Born Joseph Antonio Cartagena in Brooklyn, New York, Fat Joe lived in public housing growing up. His brother introduced him to hip-hop and Joe instantly fell in love with it. As a teenager, he was heavily influenced by fellow Latino rapper, Big Pun.
Joe explained the rapper’s influence on him by saying “Latinos before us who had the opportunity to do it just didn’t know how to do it. They came in trying to do this black music, waving flags. But we’re trying to kick in the doors for other Latinos and represent our people, and it shows.”
Joe released his debut album in 1993 called “Represent” on Relativity Records as Fat Joe Tha Gangsta. The album’s leadoff single “Flow Joe” earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Song.
Joe released his second album in 1995 called “Jealous One’s Envy”. The album featured KRS-One as a guest, as well as Big Pun, who had now joined Joe’s Terror Squad clique, along with many others. Joe scored with the hit single “Envy” off the album.
In 1998, Joe switched labels and went to Atlantic Records and released the hugely successful “Don Cartegena” album. Amidst all the success, tragedy struck two years later as Big Pun would die from a heart attack in 2000.
The next year a heavily focused Joe released “Jealous One’s Envy (J.O.S.E.)”, not to be confused with Joe’s sophomore album of the same name. The album was produced by Irv Gotti and spawned the smash hit “What’s Luv”, featuring Ja Rule and Ashanti. And In 2004, Joe and the Terror Squad scored with the smash hit anthem “Lean Back”, produced by Scott Storch from their album “True Story”.
Fat Joe has also been in involved in the community of Miami, where he now resides, New Jersey and his old neighborhood of The Bronx, New York, in projects for children involving scholastic, artistic and fitness programs.
Fat Joe has even collaborated with United States First Lady Michelle Obama and her “Let’s Move” initiative against childhood obesity. Fat Joe, who at one time weighed over 300 pounds, was the subject of a recently publicized weight loss effort which saw him drop close to a hundred pounds on a diet in which he stopped an admitted affinity for fast foods in place of fruits, vegetables and small portions of lean meats, citing the loss off his friend Big Pun as motivation and inspiration.
We salute and wish a happy birthday to Latin and Hip Hop icon, Fat Joe!
Check out the music video to Joe’s smash-hit “Lean Back”