Fat Joe & Remy Ma on the Power of Hip-Hop, Viral Sneaker Licking and What They Bought on Their First Big Payday

Hip-hop icon Fat Joe knows how to hook in an audience.

On a recent afternoon inside the PMC Studios in New York, the hitmaker has editors, photo assistants, the glam team and a videographer hanging onto his every word as the rapper reveals just how in sync he and fellow FN cover star Remy Ma are when it comes to fashion.

“It’s scary, sometimes I’ll pull up in a crazy lime green and she’ll be wearing the same exact color. We don’t plan this,” said the “What’s Luv?” artist, who clearly loves to take risks when it comes to fashion.

Following the cover shoot, Fat Joe, born Joseph Cartagena, changed out of his Louis Vuitton shirt and Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 “Pine Green” sneakers. For the video conversation, he is dressed in a custom pink- and-gray short set with crocodile paneling — an outfit that he surprised stylist Terrell Jones with earlier — and a friends-and-family pair of his Nike Air Force 1 collaboration in similar hues.

When he sees Remy Ma approaching after a wardrobe change, the two begin to laugh. Yet again, they’re dressed in an identical color palette, with Remy sporting Raf Simons sneakers and a metallic minidress.

Aside from their sixth-sense matching, the rap stars are a fitting pair for the cover of FN’s July issue.

The 50th anniversary of hip-hop is less than two weeks away, and the culture — much like Fat Joe and Remy Ma — was born in the Bronx, N.Y. The two have also been responsible for delivering memorable hits, including “Lean Back” and “All the Way Up.” (The latter featured an appearance from Flo Ngala, then a figure skater and budding photographer, who was tapped to shoot this FN cover seven years later.)

The ultimate connectors, Joe and Remy are serving as unofficial ambassadors for hip-hop’s golden anniversary, teaming up on Aug. 11 for the ultimate birthday celebration. First, they will perform as part of the GMA Summer Concert Series live from Rumsey Playfield in New York’s Central Park. And that night, the two will once again take the stage as part of the star-studded Hip-Hop 50 Live event at Yankee Stadium.

Fat Joe Nike Air Force 1 TSFat Joe with his Nike Air Force 1 “TS.”
In addition, Fat Joe is celebrating a milestone of his own. Thirty years ago, the rapper — known then as Fat Joe Da Gangsta — released his critically acclaimed debut album, “Represent.” It arrived on July 27, 1993, and produced his first hit, “Flow Joe.”

 

“At the time, there was no Latino voice that was dominant in hip-hop, so I knew young Latinos were going to be proud of somebody who looks like them, who comes from the streets and has an album like that,” the rapper explained. “Did I think I would be this far? No. I loved hip-hop, I was dedicated to hip-hop culture and I just wanted to tell the story about where I came from.”

Beyond music, the two icons share a deep love of footwear. The quintessential sneakerhead, Fat Joe was at the center of one of the culture’s first viral moments, licking the bottom of his Air Jordan 7 “Olympic” on MTV Cribs in 2004. Two decades later, he boasts a collection of “a couple thousand pairs” that “are more quality over quantity,” and isn’t shy about sharing his kicks with the world. “We all know that you’re the flyest in the game,” said Remy Ma.
Fat Joe Remy MaFat Joe and Remy Ma photographed by Flo Ngala.FLO NGALA
As for Remy, born Reminisce Smith, she is far more modest about her own place in fashion. But her footwear game — which ranges from Reebok and Nike sneakers to Timberlands and thigh-high boots, including Bottega Veneta’s coveted Intrecciato, which she brought to set — is enviable.

 

The duo joined FN for a conversation with each other about their love of footwear and discussed what it means to celebrate hip-hop.

Remy Ma: “How have you evolved from ‘Flow Joe’ [his debut single] to who you are now? Do you ever look back at pictures and be like, ‘What was I thinking with that outfit?’”

Fat Joe: “Of course. I’m a risk taker. A lot of people play it safe, establish one dope look and won’t get off it. But I take chances, whether it’s colors or wearing stuff not authorized.”

RM: “Gray suede, crocodile.”

FJ: “We got to give them hell every chance we get. I was influenced by Heavy D, early D-boy street guys, Dapper Dan. When I grew up, every block you went to was a fashion show. Dapper Dan posted a picture the other day when I was 14 years old with the Dapper Dan Gucci on.”

RM: “Why were you 14 with Dapper Dan Gucci on?”

