On Don Cartagena Fat Joe plays musical auteur directing each track dramatically and intensely. Fat Joe (a.k.a. Joey Crack) wields an album with diverse tentacles, reaching some of the complexities and contradictions of Hip Hop. Through the course of his six years in the industry, having fostered relationships with major players, and after growing up in the squalor of the South Bronx, he has good reason to call himself the Don of Rap. ;A lot of rappers talk that bullsh*t, but a lot of n****s ain't 'bout it 'bout it like Fat Joe. Rappers could have three times more money than me, but they know Fat Joe lives what he rhymes about, so they respect me like a Don. Fat Joe commands the power and respect most political leaders only dream of having, and as an MC, Fat Joe's persona is larger than life. Not only is Fat Joe armed with a new label (Mystic Entertainment, distributed by Atlantic Records), his own production company (Terror Squad Productions) and his own management company (Pay Up Management), he is armed with the Terror Squad Crew and the love of his people for support. But indeed, the road wasn't easy for Fat Joe.
Fat Joe grew up in a traditional Latino family- a strong, but silent father and a caring mother. Despite having both parents in the household, love and affection were absent. So as a shorty growing up in the South Bronx, Joey followed in the footsteps of his older brother Angel, from whom he learned to rhyme, amongst other things.I wanted to do everything that Angel did- rhyme, fight, and hustle. More importantly, Angel planted the seeds of Hip Hop in young Joey's heart.My brother would come back from the Zulu Nation parties and bring back tapes. I would hear everything- Theodore, Funky 4 + 1, and the Furious Five. Thus began the growth of this hardcore New York MC, who eventually emerged as the music industry's first notable Puerto Rican rapper.
Fat Joe's first album Represent, released by Relativity in 1993, was supported by Diamond D's c production. The album was embraced by Hip Hop's hardest fans everywhere and the infamous single ;Flow Joe; reached the #1 spot on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles chart. Two years later, Fat Joe's quest was to be respected for his lyrical skills. In 1995, Jealous One's Envy, bogarded the sophomore album jinx and bum rushed the entire industry with underground cs like ;The Sh*t is Real, ;Dedication, and ;Bronx Tales, which featured living legend, KRS One. Jealous One's Envy featured a new assemblage of producers such as DJ Premier, LES and Domingo. In addition to a noteworthy second album, illustrating Fat Joe's growth as an artist, he also appeared on LL Cool J's platinum hit, ;I Shot Ya, alongside Foxy Brown and Keith Murray and kept even more underground love coming with Wu Tang's Raekwon the Chef on ;Firewater, which also introduced Armageddon and Big Punisher, some of Fat Joe's growing Terror Squad (TS) family.
While a young Joe was gearing up for the rap game, he was also learning the art of entrepreneurism through his father, who would take Joey with him to sell baked goods at Orchard Beach. Fit to succeed, Fat Joe was taught two lessons at once- Hip Hop and business- elements that would serve one purpose later on in his life. Since releasing his first album, Joe went legit and put his money where his mouth was by starting a number of local businesses in the same community he once terrorized. The idea was to provide a positive presence in the community, according to Fat Joe. He opened a clothing store, Fat Joe's Halftime, a barber shop, and he recently launched a fashion line, FJ560. From community businesses to the music industry, Fat Joe has had his sights set on the next level. Upon his departure from Relativity, Fat Joe and partner, Big Greg inked a production and distriubtion deal with Atlantic Records, forming the Mystic Entertainment label imprint. When Fat Joe declared ;I'm trying to retire and play golf with Russell Simmons, on ;Fat Joe's In Town; off Jealous One's Envy, he meant it. With Don Cartagena Fat Joe's formula for success is in place.
In Don Cartagena Fat Joe reaches a new plateau with his rhymes and the entire approach on the album brings ;the art of rap at the illest form, as poignantly said by Fat Joe in ;Crack Attack, produced by LES of the Trackmasterz. Fat Joe has expanded his reach as an artist, while not compromising his hardcore essence and this time around, more than ever, manages to sprinkle jewels everywhere in his lyrics. In the title track and first single off the album, ;Don Cartagena; (an eloquent piano looped track featuring Puff Daddy and produced by Younglord of ;The Hitmen;), Fat Joe proclaims ;modesty will get you no where/ that's why I go there/ and let you know where/ to by the new Fat Joe gear, and later in the verse asks, ;Let's choose what life you'd rather live/ on the streets stabbing kids or living mad sweet in lavish cribs?; Word. Another of the bound-to-be-cs is ;John Blaze, a symphony track that guest stars Nas, Raekwon, Big Pun, and Jadakiss (The Lox) and was co-produced by Younglord and Grease with scratches by DJ Spinbad. With a minimalist track, the MC's flex lyrically. Fat Joe boldly professes, ;I used to run many spots/now I own many shops/ gortex with the lock/ 560s - 4 bills a pop/I'm hot/who wanna get burned?;
A part of Fat Joe's persona is a new found consciousness and goal to reach a balance, keeping it both real and right. Inspired by a meeting he had with Minister Louis Farrakhan, Fat Joe enlisted the Terror Squad to create a politically-charged song. The result was ;The Hidden Hand. Produced by Spunk Bigga, this emotionally-tinged track is reflective in nature with peaks captured by a subtle violin. On this track, Joe talks of his trials as a youth and his dreams for the future: ;I was a wild adolescent/ blessed with the foul essence/ messing with the wrong crowd/ I learned my lessons/.../ but now I understand the bigger picture/f*ck crying about the struggle/ I teach ya how to get richer.
Don Cartagena is truly a trip through a myriad of sounds and escapades. Fat Joe keeps to his essence with the hardcore anthems ;Find Out, produced by Marley Marl and ;Misery Needs Company, featuring Noreaga. Fat Joe also provides us with, ;My World, a Baby Paul-produced track which will have crowds chanting ;It's my life, my money, my world, my girls. TS electrify the sky like the third rail; alongside Big Pun.
In addition to the star studded names above, the album also features rising rap queen, Charli Baltimore and rap super group Bone Thugs & Harmony. Fat Joe's growth as an artist is reflected by the assembled artists and producers that appear on Don Cartagena. With lots of love come blessings, and with blessings come protection. Blessed by his peoples in entertainment, his family, and the people in the streets, Fat Joe is surrounded and protected by a legion of friends and loved ones.
Men who move with that much reverence, power, and respect deserve the title of Don. This summer, prepare to welcome Don Cartagena.If I ever make a hundered million, I'll still walk these streets freely; this is what I love man. More importantly, this is reality. Spoken like a true man of the people.