Filed under: Interviews,Promos & Exclusives,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Back in December of 2004, I wrote a little piece about MF Grimm and “Live At The BBQ” which resulted in this comment a month later:
pudgee can kiss my ass, plus did he ever confess in the source that he was the gay rapper?
Comment by Joe Fatal 01.19.05
Naturally I had to investigate this hilarious statement in detail, and a few weeks later I was speaking to Joe about his many experiences as a true “jack of all trades” in the hip-hop game. Not long afterwards, he dropped off the radar again until JF stopped by Oh Word with a comment regarding his legal woes in this excellent feature about him before vanishing from the public eye once again. You might know his name from Tragedy‘s first album, a Lord Finesse shout-out or his world famous Main Source cameo at the “BBQ”, but it turns out that Joe Burgos has had a hand in far more classic music than I would have ever imagined.
Robbie: As far as I know, you were Tragedy’s original DJ?
Joe Fatal: Man, I was Tragedy‘s DJ…as a young kid I used to roll with Eric B. and Rakim, I rolled with G Rap, I introduced Large Professor from the Main Source to everybody he knew at the time…I’m responsible for a lot of things that happened in the history of hip-hop and never really got credit for it.
Yeah, because The Source and all those magazines have never really given you any love.
Nah, and I was around when The Source started. I knew Dave Mays, and I knew Benzino when he was Ray-Dog back then, and I knew [James] Bernard and Rob Telow and Matty C and everybody back then when The Source was starting, man. I used to roll with those cats. Used to hang out in clubs and meet-up and have a good time, but I never really got the love and the respect that I deserved, you know?
That’s messed up.
It also has something to do with…nah, I’m not even gonna turn it into a race issue, but I had to pay a little more dues than everybody else because of my skin complexion. Even though I’m Puerto Rican – I appear to be straight white. I had to pay a lotta dues man, because hip-hop – a culture that at the time was predominantly black, even though Puerto Ricans were down with the hip-hop culture since day one. I mean, I think we originated breakdancing. But it was kind of harder back then, especially with my color eyes, my color complexion… I was seen – at times – as a perpetrator. But I really wasn’t. They didn’t know what I really was. So that was part of it [chuckling]. I think that was part of me not being with Tragedy when he became The Intelligent Hoodlum – but that’s another story.
Yeah, ’cause I was with Tragedy until the day when they went and signed the record contract.
Because I remember on Lord Finesse’s first album he says “What’s up to Tragedy and his DJ, Joe Fatal”.
Exactly. That was another crew that I went good with, was Premier and Lord Finesse, GURU and that whole camp right there…Group Home with Malachi…I was around every single hip-hop crew that there was back then. I also even worked with Brand Nubian. I used to roll with them on the road, and me and Lord Jammar were good friends, me and Derek X were good friends…
Man, you get around.
Oh yeah, man. I was the one that introduced Large Professor to Eric B. I was the one that introduced him to Kool G Rap. I was the one that introduced him to Q-Tip. I was the one that introduced him to Nas! I’m the one that brought Nas to him, to work on Nas’ demo for the first time when he actually turned it down! He didn’t wanna work on it. But then I convinced him to come to the studio. He actually gave me the disk and said “Here, you take the disk man, you go to the studio and work on this kid’s demo.” And I begged him, I was like “Nah man, just come check this kid out”, and when he got to the studio and heard Nas spit, he was like “Wow!” I was like “I told you so!” I guess you can kind of hold me responsible for discovering Nas as well. Me and Nas were down with MC Serch at the same time – Me, Nas and O.C. We were all down with Serchlite, and actually the deal that Nas got on Columbia was actually – I believe…I think – that it was my deal! Because of the simple fact that at that time, Serch had got me a deal with Columbia, and at the same time that he had got me the deal, Cypress Hill came and offered me a production deal. I choose to sign with Muggs instead of MC Serch. Serch was already committed to Columbia to deliver an artist, and I wasn’t around anymore, so I think he just turned around and brought Nas in instead.
So you were getting signed as an MC at that stage?
Yeah, I was kind of pushed into becoming an MC, you know? I was actually a DJ, and I was in every single session with Paulie – who was the Large Professor – and that was my right-hand man. We were like best friends, wherever you saw him, you saw me. Wherever you saw me, you saw him. We were all in the studio, and he’s working on a track and he said “Fuck that, I’m gonna put you guys on one of my records”, and we did “Live At The BBQ”. There was actually another version of “Live At The BBQ” that’s unheard, that I wish I could get my hands on. There’s one that all four of us had a different verse. Actually a fully different verse. We recorded one version, and everybody decided to change their verses and work on another one.
So the story about how you and MF Grimm were in a car accident, was that all bullshit?
Well…no, it wasn’t bullshit. We were in a car accident together. Actually, at the time G [Rap] was having a little problem with somebody. We had a couple of guys staying over with G, just looking out for his crib and making sure he was OK, and I had brought Grimm – at the time his name was Build, Build and Destroy – I brought him around to kinda like look after G. G wanted to go out to dinner with his wife, so I drove him and his wife to dinner. Build was with me, aka Grimm. We dropped them off in Manhattan and we strolled around. We were gonna just drive around and pick them back up when they were done, and in the meantime we crashed into…actually, a cab side-swiped me or something like that, and it was G Rap’s car, you know what I mean? So I got upset, we both started beating the cab driver up and 5-0 came – it was the middle of Times Square in Manhattan. We were young at the time, man, so we were stupid. So 5-0 came and arrested us…and my mom came to pick me up! [laughing] We were young at the time – 17, 18 at the most. We were young kids, man. I recall going to the studio afterwards, but I don’t recall that being the day that we recorded “Live At The BBQ”. I think actually “Live At The BBQ” was recorded before that.
