Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum–selling artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Fat Joe pulls back the curtain on his larger-than-life persona in this gritty, intimate memoir about growing up in the South Bronx and finding his voice through music.
Fat Joe is a hip-hop legend, but this is not a tale of celebrity; it is the story of Joseph Cartagena, a kid who came of age in the South Bronx during its darkest years of drugs, violence, and abandonment, and how he navigated that traumatizing landscape until he found—through art, friendship, luck, and will—a rocky path to a different life.
Joe is born into a sprawling Puerto Rican and Cuban family in the projects of the South Bronx. From infancy his life is threatened by violence, and by the time he starts middle school, he is faced with the grim choice that defined a generation: to become predator or prey. Soon Joe and his crew dominate the streets, but he finds his true love among the park jams where the Bronx’s wild energy takes musical form. His identity splits in two: a hustler roaming record stores, looking for beats; and a budding rapper whose violent rep rings in the streets. As Joe’s day-to-day life becomes more fraught with betrayal, addiction, and death, until he himself is shot and almost killed, he gravitates toward the music that gives him both a voice to tell the stories of his young life and the tools he needs to create a new one. The challenges never stop—but neither does Joe.
This memoir, written in Joe’s own intensely compelling voice, moves with the momentum of pulp fiction, but underneath the tragicomedy and riveting tales of the streets and the industry is a thought-provoking story about a generation of survivors raised in warlike conditions—the life-and-death choices they had to make, the friends they lost and mourned, and the glittering lives they created from the ruins.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Fat Joe doesn’t pull punches—not with his rhymes, and not with his raw, honest memoir. Born in 1970, Joseph Cartagena came up in a Bronx neighborhood full of drugs, violence, and the excitement of the burgeoning hip-hop movement. The rapper gives us plenty of tales about the early rap scene and his first forays into the record industry, where he crossed paths with the likes of Jay-Z and DJ Khaled. Joe reads his book with a flow reminiscent of his rapping, and the audiobook is enlivened with sound effects that bring the streets to the story. What really stuck with us were Joe’s grateful attitude—he doesn’t take his good fortune for granted—and his recollections of the tough neighborhood that kept him inspired and the caring family that kept him grounded. The Book of Jose is clear-eyed about the struggles of urban life, but it proves that passion and talent can help lift anyone out of their circumstances.