeed music.
He used his long-standing street credibility and brewing talent as a rapper to get a music deal with Relativity Records. Under them, Joe became Fat Joe Da Gangsta and released his debut album, Represent, in 1993. To the surprise of many, this small-time Spanish rapper scored a No. 1 hit with the track “Flow Joe.” He became a sensation in the New York Hip Hop scene and continued to ride the wave two years later when he came out with Jealous One’s Envy.
Fat Joe caught the eye of fans across America for rapping from a true “gangster’s” perspective, about the harsh realities of the world he grew up in. With the golden touch of producer DJ Premier, the album caught the eye of many a fan and fellow rapper. Fat Joe collaborated, and consequently got more exposure, with the likes of L.L. Cool J and Raekwon soon after. This growth in popularity led Fat Joe to seek a bigger target market, and he was able to land a deal with Big Beat/Atlantic Records. In 1998, the album Don Cartagena became his best effort yet — a socially conscious album that reflected, among other things, the profound influence a meeting with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan had on him.
With its success, Atlantic put newcomers Big Pun and the crew the Terror Squad under Fat Joe’s wing. Both artists made huge steps under the guidance of Joe, including smash hits like “Feelin’ So Good” alongside Jennifer Lopez. In a short time, Joe, Pun and the rest of the Squad had several Billboard hits and established a name for themselves in the rap industry. All the celebrating came to a halt, however, in February 2000, when Big Pun suffered a fatal heart attack. The 600-pound rapper was Fat Joe’s best friend and the loss, coupled with a sister stuck in a coma, hit him very hard. With nowhere to concentrate his energies, he turned toward music once again.
2001’s Jealous One’s Still Envy (J.O.S.E.) became a platinum-selling album, and featured the most played single in Atlantic Record’s history: “What’s Luv,” performed alongside R&B’s new queen, Ashanti. The rest of the album was replete with rap all-stars, including Busta Rhymes and Ludacris. To ride the wave of hits, Joe worked quickly to release his fifth album, Loyalty, in 2002. It showed an honest, original and creative side, including one of rap’s first real love songs, dedicated to Joe’s wife.
When not touring or promoting his latest album, Fat Joe connects with the community in the Bronx. He owns a barbershop, a clothing store called Fat Joe’s Halftime, and runs a fashion line, FJ560.