Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s “All The Way Up” is on its way. The new single from the Bronx-emcees has already crossed the 2 million streams mark on both Youtube and Spotify while garnering positive reviews from rap culture. Crack and Remy are doing more than simply allowing the Internet to do the talking. To reinforce their confidence in the track, they’ve layered a somewhat old-school marketing approach: They’re actually working the record.

“A lot of people don’t want to do radio promo,” Remy Ma tells HipHopDX in this exclusive conversation. “They don’t want to go to all these different markets and sit down with people. They want somebody and hire to go sit-down and talk. No one talks better for us than we talk on our own behalf. A lot of times the lines get blurred and the messages get misconstrued when you send someone else to do it. A lot times artists say “I’m too busy.” How are you too busy to sit down with the people that are going to help make you what you’re trying to be?”

Later in this conversation, Fat Joe reminisces on arguably the greatest street basketball game never-to-be-played. On August 14, 2003, Joe’s Terror Squad team was set to battle Jay Z’s S. Carter in the Rucker’s Entertainment Basketball Classic. As lore goes, Hov’s team featured Lebron James fresh out of high school and a “still unfair” Shaquille O’Neal. It turns out, Crack had a few surprises of his own:

“Allen Iverson and Mike Bibby was waiting,” Fat Joe reveals to DX. “They were waiting in the hotel. That was it. So we were gonna start the game with everybody else I told you… End of 1st Quarter, AI and Bibby were gonna walk in. This is a fucking movie. We were gonna make it a movie. This is AI when he was crossing MJ! When he was doing disgusting shit!”

Interview by Justin Hunte, Trent Clark & Ural Garrett

The Success Of “All The Way Up”

HipHopDX: I looked on Spotify and “All The Way Up” already has 2.5 million streams. How do you feel about the reception and how the industry has changed over the years?

Remy Ma: I definitely feel like we’ve put in a lot of hard work. Not just on this project, but just in our careers in music and in the industry itself. Hard work and dedication pays off.

Fat Joe: I don’t know enough to know how streaming correlates to paying an artist. I ain’t figure that out yet. I do realize that streaming is very vital, very important. We love Spotify, but I haven’t figured out the financial aspects of that—the breakdown—so I can give you a real honest answer. It’s all about the culture of music and it’s all about feeding your family, too.

Remy Ma: The 2.5 million streams means a lot to him, but he just wants to know what it means to his bank account. That’s what he’s trying to say. [Laughs]

DX: How do you go about making sure you have an attack plan that you can monetize between streaming services?

Remy Ma: It’s all about planning and the people that you have around you. Before you needed your management, maybe a road manager and a publicist. Now you need someone who’s literally internet savvy, knows how to work every social media outlet and figure out monetary gain off of that. It’s hard because every month it seems like there’s a new wave. Snapchat is big this week and then Periscope. It’s always something so you have to constantly be ahead of the game. You wanna actually be able to make a living off of what we do. You have to have someone that’s on-point and aware of how to operate.

DX: This is like an old school work-a-record media blitz that you both seem to be on right now. You’re taking one joint, hitting all the markets, going to all the radio stations and you’re pushing a track, but you’re doing it in a digital market.

Fat Joe: It is throwback, but that’s how we do it. We boots on the ground. We like to touch the people. We like to show our face. We like to vibe. We like to tell you how passionate we are about the project. Obviously, this is the age of people wanting information. It just feels so good that you can be yourself nowadays. Years ago you used to have a certain personae. You can be yourself and people fuck with you or they don’t fuck with you.

