Fat Joe insists major labels don’t understand black culture
(Credit: Alamy)


Fat Joe insists major labels don't understand black culture

Fat Joe is a legendary rapper with plenty of experience in the music industry. First crossing into the mainstream in the late 1990s with his friend, the late Big Pun, Joe has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to release music through both independent and major labels.

Joe first entered the music scene independently. He then signed with a small label, Relativity Records and was one of only three signees alongside Chi-Ali and The Beatnuts. However, by the 2000s, he had signed with Atlantic Records and was part of the industry machine. The lyricist (real name Jose Cartagena) label-hopped for many years, working with Virgin, EMI, and even E1. However, in 2016, all the majors were cut loose.

Cartagena eventually set up his own label, Terror Squad Productions. In a sit-down, in-depth interview with the Wall Street Journal, he revealed why he believes being independent is the right move for versatile artists. 

Delving into his past dealings with formidable record companies, Cartagena explained that he felt unappreciated and exploited by the industry giants and lost faith in his team, saying, “I don’t believe in these people. For one, I feel like the major label system is a Ponzi scheme, and they do funny math.”

The ‘Lean Back’ rhymer unveiled that, over the years, he watched acts even more significant than him sell large numbers but see so little financial gain. Detailing this, Cartagena asserted, “You had to be like the Fugees, who sold 30 million records, to make a dollar. I was talking to [Jennifer Lopez] about it—and you know J. Lo’s a megastar—and she was like, ‘Man, you know these guys, they only give you this [amount] and you never recoup.’ So, it’s a funny math.”

The South Bronx native expounded and told the publication that nowadays, labels put business, money and numbers before the art of music, saying, “Artists, we’re so passionate about our story, we’re so passionate about our music. I would have to go walk into an office to a guy who didn’t even really understand our art and culture.”

He continued, “They just knew how to market, how to promote and make the most profit. I used to beg ’em: ‘Are you gonna push my record? Are you really gonna press the button? Are you really gonna go for it?'”

Clarifying that he is now off labels and happy, Cartagena concluded, “I’m self-funding everything. I would go on tour for a month or two—Yugoslavia, China, anywhere you name—save all my money and then invest in making the album, making the videos, promoting it. And even though I went independent, I kept that same look.”

You can hear part of Fat Joe’s interview with the Wall Street Journal in the video below.