A little more than 13 years after releasing his debut LP, Represent, Hip-Hop legend Fat Joe is defiantly certified as one of the last of a dying breed. While many of his pioneering peers from that golden era haven't since gracefully bowed out of the game, Joe has constantly found ways to evolve over the years as not only one of the premier MCs in rap, but as an astute businessman with an ear for finding and cultivating talent such fellow legend Big Pun, female fire starter Remy Ma and R&B crooner Tony Sunshine.
Joe's business savvy has surpassed working only in music as he has also secured endorsement deals with Ecko, Pepsi, Bud light and Boost Mobile. He has even added TV host to his credentials serving as host for the MTV Europe's "Pimp My Ride." Joe 's latest opus, Me, Myself and I (due November 14) not only finds him delivering his best album to date, but marks a milestone and next phase of his career. The project will be released independently on his own Terror Squad Entertainment, which is being distributed through imperial/EMI. For the better part of the past decade, Joe had recorded on Atlantic, releasing a string of classic solo albums: Don Cartagena (1998), Jealous Ones Still Envy (2001), Loyalty (2002) and All or Nothing (2005). Joey Crack has also put out two albums with his crew, The Terror Squad; Terror Squad (1999) and True story (2004), which spawned one of the biggest singles in hip-hop history "Lean Back" Throughout his career, the Bronx native has garnered a reputation for being consistent with his bodies of work and has been able to maintain unwavering street credibility while traversing the underground and blossoming into a mainstream superstar.
Still Joe needed a change as 2006 started. "I had been there for ten years," Joe explains about why he decided to leave Atlantic records earlier this year, " In the past few years I saw all these guys at [Atlantic subsidiary] Asylum records, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Cam'ron getting independent deals. Unfortunately when I sat down with Atlantic, we couldn't agree on the terms of the deal so I decided to do on my own."
The man nickname Joey Crack and Coca, says he doesn't have any animosity towards Atlantic, but he still had to do what was most prudent financially for his career and decided to field offers from other companies offering distribution. Very well off from the years of grinding and subsequent success, Joe decided he was tired of having to take money from labels to make albums and shoot videos. He was capable of doing everything on his own. All he wanted was for a company to help him get his product in stores. While different labels put in staggering bids to get into business with Joe, the Don of the Terror Squad funded the production of his album and began recording on his own. The result is I, Myself and I; a full throttle return to the pavement embedded hip-hop that is one of Joe's passion.
"This album sounds like Fat Joe, gutter hip-hop," he says of the project. "It'll take you back to Digging in the crates, jealous Ones Envy, straight street. I locked myself up in the room and said 'yo, we gonna make some hot music. I had people send me beats and said, 'yo, I'm gonna talk about what I feel, how I feel, get lyrical. I had producers, my friends_ the is what I feel Fat Joe is. I love making commercial records that go pop and all that, but this how I felt this time straight gutter."
Production on the project was handled by close Terror Squad affiliates like Scott Storch, LV and the Runners, while less than a handful of guests such as Lil' Wayne, The Game and newcomer Murder Capital shared mic time with Joe.
The first single is a thunderous throw down called "Make It Rain." Scott Storch produced and Lil' Wayne chipped in the hook. Joe masterfully controls the verses, flossing his hardcore pedigree while making the club rock and celebrating lavish spending. Acclaimed filmmaker and video director Chris Robinson ("ATL") directed the clip in Miami, "That second single is 'breathe and Stop' featuring Game" he describes of another cut, which has a strong Caribbean feel to it, "That Caribbean rudeboy music is some of the most powerful, spiritual music you can find. That's music that automatically makes you move. It commands you to feel a certain way."
The street singles "Damm" and "No Drama (Clap and Revolve)" were leaked to the street a couple of months ago and quickly became fixtures on the mixtape circuit. Born in the South Bronx, Joe himself became a permanent fixture in hip-hop in the early 1990s signing his first recording contract with Relativity records. As one of the only Latino rappers at the time, he quickly became the voice his people and was equally embraced by the rest of the hip-hop community.
He's collaborated with everyone from the mogul Diddy to the most lyrical master of ceremonies like Big L, Nas, Raekwon the Chief, Grand Puba and the lord finesse, to rhyme godfathers like LL Cool J and KRS-One and he's even done a song with the late great Notorious B.I.G. As his music and popularity transcend rap, he's also gotten calls to collaborate with artists of other genres like Reggaeton superstar Don Omar and pop prince Ricky Martin and princess such as Jennifer Lopez and Paris Hilton.
The proud father of 3 has also knocked on Hollywood's door appearing in films such as "I Like it Like That," " Empire," "Prison Song," "WhiteBoyz," and "Thicker Than Water." Showing no signs of slowing up, Joe has taken his game international with world tours and seems like he can go at least another 13 years on the mic.
"Keeping relationships has a lot to do with being humble," he began to tell, attributing his longevity. "Even when I did sell 1.8 million records, I was making songs with cats who wasn't selling anything. I always helped people. I've been loyal and I got a passion for the game. I'm here 13 years. Ain't nobody here 13 years later and still relevant the way I am. I work for it. I got the passion for the music, that's what others don't have. That's why people respect it, they see it. Somebody that sells like five million records, they'll tell you, 'yo Joe makes some hot music. I wish he sold more, but he's on top of his game.' It's hard to do this. You see the grind, so you respect the grind."