Remy Ma: Thankfully the people fuck with us. [Laughs] To piggyback off of what of what Joe said, I learned a lot of what I know from watching him. A lot of people don’t want to do radio promo. They don’t want to go to all these different markets and sit down with people. They want somebody and hire to go sit-down and talk. No one talks better for us than we talk on our own behalf. A lot of times the lines get blurred and the messages get misconstrued when you send someone else to do it. A lot times artists say “I’m too busy.” How are you too busy to sit down with the people that are going to help make you what you’re trying to be? We had a plan. The other day we were sitting in New York saying “We have to go out to Cali.” Maybe they haven’t seen us in a while. It’s a different day and age that’s going on. You have to care enough to get on a plane, take time out of your schedule and go do it. It pays off. A lot people want instant gratification and just throw it up. It really doesn’t work like that.

DX: Tidal is interesting because it’s essentially a union where the artists are the shareholders.

Fat Joe: Everything should be owned. Everything should be equity. For years, the world’s been pimping us and it’s time for us to get ownership and we get equity. That’s what I’m all about and that’s where the world is right now. Everybody is out there going for theirs. Everybody’s been pimped for so long. It’s about time motherfucker’s own their own shit.

DX: You guys partnered on this project, correct? Is this 50/50 down the middle?

Fat Joe: It’s a partnership. Yep.

DX: And you’re working with Empire [Distribution] for the release?

Fat Joe: Yeah. I love the guys at Empire. They’re real honest people. I’ve worked with them in the past. I’m not trying to sound crazy, but we probably could’ve worked with whoever we wanted to. Honesty. I want to get paid for my work. This industry has something we call “funny math” to where a motherfucker be playing games with your money. They don’t play games with your money so we’re good.

Embracing Southern Rap Culture

DX: How do you feel about America’s fascination with Latin mafia culture?

Fat Joe: So basically, I sleep with the TV on. The other day I had to wake up early and I fucked around and stumbled upon Godfather I, II, III, and it was like “Get him, Michael!” [Laughs] I think Americans are fascinated with gangster shit.

Remy Ma: I don’t think it’s just gangster shit. Most movies are about somebody who comes from nothing and they don’t give a fuck about nothing along the way. They’re taking no shorts at all period. So that’s kind of like us.

DX: That’s the American tale.

Remy Ma: I think people think it’s something that they could do. Did you see the movie that’s based on the Facebook guy [The Social Network]? It’s an interesting movie, but, next! You see this guy who comes up from nothing, runs into the right connect and all of a sudden he’s the big drug lord. It’s like, “That could be me. Give me my motherfucking money.”

DX: It’s been over 10 years since “Lean Back.” That was produced by Scott Storch. What was it like watching him go through his addiction and eventual recovery?

Fat Joe: What I can say is, one of the greatest human beings that I’ve ever met in my life is Scott Storch. I consider him my brother. I consider him my family. I can tell you that Scott Storch, other than weed, has never used drugs in front of me, even at his worst. I walked in his house, I never caught him using drugs. He’s always had that respect for me as a big brother. It’s hard to see him lose all his shit and go through all these drugs in life. I’m always rooting for him because to me he’s still the most talented. I just want him to get his shit together.

DX: You both embraced southern rap from the beginning.

Remy Ma: I personally think it takes a certain type of rapper to be able to take a style from another region and make it go. That record I did with David Banner [“I’m”] is crazy. “Make It Rain” everyone knows that. That record comes on to this day and it’s a movie. The first time I seen it done was when Biggie did it with Bone Thugs [“Notorious Thugs”].

Fat Joe: By the way, I made that record happen. You can ask Steve Lobel. Fat Joe made the Big and Bone Thugs. Okay continue.

Remy Ma: Major Key. I thought that was the craziest thing ever. I remember when Life After Death came out and I was on a roadtrip with my mom and I kept rewinding it back, learning the words. It was just so ill to see someone from New York, Brooklyn who, to me, might possibly be the best rapper ever, take this style that nobody was doing but Bone Thugs and body it. Now, I think it’s done so much now that people take it as a negative thing because people they take styles from different regions outside of their own. I think that’s because certain artists try to mimic a style of another region and that’s it. They don’t go back to where they are actually from. There was a point where there where no way on this planet Earth that someone could tell you Lil Wayne wasn’t from The Bronx or something. He was going that crazy. No one was like, “Hey, he’s rapping like a New York rapper,” because he was still Lil Wayne. He was just spitting that fire. Same thing with Drake. I don’t know about Canadian rapper styles. I just know Drake is dumb nice. Fat Joe, Remy Ma—we tend to play around with it because that’s part of being an artist. That’s part of being creative. But we still BX, New York all day—to the heart, to the core. Understand?

