Great Rappers You Slept Part 2: 90’s Fat Joe

“Few rap albums of the modern era have the pure testicular quality of Jealous One’s Envy…”

– AllMusic

The biggest problem with being a (major) hip-hop head, is that sometimes you end up in conversations with others, and you have to find a way not to come off as a know-it-all. I wish I could explain how many times I’ve heard the South Bronx rapper Fat Joe described as being discovered by Big Pun. It’s like looking at a crooked picture if you have OCD. It’s maddening. I want to slap them and explain that Joe has been around for like EVER, and was an amazing, non-commercially motivated hip-hop architect during the golden era.

So here I go – let’s all go back to 1993.

I thought i’d share a bit about the Fat Joe that most heads either don’t know, or don’t acknowledge (anymore). Fat Joe was originally a member of the DITC crew, meaning he rolled with the likes of Diamond D, Showbiz & AG, Lord Finesse, and the late-great Big L. He was vicious on the mic, and in 1993 on the Relativity Records imprint he dropped his debut solo album, Represent. It was dope. It featured production from his DITC brethren, as well as hip-hop mainstays like the Beatnuts. The album spurred the iconic single Flow Joe, and the far less talked about Watch The Sound featuring Grand Puba and Diamond D. Keep in mind, this is 1993, so names like Puba and Diamond were a big  deal. The album also had verses from Apache and Kool G Rap. It also featured the original version of his classic The Shit Is Real. Critics didn’t hate it.

Then Joe dropped his second album, Jealous Ones Envy, which i’ll preface by saying is one of those albums that just hit me the right way when it dropped. It was the soundtrack to my life. Let’s point out the goods: The Shit’s Real, and Success –both produced by DJ Premier. Respect Mine featuring Raekwon, Bronx Tale featuring KRS-ONE. The album is so gritty, so NYC, and just so hip-hop. the production is absolutely gorgeous.

The real true gem here though, is the song Watch Out, which was the first recorded appearance of Big Pun.

Next up, Joe – high off the success of his new artist Big Pun – dropped the still “street”, but slightly more commercial effort Don Cartagena. It was super feature heavy, and had tracks that were made almost entirely for mainstream radio/tv, namely Don Cartegena featuring Diddy and Bet Ya Man Can’t (Triz) featuring Pun, Cuban Link and Triple Seis. The album did have heat, like the still dope John Blaze. Honestly, in hindsight, this album isn’t that “commercial”. Especially when you stack it against everything Joe made from this point on in his career. It was just much less street than his first two releases; however it worked in his favour, selling Gold. It was his most successful album to date.

Sadly, this is where the train has stopped for me. I wasn’t really a fan of his music from this point on. I mean, he had some heaters here and there, but it just got way too commercial for my personal taste; and that’s no shade, good on him. He has a family to feed, and it’s all about building and elevating. But for me, his music doesn’t have the soul it once did. I highly encourage you dig into his past catalogue though, because he did exist before What’s Luv with Ashanti. He’s the man who brought Big Pun to the forefront – and he deserves all the credit in the world.

Let’s pay tribute to 90’s Fat Joe!

Riley About Author

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns