Even with his number of hits, Fat Joe is one of the most-overlooked rappers in the game. During the early 1990s, Fat Joe released his debut album, while The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z were still shopping for record deals. However, Fat Joe was signed to Relativity Records, primarily known for heavy metal releases, so the audience was still limited for Fat Joe. The Bronx rapper would spend the early stages of his career signed to this label.
Fat Joe found himself under the shadow of several rappers, while being the go-to guy for collaborations. The fortunes for Fat Joe would improve when he aligned himself with Murder Inc. Records. For years, Fat Joe had been in the background, but he found success on Billboard with “What’s Luv?,” which featured Ja Rule and Ashanti on the hook and production from Irv Gotti. At the time, Ja Rule was the top rapper in the game and it was one of his trademark songs, which took Fat Joe to the top.
For the first time in his career, Fat Joe was on top of the game, celebrating a platinum album nearly a decade following his debut. In the time since then, Fat Joe has been stuck trying to recapture the magic of this period of his career. Critics and rivals, namely 50 Cent, have had this complaint about Fat Joe. During a brief run, it appeared as if Fat Joe was going to prove these critics wrong. Timing was everything when Fat Joe and Lil Wayne came together for “Make it Rain” and the star-studded remix, which helped launch DJ Khaled’s career.
However, Fat Joe’s career suffered a gradual decline in the following years. Fat Joe proved he was among the most-connected rappers in the game, as he landed the top producers and artists for each of his albums. But, for some reason, Fat Joe was no longer connecting with his fans. In the eyes of many, Fat Joe’s longevity in the game was due to him following bandwagons (aligning with Murder Inc. in 2001 and then Cash Money in 2006), instead of creating his own trends, as The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Murder Inc., and Lil Wayne did. What is often overlooked, however, are the trends Fat Joe did start.
During the summer of 2004, Fat Joe made it cool for those who could not dance to simply lean back, with his “Lean Back” chart-topper. Fat Joe was so popular, he launched Remy Ma’s career, which lasted two years. Currently, DJ Khaled is dominating the game, serving as Def Jam South’s president, signed to Cash Money Records, and the force behind Ace Hood. However, Fat Joe helped DJ Khaled gain fame and even helped Khaled launch the career of Rick Ross. When DJ Khaled’s movement took off in 2007, 50 Cent targeted them simply because of their affiliation with Fat Joe. Feeling he would be dissed next, Rick Ross decided to diss 50 Cent first, immediately making him a big name.
Still, when most think of Fat Joe, they think of the negative aspects of his career. The truth is, the current dominant Miami hip hop scene would not be relevant had it not been for Fat Joe accepting Miami as a surrogate home. There should be no question, Fat Joe is one of the most underrated figures in hip hop.