Fat Joe is one hell of a storyteller. And in this special episode, he drops two great ones. First, the story of how Fat Joe the drug dealer became Fat Joe the rapper. Then, a story he almost never tells— because, as he says, “That’s the realest story. I don’t tell those stories, because then you’d think I lied. But it’s a fact.”
CREDITS: Mogul is hosted by Reggie Ossé. This episode was produced by Eric Eddings and Meg Driscoll, with help from Isabella Kulkarni, Jonathan Menna, and Peter Bresnan. Our senior producer is Matthew Nelson. Our editors are Lynn Levy, Caitlin Kenney and Chris Morrow. Sound design and mixing by Haley Shaw. This episode was scored by Nana Kwabena with additional music by Haley Shaw. Special thanks to Victoria Barner, Caitlin DiLena.
Reggie: Man, basic question, man. Why do they call you Fat Joe?
Fat Joe: Man, since I was a little kid, I was overweight. And everyone in my building and in my projects always called me Fat Joey. So I took it as a term of endearment and just always rocked out with it.
I’m Reggie Osse, and this is Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty. A production of Gimlet Media and the Loudspeakers Network.
Alright, so we’re halfway through this story, but we really wanted to pause to do something a little different before we tell the rest of Chris’s tale. One of the people we interviewed for Mogul was Fat Joe. And those of you who’ve heard an interview with Fat Joe will know that the man is an incredible storyteller. And when we spoke to him, Joe dropped a couple of ill stories about Chris that we couldn’t fit into a standard episode. But we still wanted to share them with you right here, in full. Before we get into this, a warning. If you have strong reactions to descriptions of violence, you may want to skip this episode.
When Chris Lighty first met Fat Joe, it was in the early 1990s. Chris was building his reputation as an executive, but he still kept his ear to the streets. And that’s where he found Fat Joe, in the streets of the boogie-down Bronx, the same streets that Chris came from. Back then, Joe was starting to build a reputation as a rapper. But a lot of people in the hood had heard about him for something else. Fat Joe was a drug dealer. Now a lot of rappers sold a little weed on the side, and spit about being on El Chapo status and such, but in Fat Joe’s case, this was no exaggeration. Fat Joe was official, a big-time drug dealer. And when Chris first went to meet him to discuss the possibility of signing him, that’s exactly what he was doing.
Fat Joe: So at the time, I was hustling, you know, like, big drugs, you know, and so I didn’t really take rap seriously. And Chris Lighty came to my spot, to my spot. Like a drug place, one of my drug locations. I got a Benz there, Beemer there, I got gold chains on, I’m watching—
Reggie: Was it an apartment or like a—
Fat Joe: Nah, it was in the streets. So I had, like, a building, it was a old coffin factory, and we had it all cemented up, and we had the hole in the wall, and the picture would be by the wall. We would double cement it and put steel so the police won’t get in there. And they would pitch through the fucking wall. Pitch means like, “Yo, what you want? A bundle of dope?” “Alright, so a hundred dollar.” So we had a guy behind the door, almost like if you went to a check-cashing place. You never even could see him. And then we would control the crowd outside, like, you know, two at a time, two at a time, keeping them moving like that, and watch out, you know. It was like a fortress. So the cops really never, never, never busted nobody in there. Too much—you couldn’t even get in there! Like, you know what I’m saying? He came to the spot, my nigga. Yeah! He walked up on me. He didn’t walk up with no fancy car. No crew. One Deep. He was like, “Yo, what’s up.” He was like, “You Fat Joe, right?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m Fat Joe.” He was like, “Chris, I’m Baby Chris,” and I was like, “Yeah, I know who you is.” And he was like, “Yo, I think you could be a dope rapper. I think you could be,” and I was like, “Word?” And he like, “Nigga, I’ll sign the contract in the middle of the street!” He came with the contract. I think I made 35,000 or some shit. And I signed, and I was showing everybody the contract, being, “Believe me.” Like, all the hustlers and from that point on, I left the drug game and I just went legit.
Just because he left the drug game didn’t mean he could let his guard down. Fat Joe still had enemies, and one day, his past caught up with him. This is the story of how Fat Joe got shot.
Matthew: Could you tell us—
Fat Joe: Tell the story?
Matthew: How did you get—
Fat Joe: You ain’t never hear that story, bro. That’s the realest story. I don’t tell those stories, because then you’d think I lied. You know, but it’s a fact.
There was a kid I used to pick on all the time. He owed me, like, ten dollars, and I would see him all the time and tell his friends, “Yo, that nigga owe me ten dollars. That nigga owe me ten dollars.” So I would, like, fake-threaten him. I really didn’t want to hurt him. But I would fake-threaten him every time I saw him. One day, it was the Fourth of July, and we was having a picnic. And we were playing softball, and I had maybe a hundred niggas with me. We had maybe 15 guns in the park. Of course, I go to get my Diet Pepsi. I’m at the store. The kid is standing out there with a black leather trench coat. It’s like a hundred degrees.