 

FJ: “I had to have it. It used to be hard for big boys to get clothes. One day I saw my man walking in Harlem and he had this Louis Vuitton outfit on. I was like, ‘Where did you get this?’ He took me to Dapper Dan. I was already in the streets making a couple of dollars. From there, I started going to Dap all the time buying Gucci outfits, MCM.”

RM: “My brother here goes to the Louis Vuitton store, buys three of the same thing and then takes it to his most amazing tailor in the world.”

FJ: “Big boys were mad at me because they’d be like, ‘How do you get it?’ We were taking $7,000 Goyard bags, cutting three bags up to make a hoodie before people knew what Goyard was. If it’s a pair of sneakers — $25,000, $45,000 — I don’t care. If it’s fly, I’ve got to have it. We only live once and we ain’t taking it with us.”

RM: “I’m definitely not taking a $7,000 bag and cutting anything. But you have influenced some larger purchases.”

 

FJ: “I love it. You just walked in with Bottegas up to your knee. My wife is short, I tried to get them for her but she was swallowed in the boots. You went all the way up. Only certain people [can do it] — you, Mary [J. Blige].”

RM: “Mary, I keep telling her I’m coming to her closet.”
Remy MaRemy Ma in her own Bottega Veneta boots.FLO NGALA
FJ: “I would like to rob [DJ] Khaled. As a big boy, he threw on some outfits. He got some pieces that I couldn’t catch.”

RM: “If you were not a rapper, you’d still do this?”

FJ: “I’d be wearing Zara and fly. I would not be a bum. Anytime they did a collab with Versace or this and that, I’d be first on line. Who influenced your style? Tell them about Reeboks. I don’t care how rich she is, she wants them Reeboks.”

RM: “When we grew up, they were called 5411s because they cost $49.99 and after taxes it came up to $54.11. That was a lot, so I never could have them. A lot of times, my purchases are influenced by the purchases I couldn’t make as a kid. Throwbacks of certain sneakers, I’m like, ‘I’ve got to get them. For 10th grade me, I’ve got to do it.’”

 

FJ: “Me too.”

RM: “The person who influenced the first big purchase I made, the person who helped develop my style, was your wife, [Lorena].”

FJ: “Yeah?”

RM: “We went to a store called Petit Peton in SoHo. They had purple ostrich thigh-high boots. She was like, ‘Rem, you’ve got to try them on, they’re crazy.’ I flipped the shoe, looked at the price and I’m like, ‘There has to be a decimal missing or something.’ I’d never seen a shoe cost that much in my life. I’m from Castle Hill in the projects, I’m struggling to get 5411s — $1,500 boots are crazy to me. I instantly have buyer’s remorse. I’m having anxiety attacks. I’m like, ‘I’ve never spent this much money on anything in my life.’ She goes, ‘You know you’ve got to get the matching bag, right?’ After I got the matching bag, it was over. There was no turning back.”

Fat Joe Remy MaFat Joe (L) and Remy Ma, shot exclusively for FN.FLO NGALA
FJ: “I don’t understand cheap. I’ve never been cheap, never understood not enjoying what you work for.”

RM: “You say you take risks. I might be the first person who called you and was like, ‘Yo, you look fly, you bodied the outfit’ when you wore the pink Celine [hoodie] and the Yeezy boots. Everybody was like, ‘I don’t know.’”

FJ: “I was walking around New York thinking I was the flyest guy in the universe. When people started clowning the boot, I didn’t understand it. One of the craziest things people say on social media is, ‘Dress your age.’ What is dress my age? 10x hoodie, Pele Pele? You want me to wear Timbs up to the knee, the 40 Belows? I’m always going to be fly. It was current, it was cool.”

RM: “Would you wear it again?”

FJ: “No, I wouldn’t wear it again, but we can donate that to the Museum of Hip-Hop.”

 

RM: “When Eli Manning licked my ‘TS’ [Nike Air Force 1] sneakers, I was like, ‘Now I can’t even wear them. The Super Bowl champ licked the bottom of my sneakers.’”

FJ: “The first thing I told Nike was, ‘The first pairs have to go to Remy.’ I had them in the house, we did the shoot with Eli and I thought it was a great time to get a viral moment and lick the bottom of the sneaker — and then by the way, it was Remy Ma’s sneaker. It was a dope moment.”

RM: “I’m mad because I can never wear my sneakers.”

FJ: “We’ll get you another one. Ebay those or something. After your first payday, what was your biggest footwear purchase?”

RM: “Sheesh. Besides the boots that [Lorena] convinced me to get, I was a big sneaker girl. When you met me, sneakers and Timbs every day, and somehow it merged into shoes. I see you do some [big spending] at your house. I never did that. I’ve never been there with guys with backpacks that looked like their names were Josh and Brandon.”

