Born Joseph Cartagena on August 19, 1972, in Bronx, NY; married. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019, website: Website--Fat Joe Official Website:

Also known as Joey Crack, the half-Cuban and half-Puerto Rican Fat Joe is one of the few Latino artists with breakthrough success in the predominantly African American world of rap. He climbed to the top of the Billboard charts in 1993 with the hit single "Flow Joe," and has only gained in popularity since, appealing to mainstream audiences with his hit single recorded with superstar Ashanti called "What's Luv?" in 2001.

Fat Joe was born Joe Cartagena in the Bronx borough of New York City, and he grew up in a rough and tumble neighborhood. Along with the music of his Latin heritage, he learned street rhythms and rhymes from his older brother, and was also influenced by Theodore, Funky 4 + 1, and the Furious Five. He was able to find inspiration in his surroundings, a talent that followed him into adulthood. Lyrics for his rhymes came to him at all hours, and he learned to have pen and paper--any paper--ready when the muse struck. "I write on paper bags, on mail, magazines, whatever ...," he told Eric R. Danton of the Hartford Courant.

He landed a recording contract with the Relativity label in the early 1990s, releasing his first full-length album, Represent, in 1993. A single from the album, "Flow Joe," grabbed the number-one position on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart. Fat Joe's second album, Jealous One's Envy, released in 1995, contained the contributions of several other artists, including the acclaimed KRS-One. In return, Fat Joe contributed to other rappers' recordings during this time, including on LL Cool J's hit single "I Shot Ya."

As the 1990s drew to a close, Fat Joe jumped ship and signed with the Atlantic label. He also started several business ventures, including a Bronx clothing store called Fat Joe's Halftime: Phat Hip Hop Gear, and a barber shop. He launched his own clothing label, FJ560, in 1997, because it allowed him to hire African-American and Latino designers to create clothing that appealed to his listeners. Fat Joe also founded Mystic Entertainment at about this time, with partner Big Greg. The company took control of Fat Joe's recording efforts, signing a production and distribution contract with Atlantic.

Atlantic released his third album, Don Cartagena, in 1998, a collaboration with numerous other artists including Puff Daddy, Nas, Raekwon, Big Pun, and Jadakiss (of L.O.X.). Three years later, Fat Joe's second Atlantic release, Jealous Ones Still Envy (J.O.S.E.), went platinum. As on his other albums, Fat Joe brought Ludacris, Petey Pablo, M.O.P., and others onboard for this effort. One track, recorded with the superstar Ashanti, was the single "What's Luv?" The song received more airplay than any other song in the history of Atlantic Records, hitting the airwaves 13,000 times in a single week. It also launched Fat Joe into the mainstream.

Stepping up his production schedule, Fat Joe released his fifth album, Loyalty, only a year later, in 2002. This album was his best to date, he told the Hartford Courant's Eric R. Danton, and he felt that it reflected a maturity he had never before known. He was proud of his ability to cover a wide range of topics, and of "just talking about serious things and not just negativity, but some positivity in life." The album was named for the quality Fat Joe values most in people, loyalty in all its forms. "When I was younger," he told Rafer Guzman in Newsday, "all I thought about was the South Bronx, the corners, everything. Now, I'm talking about my life 10 years later, as a professional and relationships with my wife."

One of the cuts on Loyalty is the soulful "All I Need," a major departure for the rapper, since it is his first "lovey-dovey" song, as he told Guzman. It was a challenge to pull off, but he was very pleased with the results and the new direction it represented for his work. The song's music video director agreed that it was a strong statement not just for Fat Joe, but for rap as a whole in that it showed respect to women. The director also said that it was a refreshing change from the run of songs about drugs and violence often sees in the genre.

In addition to his own recording schedule, Fat Joe has been busy rapping on the albums of other artists, including on How We Roll by the Barrio Boyzz, released in 1995, Flesh N Bone's T.H.U.G.S., released in 1996, the 1998 Aaron Hall release Inside of You, and Kool G Rap's Roots of Evil, also released in 1998, among many others.

Fat Joe has also tried his hand at acting, landing a role in the 2002 film Empire. He had been offered a role in Shaft 2, but opted for Empire instead, preferring to work with the largely Hispanic cast and crew of the latter film. The film is a gangster movie starring John Leguizamo as a Bronx hood who takes his street smarts to Wall Street. Fat Joe has also produced the albums of his friend and fellow Latino Big Pun, including 2000's Yeeeah Baby. That album was the last Big Pun ever made; he died of a heart attack brought on by his 600-pound weight the year the album was released. He was 28 years old, and his death was a tremendous blow to Fat Joe, who vowed to slim down himself.

In spite of his commercial success, or maybe even because of it, Fat Joe has never forgotten his beginnings in the South Bronx, and he has used his time in the public eye to encourage young people to stay out of jail, stay in school, and not to be influenced by people who think that doing good isn't cool. At the beginning of 2003 his future projects included writing raps for his next album and acting as producer for rappers Tony Sunshine and Remy Martin. He intends to stay active in different arenas and constantly explore new directions to keep himself fresh as a performing artist.

by Michael Belfiore

Fat Joe's Career

Released first album, Represent, on the Relativity label, 1993; released Jealous One's Envy, also on Relativity, 1995; released third album, Don Cartagena, on the Atlantic label, 1998; released Jealous Ones Still Envy (J.O.S.E.) on Atlantic, 2001; acted in the major studio film Empire, 2002; released Loyalty on Atlantic, 2002.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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