While on the road with Nelly, Fat Joe is preparing for the release of his sixth studio album, All or Nothing, on June 14th. "I truly believe that this is my best music so far," says Joe somewhat humbly, before adding, "Fat Joe is the most underrated rapper in the history of rap music."
Until recently, the Bronx native's fame has rested on collaborations with artists such as R. Kelly, L.L. Cool J and the late rapper Big Pun. "Thirteen years, and everyone thinks I keep getting lucky or something," Joe says. "Hey, they didn't respect the Ramones 'til they were gone!"
But when Fat Joe's clique, Terror Squad, scored the summer hit "Lean Back," the rapper earned his first accolades as an artist in his own right. "It made me feel like I had proved something, like people finally understand that Joe makes hits," Joe says. "Ludacris just went and performed in South Africa, and he said the DJ played 'Lean Back' and the stadium with 50,000 people went bananas!"
For his All or Nothing, Joe recruited in-demand producers Just Blaze, Scott Storch, Cool and Dre, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. Guests include superstars Nelly, Jennifer Lopez, R. Kelly and Eminem. Says Joe, "I got major love for Eminem."
But Joe is no fan of Eminem associate 50 Cent, whose recent dis track "Piggy Back" takes aim at Joe. "That fat nigga thought 'Lean Back' was 'In Da Club,'" 50 raps. "My shit sold 11 mill, his shit was a dud." Joe offers up his response, on "My Fo Fo," blaming 50 for his recent beef with label mate the Game: "Hate it or love it, the Game's on top/Now you jealous of him, when your shit going to stop?"
"It's a different time now from the days when rappers could dis each other, different from than the Kool Moe Dee/L.L. Cool J days," says Joe. "There are metal detectors at MTV; you can't visit [New York hip-hop station] Hot 97. And it's all due to 50 Cent. Fat Joe and the members of the Terror Squad are not interested in all that. We're interested in making great music, that's all."
As for Nelly, Joe has nothing but good things to say about his tourmate. "It's rare to find artists with no egos," Joe explains. "Everybody's just having fun, giving 100 percent every night to make the fans very happy."