Filed under: Features,Interviews,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Finishing up from Part 1, Fatal breaks down meeting-up with Tragedy, working with Marley Marl, production secrets and his love of all things pornographic.
Robbie: There was another song you were on called “El Gran Combo” that was on Main One’s album.
Joe Fatal: Do you have that record? I love that record, I’ve been trying to find that record for ever, and cannot find it. I didn’t even know the name of the song. Fat Joe was on it, right?
Yeah, and Domingo did the beat. It’s a dope record.
Correct. I think I got kinda busy on that record, man.
You killed it, man.
I think I killed it on that record! I’ve been trying to pick the name of that record, I thought it never came out. That’s actually the day that I met Fat Joe, and me and him became very good friends. He actually even became my son’s godfather. Me and him became real good friends from that day on. I walked in and he met me, and said “Yo Fatal! ‘Live At The BBQ’! You ripped it! You’re another Puerto Rican!” and this and this and that. When I spit a verse with him on that record, he looked at me and said: “Oh my god! You’re incredible!” I said “Thank you”, and then from then on, me and him became good friends. Thanks for even bringing that record up. I was actually on Serch’s album as well. I did a record with him called “Social Narcotics”. I was in the process of being his artist and he put me on that record.
You did some beats on the second Fat Joe album didn’t you?
Yeah, exactly. I did “Respect Mine” with Raekwon, and I did “Bronx Keeps Creating It”. That’s when I started to pursue my “Producer” career. I went through stages, man. I did the producer thing for a minute, but at that time it was frustrating, because producers weren’t really making money back then, you know? Producers now are getting 150 grand a track. Back then, we were getting 2,500, 3,000 a track…7,500 if you were kinda known. The only ones that were getting higher numbers for remixes and stuff was like Pete Rock and Premier, they was getting like 20,000 for a remix. You used to get more money back then for a remix than for a track, because you didn’t get any royalties on the remix. So it was like a one-off.
So you didn’t get any money for the publishing?
Nah, not on the remix, ’cause that’s not the original record. Writers don’t go on that, because you didn’t write the record – you just remixed it. As Tragedy’s DJ, along with the Large Professor, I produced “Illegal Search” for LL, I produced “Jinglin’ Baby”…
But Marley took credit for those?
Yeah, well there you go. That was like us paying dues. Sleep on Marley’s studio floor with Tragedy, us just sleeping there, paying dues, waiting to get put on and record records and stuff like that. Sitting down, watching Biz and Kane and everybody record records until it was our turn.
So were you down with Tragedy from the Super Kids days?
No, I wasn’t with him when he was with Hot Day. I was with him when he came out of juvie – out of jail. When he came out of jail, I actually met him…I went with G Rap to a party – ’cause at that time I used to stay with G Rap at his crib – and he actually introduced me to Tragedy. Me and Tragedy hit it off, we just started talking. We sort of had the same background almost, we had the same goals, and we just kinda hooked-up and I became his DJ. We started working on stuff together. I started working on tracks over the Large Professor’s house, and started bringing tracks back to Marley. Marley used to take certain tracks, and say “OK, this is for y’all to work on”, and other tracks he used to be like “Here’s a little check for $500, I want this track”, and I never knew who it was for. A couple of weeks later I used to hear LL rhyming on the track, and Heavy D rhyming on the track…and that was paying dues!
So Marley would take a beat and mix it down, add his own touches and then he would say that was a Marley Marl production?
Well you said that – I didn’t. You know what I mean?
So how much of the Intelligent Hoodlum album was done by you and Large Professor?
Basically, let’s say an album has thirteen tracks on it? Marley did three.
OK, that’s interesting.
I’m telling the truth!
Nah, I believe you.
No, my wife is actually telling me to watch my mouth. I’m telling the truth, man. I don’t give a fuck, Marley’s never gonna do nothing for me. And he didn’t do nothing for me back then, so I could care less.
I appreciate you giving me the real facts.
Yeah, I’ll give you the real facts. I could care less. I’ll give props to who needs props, and to who don’t, I really don’t care. Pudgee, I don’t care about.
I don’t think anybody cares about Pudgee right now.
Talking about I was a fake. My wife didn’t worry about him being quiet, so I’m not gonna worry about being quiet right now. Pudgee’s a fake! A man that has a pacifier around his neck just likes things in his mouth.
