America-born rap artiste, Fat Joe, was in Nigeria last week for the Calabar carnival. The rapper, born Joseph Cartagena of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent in August 1970, spoke with Emeka Umejei at his Protea Hotel, Ikeja GRA, lodge on his age-long rivalry with fellow American act, 50Cent, insisting that they’re two parallel lines. Excerpts…
How does it feel being in Nigeria?
I feel great. This is my second time of being in Nigeria; the last time I came down here, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown and a lot of other artistes were around and it was an amazing show. I enjoyed myself. That is why I am back to see my fans in Nigeria. I love them because they love hip-hop music. So that is why I am here.
Which of the Nigerian artistes do you know?
I have not quite met any of the Nigerian artistes. I know Sade (Adu). She is one of my favourite artistes from Nigeria.
You don’t know 2face?
I do know 2face, but I don’t believe I met him in Nigeria. I met him in another part of Africa at a big show. I think it was in Gabon that I met him.
Would you like to do a ‘collabo’ with any Nigerian artiste?
I don’t have a problem. I love music and I can collaborate with anybody. As far as they love hip-hop music, I can collaborate with anybody.
What Impression do you have about Nigerians generally?
Nigerians just show a lot of love. That is why I came back, especially their love for hip-hop; they love Fat Joe and I love them too, and I am just happy to be back to show them love.
Do you like Nigerian ladies?
(Laughter) I’ve got a wife and she will kill me if she thinks I like Nigerian girls. Do you want my wife to disown me?
Which of your albums do you consider the greatest?
It’s my second album, Jealous Ones Envy and that is my favourite. But not everybody will know about it because Fat Joe became a big star after his fourth album. My first two albums were underground and my second remains my favourite.
Among the American music stars, who do you respect most?
I don’t respect my rivals; I respect all the artistes. I have a new song coming out with Akon. He is in Senegal, but we are going to shoot the video in two or three weeks time, which is amazing. It is going to be a big record in America. I respect all artistes, everybody from Lil Wing, Reek box, Fabulous, Snoop Dog. I love every body.
Who do you consider your rival?
You know 50Cent is my rival.
What is your relationship with him?
No relationship. No relationship.
Tell us about your background.
I am from the Bronx, New York, where hip-hop was invented, and as a little kid, I was a part of hip-hop history. As a little kid, my friends and I were always going to the parks and watching people play hip-hop. I have always wanted to be a rapper, and then in Harlem, there was a competition, which I contested and won four weeks at a row. I came first; that was where I was discovered and I got my record deal from there and I have been Fat Joe ever since.
What is this thing about rap music and gangsterism in U.S.A?
I won’t necessarily say that there is any connection between rap music and gangsterism. Rap music is so big and unstoppable because it is so diverse. You have rap music, which is comedy, gospel, dance and gangster. Gangster is just one form of rap music.
What is your most precious possession?
My daughter will have to be my most precious possession and my kids; my two sons.
What is your wife’s name?
Her name is Loraina. She is a beautiful girl and she likes expensive things.
How did you meet her?
I met her through a mutual friend of mine who introduced her to me, and when I met her, I told her she is going to be my wife.
What is your signature style?
Energy, having fun and always giving you a big hit.
Who is your role model?
Kris Parker (KRS One) and LL Cool J. These are the two guys that I look up to; they are the reason I do rap music.
What’s your view on the Obama Presidency?
(Laughter) You know we all are excited about Obama. I will never forget the night he won the election; it will forever be buried in my memory and brain. It was so good to see everybody in line, standing for over seven hours to cast their votes; people you thought could not come out to vote came out to cast their vote. It was a little like a hip-hop convention waiting to vote. I have never seen it in my life before, when all members of the hip-hop community came out en masse to vote. So it was motivating. I’m hoping he could turn it around because we really need him to turn it around, given the economic crisis going on in America.
What do you consider the worst thing that has happened to you?
I will say it will be losing my sister at a tender age and the death of my best friends, Big Pun and Tom Montana. Those are the worst things that have happened to me. It is painful when family and friends are dying so young, when we have so much life to spend together.
But are you doing anything to keep the memory of Big Pun alive?
I try to make music to keep him alive. Every time I win, he wins. I also try to keep his memory alive out there, make sure everybody remembers Big Pun and how much he contributed to hip-hop music
Do you go to church?
I don’t go to church, but I definitely believe in God and I definitely pray all the time.
Who do you consider your most stylish American alive?
I will say Puff Daddy. You know, there is nobody like Puff. People could try, but they can’t be like Puff Daddy.
Is it the money or love for hip-hop that brought you back to Nigeria?
It is not just the money alone, but the love of my fans who have shown that they love my music so much. It is like you going to a place as a journalist and the people appreciate you, won’t you like to go back to such a place? That is the same thing with me. Nigerian fans appreciate my music a lot.
How do you give back to the society?
I distribute canvass and food materials to homeless people on the street and contribute to the betterment of the less privileged. During the festive season, I went out with my group where we gave out over 1,000 pairs of canvass as contribution to the less privileged.
What do you know about Calabar Carnival?
I had heard a lot about the carnival as one of the best places to be during the Christmas season, and I couldn’t wait to thrill fans at the carnival and also have a feel of it.