Me, 2016, I would’ve knew something was funny. I would just, I thought I was invincible. The hottest, craziest nigga on earth. I went and bought a Diet Pepsi like this size, when there was still bottles. Now, I’m saying, “Yo, man, what the fuck you doing out here, man?” And he had this, like, deranged face. And he was, like, looking at me, smiling. I’m like, “My nigga, you got my ten dollars, nigga?” And he was just looking at me like he was lost, like, in his zone. So man, he pulls out the gun. And when he pulled out the gun, I still looked at him and said, “Now, my nigga, what the fuck you doing with that gun. You fucking crazy?”
So I hit him in his forehead. So hard with the Diet Pepsi that I watched sawdust, the bottle dissolved into sawdust. That’s how hard I hit him. And he was a black dude, and there was a fucking white line looking like lightening. It was like white meat. And then the blood started coming, and I looked at his face. He just started laughing. And I knew that was it. He cocked shit back. So at that point, I knew, “Oh shit. I gotta run.” It’s crazy, because I turned around and started running. It was the Fourth of July, so people in the street and everything. So I’m running in the middle of the street. He’s shooting. Right?
And I’m running in the middle of the street, and at one point, I could’ve run to the left, where my car was at. I had two guns in my car. I could’ve run to the left. And got away. I would’ve got away without getting hit. But there was a bunch of little kids playing there. And in that split second, that I thought about, “Should I go to the left and go, get away? But I know these little kids are going to get hit?” And I thought about that, very split-second that I thought about, “Fuck it. Keep running straight.” Finally, I got hit twice. That very split second.
Reggie: Where’d you get hit?
Fat Joe: In my arm and in the side. Now, I got a white t-shirt on. The whole shit was red. So I’m thinking—he’s chasing me down—I think he’s behind me, like, “I know this guy gotta kill me.” Like, I know he gotta finish this job, like, you gotta kill him. So as I’m running, my shirt is all red, my mother’s out there with my son Joey. My baby Joey’s in the carriage. So as I’m running, I see my mom’s looking at me. This was crazy, man. I remember seeing my son in the carriage. So then when I get to my car, I remember going under my seat on the passenger side, and pull out the guns. It felt like it was a movie, like I was like—I think he’s going to jump on the hood and air me out, right? So I remember grabbing the gun, the guns and going, “Yeah, nigga!”
And went I went like this, I was like, “Ohhh.” I started fainting. And then my Uncle Willy jumped in the driver’s side and drove me to the hospital. My Uncle Willy was driving me. He was dumb-nervous. And I was like, “Yo, yo, I can’t get blood on my seats!” It was a new Beemer. Like, “Yo, I can’t get blood on my seats, Uncle Will!”
So then they took me to the hospital, they cut my clothes off. The whole Bronx knew. It was like, they actually said I was dead. So it was, like, big hype.
Fat Joe went into surgery and made it out on the other side alive. When he was recovering in the hospital, Chris LIghty came to see him. And he had only question for his artist.
Fat Joe: He said, “You good?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m good.” He was like, “Okay. You ain’t fuck up the money.” He broke out, b, I guess that was some gangster shit! I was like, “Yo, this nigga ain’t give a fuck about me, man. He just came over here straight business.” Now, I always say he’s a piece of shit. A businessman. I told him that. I said, “Yo, Chris, you’re a piece of shit.” He was like, “Nah, nah, I had to make sure my money was straight.” Ha ha ha!
Next week on Mogul, we return to Chris Lighty’s story. And he’s got more chaos headed his way.
Bubba: Well, Busta would be downstairs. That’s how slick he was. He would be downstairs, because he would call the office. He’d be like, “Yo, let me speak to Chris.” If I tell him that he ain’t here right now? And he’d say, “You lied to me? You don’t even know me, homie! You going to lie to me?”
Reggie: Was he serious?
Bubba: Very serious!
Mogul is a production of Gimlet Media and the Loud Speakers Network. This episode was produced by Eric Eddings and Meg Driscoll, with help from Isabella Kulkarni, Jonathan Menna, and Peter Bresnan. Our senior producer is Matthew Nelson. Our editors are Lynn Levy, Caitlin Kenney and Chris Morrow.
Sound design and mixing by Haley Shaw. This episode was scored by Nana Kwabena with additional music by Haley Shaw.
Special thanks to Tuma Basa, Global Head of Hip-Hop at Spotify for creating the Mogul companion playlist, celebrating artists who’ve worked with Chris Lighty. Check it out now on Spotify by using key word, “Mogul”.
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