Terror Squad Versus S. Carter

DX: 1993, “Flow Joe” comes out. I love that track. There’s a line on there that goes “I don’t like ball so to hell with the Rucker.” August 14, 2003. Terror Squad has it’s own Rucker EBC tournament basketball team. Did you grow to like basketball over time?

Fat Joe: I always liked basketball but it was just a punchline. I remember when I first walked into the Rucker with a team, they started booing me because they know I dissed them. But it was just a hot line. Do you think I really wanted to say “Even Roy Jones was forced to lean back?” It was just a hot line. I ain’t wanna get crucified. The other day I was almost saying “Y’all niggas on borrowed time / Craig Sager.” [Laughs] It was just way too foul! Hip Hop is foul, but it’s entertainment. That shit’s crazy. Obviously I love ball and I love the Rucker. It’s crazy. Love my Knicks.

DX: That day though, August 14, 2003, that was supposed to be the game! EBC championship. Terror Squad versus S. Carter. I’m hearing Shaq is on the bus. I’m hearing Lebron James was supposed to be running in the game.

Fat Joe: He was!

DX: And the New York City blackout happens. What was that day like?

Fat Joe: I couldn’t sleep. I took my whole team to get massages. It’s a bunch of 7-foot niggas getting massages all over. I was really upset. I felt like Jay Z owned the world. He was the richest motherfucker on Earth. He had the baddest women on Earth. And he came and messed with little ol’ Joey in the park in Harlem. I felt like Robin Hood or some shit. We all went over there in army fatigues and shit. We was just amped. And then the New York City blackout happened. I think he would’ve beat us the first game. But when the first game was cancelled, I think we had him the second game. Allen Iverson in his prime is waiting in the hotel. Nobody knows that. I had Mike Bibby in his prime waiting at the hotel. I had Jermaine O’Neal. I had Zach Randolph. I had Steph Marbury. Al Harrington. Carmelo Anthony.  

Remy Ma: He wasn’t playing fair. The moral of the story is…

Fat Joe: I wasn’t. But he had Lebron out of high school. I was banking on Lebron folding because he was a little kid at the time. There was 30,000 niggas in Harlem and Lebron. I don’t think I would’ve won the first game. But the second game, a lot of his team had to go back to camp. My niggas stayed. So I was locked and loaded. Niggas was with me. I think we would’ve won the second game, but it never happened.

DX: The Madison Square Garden game never happened either.

Fat Joe: I never agreed to that. I’m into the street. I’m all about pavement, diving on the floor with my people, getting dirty, stretching with my niggas, lady serving the cochitos, the guy that can’t get to Madison Square Garden. That man that works hard 9-to-5 but waited in line to see that game in Harlem. That’s who I do it for.

DX: There’s a rumor that you had Yao Ming on the team, also.

Fat Joe: That’s a big rumor. I just gave you something nobody knew. AI and Bibby was waiting. They were waiting in the hotel. That was it. So we were gonna start the game with everybody else I told you. I think I missed a couple. End of 1st Quarter, AI and Bibby were gonna walk in. This is a fucking movie. We were gonna make it a movie. This is AI when he was crossing MJ! When he was doing disgusting shit! And Steph. Steph was the highest paid player in the NBA at the time. It’s crazy, bro. Our guards had them. But if they had Shaq for real, I didn’t see him, we would’ve lost.

DX: Shaq did an interview saying he was there.

Fat Joe: I know! That motherfucker! I wanted to break his fucking legs. That motherfucker!