Unless your name is Flavor Flav, he’s the only kid that can get away with it.
Flav is Flav, man. Nobody can talk bad about Flav. If Flav reads this interview, holla at me, man! I’m trying to get in touch with Flav.
With your deejaying, did you used to play parties and clubs, or was it just doing shows?
Nah, I was a strictly studio DJ, man, and stage DJ. I wasn’t a party DJ.
So you had the emceeing phase and then the production phase, what happened after that?
After that, I got into the management phase. I managed a reggae artist by the name of Bounty Killer for three years with my partner, worked along with Mystikal. I was in the beginning parts of Pun‘s career, when Pun was still with Cuban and all of them, and they were Full Eclipse – the group name was Full Eclipse. Actually, they were working at on their first demos at my apartment. I was with Joe the day he met Big Pun. I love Triple Seis – his name was Joker back then – and Cuban Link and all of them, and Pun – God bless the dead – but I encouraged Pun going solo back then. Nothing against Cuban and Joker ’cause that’s my people, I love ‘em to death, but I kind of encouraged Pun to come out first and then put the group on.
Because you saw his potential.
Oh yeah, very much so. But at the time I was trying to work on Pun’s stuff, there was certain people in the picture that had other intentions. They kinda fucked-up me working with him. I worked on Pun’s first demos. Pun used to call my house every day, come by and I used to try to…when certain people that were in the middle and didn’t really want me working with him, I was trying to hook them up with different producers. They used to come by my house and we used to go to this studio, and that studio… you know, I was just trying to hook’ em up, man. Every time I used to see Pudgee after that, he used to say: “Joe Fatal, I don’t understand how you’re not a CEO of a major record label right now”. After that, I kinda went on hiatus for minute, and worked for a couple of years on a new idea I had, which is actually a magazine that’s out right now called Fish ‘N Grits. It’s a magazine that’s getting a pretty big buzz out here on the east coast.
So it’s kind of a cross between XXL and Hustler?
Yeah, exactly, you got it.
How explicit is it?
There’s no penetration in it, but you’ll see some axe-wounds, if you know what I mean! I actually have the artists in the lay-outs with the girls. I’ve got The Game in the book, and his head is right between the girl’s legs, holding her legs open.
There’s a lot of interaction between the artists and the females. We’ve done four issues, and we don’t do the same old stories that The Source and XXL do on the artist. We kind of hit ‘em a little more on the sexual tip. We ask them about their fetishes, what they like and all of that, and we talk about their album a little bit as well, but we try not to talk just strictly about music. We want to hear more personal stuff.
This is a rebirth for Joe Fatal, I’m not even concentrating on the past no more. We were real young and real creative back then. Now it’s a whole different story, man. Now I know how when we were younger and people used to be like [in an old man's voice] “Boy, you ain’t creative! Back in the days we used to play instruments and we used to write real music!” That’s kinda how I’m getting to now. That’s how I’m feeling when I’m listening to the stuff that’s out now.
You’re thinking “You guys have just got some keyboard – we used to dig-up drum breaks nobody had used!”
We had soul! We had soul back then, man. There’s no soul now, none whatsoever. You know what’s creative now? Talkin’ about a white tee or talkin’ about jewelery…I mean, it’s really garbage. I like some of it that’s out there, I bop my head to it and play it on my radio, but it’s not soulful. Back then, we used to write soulful records. Listen to that Main Source album, listen to a Brand Nubian album, listen to a Tribe Called Quest album. They were soulful. That’s when we used to get the break-beats. We used to go out shopping for beats and pay 25, 30, 40 dollars for an old record. Spending every cent that we used to get on records, on breaks. Now it’s just a bunch of regurgitated stuff, man. It’s a bunch of two note keyboards, two note bass lines, it’s garbage man. The only producers out there that are sounding kinda soulful is Pharrell and them. They were just taking what we used to take off of breaks, but they were replaying it. Doin’ the same stuff we used to do, like have a track just in the background, real low that you couldn’t even hear it, with just a bunch of people talking and clapping like “Heyy!” to sound like they were having a good time…we used to record stuff like that a put it real low on a track, and you used to listen and be like “Oh, shit! I hear cats talkin’ in the background and laughing!” Pharrell and all them, I catch them doing all that kind of stuff every now and again. We were the first motherfuckers to grab a tambourine sound and use that as a high hat. We used to bang a spoon on a pot, and use that as a snare! We used to be like “Man, we want a snare that’s like that Meters snare. Damn, where are we gonna get it? Fuck it, get a pot, man!” And we’d bang on it with a pot real hard, and truncate it, and that’d be the snare. We used to do that.
