Fat Joe called Toronto "a beautiful city at a beautiful time" as he surprised guests at Tyrone "T-rex" Edwards' community event at The Great Hall in Toronto, presented by D'USSÉ Cognac. He was in town to spread his knowledge, share his experience, and give his thoughts on where Toronto is going as a true hip-hop capital.
Complex Canada joined the audience of up-and-coming talent contributing to the city's diverse music scene—from artists to engineers to entrepreneurs. We were all treated to an in-depth one-on-one sit-down interview between Edwards and Fat Joe.
Fat Joe had a lot to say about his industry journey and impact on hip-hop, but also to the challenges hip-hop is facing today. And because it's Toronto, he also shared his love for Drake. The two ended up capping the evening together with a surprise performance from Fat Joe as Drake watched from the audience at T-rex’s Nostalgia party. Drake caught partygoers off guard again when he took the stage for an impromptu jam session, shutting down the place in historic Toronto fashion.
Here are some highlights from the conversation between Fat Joe and Edwards at the D'USSÉ Cognac Panel in Toronto.
What does community mean to you?
Community is everything. I came from the bottom and started with nothing. Growing up I got into a lot of trouble, and I could’ve landed in jail or worse. The fact that they let me live, it's like an oath I have to my community and I will always be there for them. It's very important to have a foundation that you can always come back too and give back. In having that, I've been able to build with my community. We opened up businesses, sneaker stores, afterschool programs, and we had a turkey drive for Thanksgiving.
When you were finding yourself in the rap game, how did you stay original and unique?
Growing up in the 90s, Biggie was the guy. Like the best ever, and around that time we had like 10 different fat guys that tried to rap and sound like Biggie. They were talented, but if they sounded like themselves, they could’ve probably taken off in the rap game. Nobody wants to hear another Biggie. So, it's very important to not follow all the trends, and just stay true to yourself.
What does D'USSÉ Cognac represent to you and how has it played a role to you and hip-hop?
D'USSÉ Cognac is culture, we support it in the hip-hop industry, it’s a premium brand and it's always been there when you need them. Anything my brothers are involved in, I am always going to support, one million per cent.
How did you adjust to breaking through with social media outlets during the pandemic?
We all have haters, and one thing my haters knew was that I didn’t know social media, and I didn’t like social media. When COVID happened, I figured it out and I was making more money than I ever did at home. With everybody being stuck at home, I figured it out that the money was in the phone. It opened up my eyes to everything else. Social media is such a great tool, and with it being free you can use it to your advantage in so many ways.
What is the foundation leading up to having a hit record and how can it change your life?
It's always good to have a team behind you that you can trust on. One of the uses of having a manager would be for them to get a hold of the beat, and ship it to the artist, record labels, and so on. Once you get that song to pop, it speaks for itself. You can go your whole life chasing people and once you pop, they're chasing you. There will be times when people might have thought you were crazy, and now that your record is being played everywhere, they want a piece of you. It’s not a coincidence that everybody and their mother listens to Sexyy Red, she’s really popping. And the year before that was Ice Spice. At the end of the day, you can try everything in the world, but it's nothing like having a hit record. Once you get that hit record, they'll come chasing you.
What made you want to create your book “The Book of Jose: A Memoir” and get started on these TV projects.
I really wanted to tell my story because if something ever happened to me, my story could get twisted. People think they know you, but they don’t know anything about you. The reason why I started to go hard on social media and get my own TV show was because I was starting to see a lot of documentaries on hip-hop. I have been in the industry for a very long time, and these documentaries really are lying. Like come on, Pitbull is not the first Latino rapper. It would be mind-blowing to me seeing this, but after watching all these documentaries, I want for my stories to be documented. Film kids 30-40 years from now can see what really took place and it will live on forever. We always go viral the minute a camera goes on, and we're doing something the world wants to watch, it will be trending.
Let’s talk about Toronto, and Toronto’s artists.
Toronto is a beautiful city at a beautiful time. Toronto is looking like you guys can’t lose. You guys have Drake, you guys have The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. Now you know when you hear Justin’s voice, it's over. When Justin comes on, it's an automatic hit. I can’t forget Toronto has Partynextdoor, too. The city really is in a great place with talent.
What is your relationship with Drake and what is it about his artistry you love so much?
Drake is just the coolest guy in the world, and if you don’t like Drake you're just a hater. He loves my stories, and it's nothing to do with the cameras. When I'm around with DJ Khaled and he comes by, he just wants to hear more stories. I have been in the hip-hop game for 30 years, and I have seen everything you can think of. I really knew Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Big L, and Big Pun. A lot of the top rappers you know would call me up for advice. Being famous and being a celebrity now more than ever, it’s a thin line between love and hate. They will try to bring you up and easily do the same to bring you down. For some reason, you are one second from everybody wanting to love you, then you become a villain. I love spreading wisdom and knowledge to the youth, and older MCs, in the game today.
Before the panel was through, Fat Joe took the time to answer audience questions. There were young artists looking for advice from the legend on how to break into the industry, but also about longevity and staying true to your roots. Fat Joe was gracious with his time, thoughtful in his answers, and ultimately he gave Toronto a night to remember.
The bold, yet remarkably smooth character of D'USSÉ Cognac was founded by Shawn Carter and conceived by the senior-most cellar master working today, Michel Casavecchia. He has been curating spirits for more than 20 years at the prestigious Château de Cognac. This 200-year-old venue—one of the oldest Cognac houses in France—is where D'USSÉ was created. As a cultural icon, D'USSÉ works to transcend cognac as we know it by standing for integrity, boldness, freedom, and the elevation of authenticity. For more information, visit D'USSÉ's official website.