When it comes to icons in hip hop, Fat Joe is definitely up there. Since he first arrived on the scene, the Bronx native has been a mainstay and a trendsetter in the hip-hop landscape.
As a solo artist, a member of the acclaimed D.I.T.C. (Diggin' in the Crates Crew) and the Terror Squad, Fat Joe has amassed several Top 40 hits including “What’s Luv,” featuring Ashanti, and “Lean Back,” which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
But all of the accolades that he's earned in his illustrious career thus far has prepared him for what he considers to be one of his greatest honors as the host of the 2022 BET Hip-Hop Awards. Joe spoke with EBONY about his initial reaction when he found out that he was chosen to host the awards show and why it was such a significant moment for him.
“When I got the call from Connie Orlando of BET, she said, 'Are you sitting down?'” he recalled. "Then she said, 'I’m speaking to this year’s host of the BET Hip-Hop Awards.' I jumped up from the chair and ran around the house. I started screaming and yelling! I've been waiting my whole life for this.”
“When we rehearsed the tribute to Steve Rifkin and Loud Records, who’s being honored, I saw Three 6 Mafia, the whole Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep; I was sitting there with everybody I came up with,” he continued. “Then I was like 'Joe, God is really blessing you.' Out of all the artists in the world, they chose me to host the show. I'm not confused about the moment. I'm blessed that BET chose me to lead the show.”
With his status secured as a hip-hop icon, Joe discovered his voice as a media personality and social commentator during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. A master storyteller, he began giving his take on the hot topics of the day, and celebrities in sports, music and film tuned in for his hilarious commentary while most of the country was on lockdown. Joe said that owes his rise in the world of media to his daughter who suggested that he use social media to stay connected with his fans.
“When COVID came, and we were all stuck in the house, I was really afraid because I'm pre-diabetic so I wouldn't leave the house. Then one day, my daughter said, 'Dad, why don't you go live on Instagram and talk to your fans?' I didn't even know what going live was then. So when I started going live, I looked up and Michelle Obama was in the comments and I couldn't believe it," he shared. "Then we came back the next day at the same time like it was a TV show. We kept coming back every day and more people started showing up."
“If you go back and look at the videos, when somebody popped up, I couldn't believe it and that showed the world a different side of Joe,” he went on. “When I first came into the game, it was about privacy. It was about having that exclusivity where people can't get to you. Now, people not only know me from my hit records in my career but they also got to know me as a personality and they're like, 'I rock with this guy.'"
In addition to hosting the awards show, Joe is as busy as ever with numerous projects in development. While he will always be regarded as one of the most heralded MCs of his era, he is expanding his empire as an entertainment mogul. Currently, he has several TV shows in the works and is set the release his memoir next month.
“I have four TV shows coming this year. Dave Chappelle is introducing me on my one-man show,” he said enthusiastically. “I’ll be telling stories about my life. My book called The Book of Jose is coming out November 15 and it's gonna be like the Bible of hip hop. I got a show coming out with Kenya Barris and the Terrero brothers on Showtime that is based on that book and I got to show on Starz with LeBron James and Diddy as producers. Also, I got an animated show coming soon with Susan Sarandon called Big Tony. I prayed to God for these opportunities and I accept all of the responsibility and everything it takes to be successful. It’s Black and Brown excellence. That’s what we do.”
After almost 30 years in the industry, Joe says he gained a lifetime's worth of experience from all of the highs and lows that he's endured. He said he's grateful to be living his dream.
"I went from flying on private jets and making tons of money to going broke having to perform in Yugoslavia and Romania just to survive" he recalled. "Now, I am able to tour arenas and do shows like Rolling Loud, Rock the Bells, and to host the BET Hip-Hop Awards. None of us ever want to fall off but I think that's the way God shows us to appreciate your blessings."
In an industry that is constantly evolving, Fat Joe has mastered the skill of reinvention. Full of energy and in a creative zone at 52 years young, he shared the keys to his longevity.
“First of all, you have to be yourself. Second, you have to stay in the game because you never know who’s watching,” he explained. “So even though you’re putting in work and you think nobody's watching, somebody's watching. And that somebody could be the person that can bless you with the opportunity that can take you to the next level. You gotta keep going."
"When you watch the documentaries on Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, they were always the first in the gym and the last to leave the gym," he said. "So take whatever you do very, very seriously and be as professional as possible.”
The 2022 BET Hip-Hop Awards air Tuesday, October 4, 2022 at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT on BET.