 

FJ: “The guy from ‘Ozark’ is coming to deliver one-of-one sneakers.”

RM: “They had like 20 pairs, and I’m seeing you count money. ‘Did he just say 100? Are we at $100,000? $200,000?’ You spent about $300,000 that day and left with like seven pairs. I’ve never done anything like that, but I have been to the store like, ‘I want every color.’”

FJ: “You buy sneakers, you’re a spender.”

RM: “Shoes or sneakers. Bags? I’ve got to really like the bag. I’m not a bag girl, I’m a bookbag girl. But I have gone and bought every sneaker I liked. As a young girl just out of high school, I dreamed about doing that. ‘When I get money, I’m buying all of them.’ Those Bottegas that I came in here wearing were 10 bands, and I searched for them. Who searches out a $10,000 shoe?”

FJ: “Sneaker collectors every now and then be like, ‘I’m dropping out the game. I got these three that no one ever seen, one-of- ones.’ I jump on them because you’ll never get the chance again.”

 

RM: “You were trying to get something one time and they kept faking. Every time you’d go with the money they changed their mind.”

FJ: “There’s people who act like they want to sell something. I was at Flight Club two months ago and there were these OVO [Air Jordan] sneakers I wanted. Super overpriced and I still was like, ‘I need these.’ They called the guy, the guy starts talking about, ‘These survived a fire.’ I’m like ‘I’m buying. Do you want $21,000 or not?’ I realized he just likes having them on the shelf, frontin’ like ‘My sneakers are at Flight Club in the main window.’”
Fat JoeFat Joe, shot exclusively for FN. FLO NGALA
RM: “I’ve been in your closet. One time we accidentally opened that door, I had a goddaughter with me, and she’s like, ‘Papa has more sneakers than you.’ She pointed to red sneakers, they looked like something from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Do you ever wear these sneakers that are $21,000?”

 

FJ: “I wear them. I collect for war. Not only do I collect because I love sneakers, but I wait for anybody to call me out. If there’s a ‘Verzuz’ of sneakers, I’m strapped. I’ve got bombs, bro. You think you have a one-of-one sneaker. I’ll bust out the sample version when they changed the leather, they changed the color. The Dior x Jordan collab that went crazy, it originally was Louis Vuitton x Jordan and Louis Vuitton backed out. I have that sneaker, the sample that they made.”

RM: “If there’s ever a sneaker ‘Verzuz,’ Fat Joe is ready.”

FJ: “I hype Remy up before we do major things. I’m like, ‘Sis, it’s the 50th anniversary and they picked us to do ‘Good Morning America.’ They could have picked E-40, Too $hort, Dr. Dre, Eminem, but they picked us. This is a big deal. It feels like we’re ambassadors of the 50th year.”

RM: “There are certain artists everybody knows — young, middle aged, older. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t know Fat Joe. Hip-hop is the best stepping stone ever. You could come in as a rapper and end up being the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, á la Will Smith. You can be a cover girl, have an Oscar, á la Queen Latifah. Even down to your sneaker collection. People who may not be into hip-hop but are into sneakers know Fat Joe.”

 

FJ: “Hip-hop is the universal language. It brings everybody together with different ideologies, different religions. There’s so much diversity that there’s no way to contain it. It started in the Bronx — we’ll take that — but it spread all over the world. You want to know what’s going on in Mexico? Listen to Mexican hip-hop. Want to know what’s going on in Ukraine? They’re telling you — ‘General such and such is on the front line, he just met with Biden and Biden gave him the nines.’ Hip- hop is the universal language, and we’re all one — Asian, white, Jewish, Muslim, Black, Spanish, Native. Appropriation, I can’t really see that in hip-hop.”

RM: “A lot of times when people get upset, ‘They’re taking this from us,’ to me, that just shows the growth of hip-hop, the power of it. Just like a Tiffany Air Force 1 or a Jimmy Choo Timberland, they look like what we’re wearing.”

 

FJ: “Look at Blondie. She might have had the third hip-hop song ever created. She was in the South Bronx, in Manhattan and linked up with Fab Five Freddie. You love it and you’re pure, you want to break- dance, you want to write graffiti, you want to DJ, you want to rap, you’re hip-hop and I’m messing with you.”

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photographer: Flo Ngala

Style Director: Shannon

Associate Art Director: Emily Harris

Grooming: Amanda Wilson at Opus Beauty

Makeup: Rebecca Lee

Hair: Sophia Kay

Photo assistants: Paul Morejon and Tyler Henry

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