What kind of equipment did you used to use back then? An SP-1200?
We used to work on a 1200 back then. Then I started working on an MP. A lotta cats stayed on that 1200 – that was kinda dinosaurish for me, man. It didn’t have a clean sound, it was real dirty. A real choppy sound. I got on an MP, and after that I stopped using equipment. I still got all my equipment, man. I’m actually about to start working on tracks again in a minute. You might hear some Joe Fatal tracks in the near future.
Who would you wanna get on your beats nowadays?
It’s a tough question, man, because I don’t think there’s many. I would work, obviously, with Joe again. I would work with Twista. I would work with Kanye…who else do I think has soul in ‘em?
Large Pro’s still making records…
Yeah, I hear you. Good luck to him. I haven’t talked to Large Professor in years, but I wish him lots of luck with whatever he does.
So you just lost contact, there was no ill feelings?
Yeah, we all kind of lost contact. The only one that I kind of bump heads into or speak to every now and again – and I mean every six months or a year – is Akinyele. Last time I spoke to Nas was years ago. The last time I spoke to Paulie was three, four years ago. We’re not in contact like that.
Were you in the studio when Ak was laying down the Vagina Diner album?
Nah, they used to come by me when I was laying my stuff down. Actually, Akinyele had a group with this guy named Joe Amazing, and the name of the group was “Akinyele and Amazing”. He was actually on the second Marley Marl album – the Amazing cat – he had a record called “Buffalo Soldier”. At the time I thought Joe was the nicer one outta both of ‘em, so I encouraged Joe to go solo, and Joe never made it anywhere. I hooked him with Marley and he made that one record and he never went anywhere. Ak started rolling with the Large Professor and they worked on their stuff.
That’s one of my favorite albums. A lot of people slept on it.
The Akinyele album? I never heard it.
[suprised] Really? It’s some of Large’s best work.
Yeah, cool. I’m not hating on it, I’m sure it’s great.
You mentioned earlier with the Tragedy album, when you got signed-
I didn’t get signed. We worked on the album all the way to the end, we were excited and we were going to managed by a big manager at the time, and this and that, and the day that it was time to go into the lawyers office to sign the contract – I was never called in. They went and signed contracts. They didn’t cut me officially out, but it was like “We signed contracts” and that was it, really. So I was like “I’m out. I’m gone”. There was no need for me anymore, and we kinda just lost contact with each other. We weren’t cool like that any longer. We didn’t have any problems with each other, but we didn’t have anything great with each other neither. We just parted. It’s like Eric B. and Rakim. They parted – they don’t have no problems with each other – but they just parted.
Speaking of Eric B. and Rakim, they used to hang-out with Alpo and all those guys didn’t they?
Yeah, they used to hang out with Alpo and all of them. I used to see those cats all the time man. I used to see Pretty Tone and all of them cats…
Yeah, Mob Style, man. That’s all Alpo and them people. All of the people that was in Paid In Full – the movie, all of them cats I used to see them in the studio all the time. What I mean by funny is not funny in a bad way, but they was some funny cats. They used to make me laugh, man. A lot. They used to come up in there and just have a sense of humor that was…to the average person, their sense of humor was probably wicked and horrific and stuff like that. But to us, their sense of humor was funny, man. They were real with it. They were very, very, very, very real with it. Whatever gangster records they were making, they weren’t talking bullshit. Whatever they were talking on the record was probably something that was going on at the time. They weren’t studio gangsters. I remember all of these cats that are going through their stuff now with Irv Gotti and them guys, Supreme Team. We used to go by Jamacia, and they used to have basketball tournaments, Eric B. and them used to have their crew, the Paid In Full posse, playing the Supreme Team in basketball. They used to bet money and all of that stuff. It was fun days, man. Whatever cats did on their other time was their business. We ain’t care about that.