I read an interview with Grimm where he was saying that he was meant to be on it, but he was locked-up.
You know what? I can recall now. He actually came by the studio when we were recording “Live At The BBQ”, he came by the studio but he was working with another guy at the time, some guy that I think is deceased now. He was the one that was with Build when he got into the predicament that he’s in now, if you know what I’m saying. He wasn’t paraplegic back then. The guy that had came by the studio with him was actually the guy that he was in the car with when that incident happened, but I can’t really talk on that incident ’cause I really don’t know the facts, or exactly what happened. All I remember is seeing him in the studio when we were doing “Live At The BBQ”. And I think that the topic was brought up about him being on it and stuff, but I really can’t recall him ever really gonna to be on it.
Oh OK. So Pudgee The Phat Bastard was in The Source saying “I wrote twelve of Fatal’s bars.”
Pudgee? OK, I’m a tell you the story on Pudgee. I actually met Pudgee through Grimm, and at the time his name wasn’t Pudgee…it was Effect. That was his name! MC Effect! [I burst out laughing] Put that one down in there. His name was MC Effect, and he was actually a ghost writer, so he said, for a bunch of girls.
The Ghetto Girlz?
Yeah, he used to be a ghost-writer for Antoinette, the female rapper. He used to be the ghost-writer for another girl – basically for a bunch of girls! So, heh-heh…I don’t know. Even though G Rap wrote “I’ll Take Your Man” for Salt ‘N Pepa, but that don’t mean…this guy predominantly wrote for women.
He was kinda sweet if ya ask me. Have you seen him lately?
Nah, this back when he did his first album.
Back then when I knew him, he had a blonde flat-top to the side, like one of those Gumby hairdo’s man.
Like some Kwame shit?
Yo, he had exactly a Kwame hairdo. He had exactly a Kwame look, and he used to wear a pacifier around his neck! [I almost fall off my chair at this point from laughing so hard] Like a baby pacifier, around his neck on a string! So you call it, I don’t know. He used to call me at two in the morning, three in the morning, you know what I mean? I don’t know no guy that calls another guy at three in the morning – just to talk! Then a couple of years later
he’s coming out as Pudgee The Phat Bastard. I mean he was showing skill, he was rhyming real good, he was rhyming with Biggie and all of that, but…that don’t mean nothing in my book, that you’re nice. So what. How many units does he sell? That’s what counts to me. I’ve been around incredible MC’s my whole life! So the whole deal with that was, he used to be a good friend of mine, at the time I was asking him – remember, I wasn’t a rapper, I was a DJ – yeah you know, I used to ask him every now and again to write a couple of verses and whatever. but he didn’t write the “Live At The BBQ” verse. “Live At The BBQ” was actually written by me, Akinyele and Nas! He wrote about four lines in it, I mean what was it? A twelve, sixteen bar verse?
Sixteen, I think.
He wrote about a quarter of it. I wrote the “Fatal is merciful, empty…” and he came up with “and they curse me”, then I said “when I grip the mic I show no mercy”, then Akinyele came and wrote the part – you can hear that that’s Akinyele: “I got heart, I rip a party apart at the seams-”
[at this point I can’t hold back and jump in] “- and hem ‘em up like bell-bottom jeans!”
Yeah! You can hear that. “The North Lakes” and “smoke some Thai weed”, actually Nas came up with that line, “Smoke some Thai weed”. I said “flow at a high speed, rap on off breaks, stompin’ like North Lakes”, me and Nas came up with that combination. We did it quick because we were gonna record the verse right then and there, and I wasn’t a rapper! My man was like “Yo! I want you to be on a record with me!” I was like “Aight, cool.” I was on a few records on the Main Source album, I was doing backgrounds, like “Vamos A Rapier” – which is “Let’s Rap” in parenthesis – that was me talking all through the record, in Spanish. That was the deal with that. So when he [Pudgee] ran around like a little bitch, writing in magazines “I wrote the verse! I wrote the verse and didn’t get credit”. If that’s the case, then nobody really got credit! I didn’t even get credit, because nobody saw one royalty or publishing cent off of that record! So nobody really got credit for any of their verses. Stop crying like a bitch, you rhymed on a record with Biggie, what’s your problem?
You rocked that verse nice for a guy that’s not a rapper.
Thank you. Thank you very much, I appreciate it. That kind of opened up the doors for other things. That’s when Serch was interested in me being a rapper, and that’s what opened up the door for DJ Muggs to sign me to Soul Assassins. I’m grateful for that, but at the end of the day I wasn’t a rapper. That’s why I didn’t pursue the career as a rapper, because I really wasn’t a rapper. I preferred to be behind the scenes than up front…I signed deal on Atlantic!
Did you release anything through those deals?
I released a white label, then in the middle of recording, Soul Assassins and Muggs and them had an issue with the record label, so the deal was kind of over. Muggs actually had another deal on the table from Virgin, and I refused to take it, I didn’t want to take it. And that was the end of my rap career.
Tragedy - Trag Invasion [Intelligent Hoodlum, A&M, 1990]
Tragedy - Microphone Check [Intelligent Hoodlum, A&M, 1990]
Main Source featuring Akinyele, Nasty Nas and Joe Fatal - Live At The BBQ [Breaking Atoms, Wild Pitch, 1991]
Main Source – “Just Hangin’ Out” video:
On to Part 2
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