Fat Joe opens up about his racial identity, talks growing up in a Black neighborhood

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Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET

Fat Joe is fully aware of his identity as a Latino man, but he’s also conscious of his association to Black culture.

The Grammy-nominated rapper attributes his relationship with the Black community to growing up around Black people. 

“My projects, my neighborhood was predominantly Black,” Joe said on an episode of the NPR podcast The Limits. “My grandmother’s neighborhood was 99.9% Black, where there was no popular Latinos or nothing … And so when I’m born, I’m not listening to salsa and all that — I’m listening to Gloria Gaynor. I’m listening to Stephanie Mills. I’m listening to ‘I Will Survive.’ That’s what my house was playing, right?”

Joe said his blond hair and green eyes certainly confirmed his Latino roots, but hip-hop’s origin in the Bronx meant Joe grew up “thinking” he was Black. 

“It wasn’t until I went to high school and met another Latino brother that was a real dude, and he said, ‘Yo, come hang out with me in my hood.’ And 10 blocks away was like another world,” Joe recalled.

The 52-year-old rapper is proud of his association with both cultures. He said what’s really gratifying is his connection to his childhood community all these years later.    

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“Fat Joe’s a guy who made it from nothing, that the streets can still touch,” he said. “You know, when Mr. Williams wants to repair his church in the Bronx, they know how to find Fat Joe.”

Joe continued, “It’s been a big job of mine to be in the community and helping the community, and giving them inspiration and giving them hope. The day I can’t be in my hood, or any hood, I don’t even want to live.”

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