Recently, HipHopDX interviewed Fat Joe in E1 Entertainment's Manhattan offices. In a conversation that looked at Joe's debut, Represent as well as his recently-released The Darkside Volume 1, the Bronx superstar also spoke about the Diggin' In The Crates Crew. A casual conversation about production on Showbiz & A.G.'s Runaway Slave led Joe to declare, "Nothing has better production than [Stunts Blunts & Hip-Hop by Diamond D]. I still listen to it to this day. I let my young boys listen to it, and they be like [bobbing head and beat-boxes 'Sally Got A One Track Mind']. Niggas be like, 'Oh shit!' [Sings along to 'Check One, Two']."
Joe appeared on two songs ("Pass Dat Shit" and "View From The Underground") on the seminal 1992 Chemistry Records release. He says that his association with mentor Diamond D still travels with him today in elite circles. "The other day, I was in the studio with Pharrell, and the first hour of us being there, it was just Diamond D talk. [Mimics discussion] Just Hip Hop shit. Egos get involved, and all types of money and shit, but whenever you can get two artists in a room, or a producer that really knows Hip Hop and start talkin' that shit, it's incredible to see how [artists] appreciate other [artists]."
Although Joe is often associated with Big Pun, the rapper spoke on the importantance of his original group. Asked about a 1988 appearance ("Oh Shit") with Diamond D's Ultimate Force on the recently-released I'm Not Playin' album, Joe stated, "That's part of my history. Diggin' In The Crates crew, most of us came from the same projects [plus we had] Big L." Speaking about the late Harlem emcee icon, Big L, Joe said, "I got my little nephews and my son and them, and they're [hearing] about Big L now. They [were] playing me [the freestyle] when he was on [Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito show on WKCR] with Jay-Z, going rhyme-for-rhyme. They're new to these things!" Recently, Joe said he received a curious question from one of his associates. "We've got a young guy, Kevin [Zulueta], who engineers in the studio. He was like, 'This shit's crazy. This nigga, Big L, you knew him?' I said, 'My man, look up Fat Joe/Big L, nigga, "Da Enemy," on the Diggin' In The Crates album, nigga. That's my man!' It was an honor to work with him." Passing compliments around his D.I.T.C. brethren, Joe added, "Lord Finesse is probably the best rapper around the time we came out, he was probably the best rapper in the game."
Among his peers, Fat Joe has the most profile. He said that he is still trying to a spear-head a follow-up to the group's 2000 Tommy Boy Records self-titled release, compiled a year after Big L's murder. "I want to do a Diggin' In The Crates album. [There is] no beef in the Diggin' In The Crates crew. I love them, they love me. I begged...I just begged Finesse. It ain't like Fat Joe ain't hot - I just shot [the 'Ha Ha' ] video with [Young] Jeezy, I got ['If It Ain't About Money' with] Trey Songz poppin', and I'm begging them, 'cause I feel like Hip Hop really needs that, but when you've got [differing creative opinions] - we all love each other, nobody has ever, ever in Diggin' In The Crates crew disrespected one another." Joe emphasized that it's creative differences restraining one of Rap's super-crews, not bitterness. "From day one, it's all about the music, but it bugged me out to see: alright, Fat Joe, who let's just say became the biggest guy out the crew, I should be the dickhead? I'm the dickhead, I'm the one who's supposed to think I'm all that, and I'm like yo, let's do this! [We will] kill 'em. We're all still hot." Despite Joe's efforts, the vision for another proper D.I.T.C. album halted plans. "When I started hearin' different opinions - we all love each other, but I thought, 'Wow, this is how that Gang Starr shit must've went down.'" Joe continued, "I've never had an argument with Lord Finesse in my life. I've never had an argument with A.G., O.C., Showbiz, none of them. We've never had an argument in our lives, but I'm like, 'What the fuck is up, why am I stressin' myself?' I'm tryin' to get shit poppin', but everybody got their own opinion or their own way of lookin' at it. I guess that's how that went down." Joe worked on numerous D.I.T.C.-branded releases with Showbiz throughout the '00s, but a second official album remains unrecorded.
Lastly, HipHopDX asked Fat Joe about his proudest verse. Unlike many of the artists we've been asking, Joe pointed to a featured verse, from Ja Rule's 2004 album, R.U.L.E. "My proudest verse, believe it or not, is 'New York'," said Joe, of the track with he and Jadakiss alongside Ja, prompting 50 Cent to take umbrage with the Terror Squad leader. "It was just so much pride going into that song, just representin' New York, man." Joe was elated to bring attention back to Hip Hop's homeland. "It's the birthplace of this. How do you make an anthem that makes this city stop and feel proud about itself? To me, that was my favorite verse."
The Darkside Volume 1 is in stores now.