Remy Ma: If I have to hear about this story later on, I’m calling you guys. [Laughs]

Fat Joe: I wanted to kill fucking Shaq. That wasn’t fair. Shaq wasn’t fair at one time. He wasn’t a fair human being.

Plata O Plomo & Battle Rap

DX: Musically, where are you guys taking the album?

Remy Ma: I specialize in talking greasy. That’s what I do, considering the fact that I’m on strict restrictions. This is like my personal parole officer. So when I get in the booth I can say whatever I want to a degree. It’s a great time. The way that we’re rapping, just look at the single we put out.

Fat Joe: I just want to be clear: We’re not saving Hip Hop. We’re not the saviors. We’re not the kings. We’re just making the best music we can because something like “All The Way Up” that sounds like New York, niggas is trying to call us the saviors of New York Hip Hop. No. We’re just trying to do our best and put out some hot shit and get that bag.

DX: Do you think New York Hip Hop needs saving?

Remy Ma: I personally never fed into the whole New York Hip Hop [needs saving thing]. Papoose is probably gonna kill me. I feel like whatever you put out there—as a whole community, not just the rappers because there are rappers that can really rap and they’re really putting out records but it’s a whole system. The support wasn’t there. The support was given from first to second to all the way to 20th in line to other regions. If you was from New York, nobody was even trying to hear you. It was a bad time. So for us to come out with a record that’s not sounding like the typical south record or drill or trap or whatever the case may be and we’re rapping like typical Fat Joe and typical Remy Ma and going in and to be received nationally, even globally, it’s a wonderful thing. I see the urge for people to want to get back to some type of substance. It’s cool to have, like Joe says, ignorant records every now and then. It’s alright. You’re not talking about nothing. You’re just acting stupid when it comes on. It’s cool.

Fat Joe: My shit is “Panda.” “Panda. Panda. Panda. I got love in Atlanta!”

Remy Ma: In case you haven’t seen the other interviews that we’ve done, Joe never knows the words to anything. [Laughs]

Fat Joe: That’s my guy, though. I fuck with him.

DX: Remy, you’re the only [major artist] that’s had a real accomplishment on the battle rap scene.

Fat Joe: Let’s be clear about this. Legacy. She’s the only artist that was featured on platinum albums and if a bitch said something to her that didn’t sell a record and was hungry as shit, she went down there and ate her food! That does not happen! It happens to me. Niggas be like, “Fuck Fat Joe. You can’t come back to the Bronx. You pussy, nigga.” I’m not talking to them niggas. I don’t care. “My mother’s a lesbian? OK, thank you very much.” I’ll keep going. Remy pulls up in the pink Benz like, “Hold up. The fuck is these bitches talking about. Get the lights on. Let’s go.” It’s unheard of. Big Pun used to do that too. Pun would jump out the limo, six niggas is battling in the corner and he’d start killing all these niggas. I’m not built like that. I’m hit mania. Come see me for a hit. That’s what I do. [Laughs]

DX: Your battle with Lady Luck was legendary.

Fat Joe: I’m so glad you’re mature now.

Remy Ma: I used to be like “That bitch can suck my…!” Now I’m like, “Oh you’re, a fan. Thank you for that.” I’m actually a fan of battle rap. It opened doors for people to want to watch females and listen to them. I strongly believe that. I feel like one day if I want to get another bag from somewhere else, I’ll probably start my own battle league with all the dopest chicks. I watch it. I’m a fan of it. I follow it. I personally to this day feel like I would do it again. Joe and Papoose would probably drag me away from it.

Fat Joe: I’ll let you know. We ain’t going for that. We getting money.

Remy Ma: Me personally, anybody can get this work.

DX: Lady Luck still believes she won.

Fat Joe: What!? Get the fuck outta here! By the way, my nigga’s Head I.C.E.! “Don’t get it fucked up! ‘Cause you, could get fucked up! ICE!” That nigga get me hype.