Fat Joe Talks About His Massive Puerto Rico Relief Effort
How one plane turned to 10, and 200,000 pounds of donations became 2 million
This evening at JFK Airport rap legend Fat Joe and bachata star Romeo Santos will be helping to load one of many TIDAL X: Puerto Rico cargo airplanes transporting 200,000 pounds of urgently needed goods—water, food, medical and hygiene supplies—donated for Puerto Rico.
Ever since Hurricane Maria hit—the most powerful storm to impact PR in almost a century—the island’s population has lost power, communication, homes, and transportation infrastructure. Right from the start, while the President of the United States went on golf trips and sent ignorant tweets—the Bronx rap legend with numerous family and friends in PR motivated.
As a Roc Nation affiliate, Joe reached out to JAY-Z who pledged to provide a cargo plane if Joe could provide the goods to fill it up. Rallying his network of celebrity friends via social media Joe stirred up an overwhelming outpouring of support from the Tristate area. He now has enough goods to fill ten cargo planes. And with the TIDAL x Brooklyn benefit concert coming up October 17, Joe is just getting started. He took a break from his round-the-clock efforts to speak with MASS APPEAL about why he goes so hard for Puerto Rico, why he has no time from Trump’s fuckery, and what moved him to tears last weekend.
When did you realize how serious the situation was in Puerto Rico?
I think I know just as much as you. I was watchin’ it on the news and seeing the hurricane and they were tellin’ us that it was hittin’ real bad and then 99 percent of the people had no power and no communications. And I was like, “Oh wow… This is terrible.” And then when the daytime came and they were showing the pictures of all the houses with no roofs and people in the middle of the water. And that’s when I knew, like, total devastation.
Do you still have family down there?
Yes, I do. I have several aunts and cousins and I have a bunch of people that I love, I have friends that their fathers, their fathers, their mothers. It’s really bad.
Some of my friends in New York have been having a hard time getting in touch because the communication is really bad down there.
Still have a hard time. Still a hard time. Still a hard time. Everybody still has no phone.
So do you know how your aunts and cousins are actually doing right now?
No. No, we heard from a neighbor somehow who said my aunt is alright. They have houses. My aunt is in a part of the island that I can’t even get to. She’s in Ponce. I was just talking to my father before I spoke to you. He thinks I’m Fat Joe the Rapper, I can do anything. But I’m like, Yo, Pop. Roads are messed up. I can’t get to my aunt.
What have you been able to do? It seems like you’ve been very active in making a difference for the whole island.
All I could do is be working on the blind side. So what I did was I motivated Tidal and JAY-Z to help me out. JAY-Z said “Listen I’ma get you a plane. Fill it up with 200,000 pounds.” And so I went out there I got all my friends: Kevin Hart. T.I., Jamie Foxx, Khaled, Remy, French, Cardi B—just about everybody—to repost my plea to everybody to please come to Jacob Javits and come to different locations in New York and donate water, batteries, and food and women’s hygienes, and that I’ll get it to Puerto Rico. And we collected over 2 million pounds in a matter of a day.
That’s more than JAY-Z told you to get, right?
[Laughs] Yup. So now TIDAL and JAY-Z said they got 5 planes. They said Joe, 5 planes is like a million dollars, so… And they was like, Yo, but Joe now you gotta get the money for the other planes. So I went from collecting cans and waters and all that to now harassing every rich person I know in America to give me some money.
And you know a few rich people.
I do. I’m goin’ hard. People been donating. T.I. donated. Kevin Hart donated. Khaled donated. My people from Market America, JR Ridinger and Loren Ridinger donated a crazy amount of money. Then I got a girl named Carolyn Harrison she donated money. She owns a shampoo company called Inter Tech. I’m harassing everybody: all my basketball players, all my baseball players. I’m trying to get up all the money to make sure everything that we collected goes to Puerto Rico.
So how many more planes do you need?
Five. Another million dollars.
OK, so Jay put up the first five planes and now you’ve gotta match it.
Yup. [Laughs] Yeah, but I’m not Jay. [AHAHAHAH]!
That’s some big boy shit, man! For real. Ten planes?
Not bad for two kids from the projects, huh?
Not at all. Speaking of which, what about the response from the Federal Government? Puerto Rico is an American territory. These are American citizens suffering.
Me personally, I haven’t even looked into that bro. I haven’t even wasted my time. Like, of course we know Trump doing all the fuckery he can in the world. But you know, we can’t… I gotta really feed the people and help ’em. I can’t get sidetracked with all this bullshit that’s goin’ on.
It’s a lot of bullshit by the way. A whole lot.
Yeah, and I gave my word to these people that—you gotta understand, these are regular people who came with waters. Ambulance drivers. Barbers. Church people. Gang members. Black people. White people. Muslims. Jews. Everybody came together in this effort, led by hip hop.
And you know, I don’t cry. I cried about 30 times on Saturday. Just to see the love and the humanity and everybody come together. I had guys in Connecticut, Westchester County staked out. Jersey staked out. Bringin’ in truckloads. We had the strip club—Lust strip club—donated an 18 wheeler full of stuff. Then you had the strip club Aces donated… Yo—this was a real grassroots drive. And every ordinary citizen. People rolled up in ambulances. Ambulance drivers. Four, five ambulances filled with water, food, this, this, that….
