Following the release of his 10th solo album The Darkside, Vol. 1, Fat Joe has spent the better part of 2011 finishing up the follow-up The Darkside, Vol. 2, his first official mixtape out October 31. With guest appearances from Raekwon, Jadakiss, and French Montana, Joe returns to his hardcore hip-hop roots after 2009’s more commercially-minded Jealous Ones Still Envy 2 (J.O.S.E. 2), enlisting Cool & Dre and Macho as executive producers and handing the bulk of production over to fledgling producer Mark Henry.
But the Bronx rapper, who recently shed nearly 100 pounds, hasn’t completely abandoned his mainstream aspirations, having just released the slow, R&B-laced “Another Round” with Chris Brown. While no release date has been set for Joe’s upcoming album of the same name, his confluence of street, club, and bedroom hip-hop has allowed him to remain popular long after other rappers his age have faded from the scene.
Rap-Up spoke with Joey Crack about his support for Chris Brown, keeping in touch with Ja Rule, opening weight loss clinics, and why, regardless of his size, he will always be Fat Joe.
1. The Darkside, Vol. 2 is your first mixtape after nearly 20 years in hip-hop. Why now?
Because there’s a thing called the Internet [laughs] and times are changing. You have this outlet where you can get your music and content out there and the fans don’t even have to pay for it. They can just enjoy it. I love making hardcore hip-hop shit. That’s where my heart is at. The last album I put out was Darkside, Vol. 1 and it got great reviews and all the real hip-hop heads loved it to death. But at the same time, it’s such hard-body, gangsta music that you can’t really play that on the radio. People loved it, but that was my core audience, street ni**as. So I said let me make music for the masses with “Another Round,” which is for the ladies. But I love to make street music. I’m just trying to feed everybody.
2. How does it differ from Vol. 1?
I really don’t know if it’s different. It’s just some more of that Fat Joe; that hardcore shit. That smokin’ weed and driving a car-type shit. Years ago, in order to be successful in this rap game, you needed some type of credibility, like a Freddie Foxx or an M.O.P. or a N.W.A. There was a time when hardcore shit was the norm. And then you had these guys like Mos Def, Black Star, and Common like, “Yeah, but nobody shows us love. We on some positive shit.” And they were cool too. But now it seems like that’s the majority. You turn on the radio and it’s J. Cole or Kid Cudi or Mac Miller. And I love that shit. My favorite album now is J. Cole’s. But it’s like the gangsta rappers are becoming extinct.
3. In 2008, you talked about how the diversity on your albums made it difficult to define your identity. Is Darkside, Vol. 2 a way to separate your harder material from the more commercial stuff?
Definitely. And now I can say whatever the fuck I want to say. Back in my major record days, I wrote a line about Suge Knight and the executive said, “Oh no, we can’t have that on our album. You have to change that.” I had a video with clippings of John Gotti and they said, “Oh no. We can’t put that out.” But now, it feels great that you can just release whatever you want to release however you want to release it.
4. How did you link up with Chris Brown for “Another Round”?
I’ve known him for years and we toured together in Africa and he was like, “We gotta do something.” I’m like, “You are the hottest ni**a in the game right now; why wouldn’t I want to do something with you?” He always told me that for years but at the time, he was like 15, 16 and just so young. I was like, “Yo, it wouldn’t even be right.” But now he’s a grown ass man, so it makes sense. We just recorded that one song, but we’re shooting a video in November with [video director] Colin Tilley in L.A. We’re going over the concept now.
5. Are you surprised that people have re-embraced him?
Naw, I’m not surprised. He’s been a phenomenal talent; he’s a freak of nature to begin with and an incredible artist from day one. We always knew the talent was there. I think American society is very forgiving and people love that good music. I don’t really want to comment further, but I’ve seen several situations [with other artists] where I thought, “Oh man, this guy’s gonna have trouble.” But he kept dropping these hits and then everyone was like, “Yo, fuck it. I’m fuckin’ with him.” Music is spiritual and it goes into your soul and pores. Even if I wasn’t getting along with the usual suspects like 50 Cent, if he dropped a hot record, I was like, “Damn, that shit is hard. I fuckin’ hate him, but that shit is crazy.” There’s no way to hide good music.
6. Do you think it’s hard for people to reconcile an artist’s music with their personal life?
Everybody got problems. I’ve always hated people who’ve been hiding behind door number one pointing the finger at people. Most congressmen who are against gays and lesbians fuckin’ turned out to be gays and lesbians. I’m not with these guys who say, “Chris Brown is a piece of shit” and meanwhile, they’re smackin’ the shit out of their girl. Get the fuck out of here.
7. Jennifer Lopez recently brought you out on stage to perform in Connecticut. With Ja Rule in prison, was it a bittersweet reunion?
God bless him, man. He’s my brother and I wish him the best. I just got his address from his manager and I’ve been writing him. I was with him just before he went away. He’s a beautiful dude. He got a bad rap for everything. He’s a great guy and making great music.
8. You’ve been on a rigorous diet recently. What was your peak weight and are you happy with where you’re at now?
I dropped about 100 pounds and now I’m down to 260. I’m where I want to be at weight-wise and now I’m just trying to build muscle. At this point, I don’t want to be no more skinnier than this. I didn’t do it for psychological reasons or looks. I just did it to feel healthy and because too many of my friends are passing away.
9. Is it difficult to maintain your current weight?
It really ain’t hard because I’ve been trying to lose weight for 10 years. It got to the point where it’s almost like science for me. I know exactly what I can do and what I can’t do. I know I gotta stay away from those carbs. The only carbs I really eat are in the morning because it burns off. After that, I ain’t fuckin’ with them. I have a routine now. I’m trying to open up some weight loss clinics to help some other people. I’ve put four friends of mine on a diet that have each lost like 60 pounds listening to me.
10. So would you ever drop the “Fat” from your name?
Naw. I ain’t dropping nothing. Fat Joe is Fat Joe forever.