When you first started shows with Trag, was that Latin Quarter days, when all that was poppin’ off?
Nah, we weren’t that old man. Latin Quarter days were a little before then. Our days was more…what was the name of that club? The Red Zone and The Tunnel, shit like that. It wasn’t Rooftop and Latin Quarters, that was Doug E. Fresh and Eric B days. That was ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89. ’90-up was The Tunnel and stuff like that.
When everyone was rocking polka dot shirts and Africa medallions?
Yeah, that was like ’89 to ’91, ’92. That’s when everybody was rocking the “Fight The Power” shirts and African power leather medallions around they neck and stuff like that. Before that was the name plates. Rooftop and Latin Quarters, you talkin’ ’bout when people used to rock Cazals and nameplates on their chest with the city skyline on top of it. Kangol‘s and everything. That’s then. I was a little younger. I wasn’t allowed to those places.
You were saying you knew Lord Finesse and all them. Did you used to hang out with Showbiz and Diamond and those guys?
Diamond I never really hung out with. Premier I hung out with, GURU I hung out with. Finesse – at times. On and off. He was better friends with Grimm. I used to hang out more with the Brooklyn side of their crew. With Black, the guy who was in “Just To Get A Rep” video, the one that got shot in that video. I used to run more with the Brooklyn side. I think they went and started a group called All Varsity or something. Remember they had a group? There was like six or seven of them rhyming?
Nah. Never heard them.
There was a group called Varsity, or All-Madden or some shit like that. There was a bunch of them, and they had signed a deal. I think they were down with the Trackmasterz, man. You know the artist Ill Bill? I found Ill Bill.
Oh yeah, because you produced his first record.
Exactly. “Dope Fiend”.
And he rhymed in a different voice back then, like B-Real or something.
Yeah, he rhymed in a different voice, exactly. I guess Serch got me back for leaving him and then going with Cypress and them. I think he got me back, tried to have my artist. But that’s cool.
They ended-up firing him because they thought he was stealing their money.
Exactly, they ended up firing him because he owed them money. That’s why I didn’t sign with him.
Was he a bit shady in his business practices?
No, Serch wasn’t shady. Serch was actually a cool dude, man. He’s kind of a nice guy. Me and my wife, him and his wife were pretty good friends. His business just wasn’t right. Him as a person…he could have been a snake in the grass, but he made a good impression to me. When I needed help, he helped me out and all of that type of stuff, but his business wasn’t correct. When he wanted to fix business between me and him, it was too late. I had already went somewhere else. He never did me bad. Like I said, it was nothing between me and him, it just business, and after that I guess it became personal and we never spoke again. And Grimm? I love Grimm, man. Love Grimm to death. Grimm was my best friend, man. My first time out here to California was because of him. I came out to stay with him. I haven’t seen him in years. We spoke recently, and we lost contact. I’m trying to get back in touch with him as well.
So you’re based in California now?
Yeah, I’m in California.
If you need naked girls for the magazine, that’s the best place to be…
That’s why I moved out here. This is where you find them. It’s the porn capital.
On the porn tip, who are your favourite directors? You like John Leslie?
Yeah, Leslie’s good…I like Nicky Starks. I like Jules…what’s his name?
Yeah, Jules Jordan. You know you’re shit, man. I like my man Ron Hightower…TT Boy. TT Boy’s my favourite. I think he likes the same things I like. Every time I see something that he shoots, I don’t complain about it. I’ll be like “That’s how I’d shoot it, right there!” So I think he must have the same eye as I do, cause we’re both Puerto Rican. And Ed Powers, man. I met him the other day, man. I told him it was an honor to meet him.
Fatal - Timber [single, Atlantic, 1993]
Fatal featuring The Phelon - Pass The Kronz [single, Atlantic,1993]
Main One featuring Kurious Jorge, Fat Joe, Prince from Powerrule and Joe Fatal - El Gran Combo [Birth of The Ghetto Child, Select Street, 1995]
MC Serch featuring Fatal – Social Narcotics [Return of the Product, Def Jam, 1992]
Main Source featuring Akinyele, Nasty Nas and Joe Fatal - Live At The BBQ (Refried BBQ) [single, Wild Pitch, 1991]
Thanks to Daddy Bones, Bbatson and Rafi for additional help.
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