And the fact that they all respected that Fat Joe said, “Bring it. I’ma take it to ’em.” I mean, it is… You can’t even understand. You won’t understand. You know what I mean? People said, you know, “He’s the truth. We fuck with Joe. He said it, he gon’ do it.” That’s crazy.
So you’re gonna deliver this person?
That’s right. We sent one plane out yesterday to the most affected area, which is Aguadilla that they haven’t really been gettin’ supplies. So just imagine, God forbid, something happened to New York: Manhattan is good. They been gettin’ all the supplies. But Staten Island ain’t good. You understand what I’m sayin? So we sent our first plane wtih 200,000 pounds out last night to Aguadilla.
And it arrived safely?
Yes, yes. And tomorrow we flyin’ out of New York and we got another 200,000 pounds we put on a plane. And I’m flyin’ out there and I’m gonna try to escape and see my family too for like an hour and take them some personal stuff that I broutght em. Soap, hygiene, whatever they asked me for. You know my aunt was like, Yo—they need everything! I was like, “OK, let’s go.”
The thing that’s so cool about my family in Puerto Rico is they’re the type of family that really are family. Like, if somebody, my grandmother—Rest in Peace—got sick. They would come to the hospital, 20 of em from Puerto Rico and be there. They’ll come to the funeral, 20 of em. You know? They family. So they got that from the family. You know what I’m saying? We got family members that ain’t like that, but they’re the ones.
This is why I Love Puerto Rico so much my abuelita would have been 94 years old today a one man woman I never heard her curse she was my perfect grandmother I remember the day we took this picture together I dance to Hector la vos with her I miss her sooooo much may God bless her soul VIVA PUERTO RICO
The feeling must be unbelievable right now. Do you feel proud of yourself right now?
I don’t cry. My sister died. My best friends die. I went to jail. I never cried. I’m like as stand-up as they could be. I cried about 30 times Saturday. Because it was just the humanity. The love. This wasn’t just a Puerto Rican thing.
Jewish people coming fuckin’ Yom Kippur, on the holiday. This is powerful shit. I got Italian friends in the middle of Arthur Ave with Puerto Rican shirts on talkin’ about “We Puerto Rican bro!” I’ve never seen it. The closest thing was 9/11. I ain’t gonna lie to you. The closest thing was 9/11.
It’s just amazing that hip hop is leading the charge to save American citizens from such a major disaster.
And Daddy Yankee been out there every day givin’ away food and meals to everybody. So we bringing the plane to him and he’s gonna give it to all the people. I mean this guy’s been doin’ a phenomenal job. Marc Anthony and J-Lo have been doing whatever they can do. Crazy Legs from Rock Steady. Everybody has done everything possible.
Is it enough? From what you hear, are the people holding on?
Nah, it ain’t never gonna be enough. They got no lights. They got no infrastructure. No plumbing. It’s bad, bro. It’s not enough. This is just a Band-Aid, not the cure.
The president was down there the other day talking about “It’s only 16 dead. It’s not that bad.”
You know what he doesn’t understand is that 16, by the time he came to America the 16, unfortunately, turned to 34. And what happens is, the longer and longer it takes to get these people help. and get power, and get these hospitals running and stuff like that, there’s gonna be infections, there’s gonna be all type of diseases. You know, it’s gonna be a lot more deaths than that—unfortunately.
I don’t know what to tell you. If you want me to get up in here and start cursing Trump out for an hour, you know, that’s not gonna help nothing. You know, Trump is a special guy, bro. He’s a special guy. We don’t feel like he loves us. The black community doesn’t feel like they love him. White poor people shouldn’t feel like he loves ‘em. You know, it’s bad what’s going on in America right now, man. I in my lifetime never seen this type of hatred and divisiveness that’s going on in America. But what’s happening is that the true power of love is prevailing.
That’s what’s up.
We gettin’ together outta love man. We gettin’ together outta love. We’re like, “No, fuck y’all. We love each other.” And that’s that. And I tell people all the time, this ain’t just a black/Latino problem. It’s white people. I love white people too. I love all of humanity, bro. Think about what happened out there in Vegas. I never seen no shit like that. Who knows what motivated that guy to do some shit like that?
What gives you faith right now? Puerto Rico is facing some big challenges. What makes you believe that they’re gonna pull through? What is gonna get them through?
My brother, we ain’t gon’ stop. We ain’t gon’ stop. We Puerto Rican and we proud. It’s something that you don’t even understand, B. These challenges are ongoing. Like, I don’t know how to explain it to you. Greater things are gonna happen. Bigger things is gonna happen. Bigger blessings is gonna happen Cause the people shouldn’t be in the streets, They know. Bigger things are gonna happen. I’m gonna meet richer guys that’s gonna give us free planes and free food and free medical supplies. We’re not gonna stop, bro. We’re not gonna stop Fuck that. We’re not gonna stop That is a fact. We’ll continue to help our people.
And this is only setting the blueprint down for when—God forbid—any other tragedies happen. In the world or in America. We’re gonna be there for em same way. We ain’t gonna forget. Fat Joe won’t let em forget. I will not let Puerto Rico forget that everybody came together to help.
So you’re gonna be at the airport Friday night?
We load the plane in the evening. We leave first thing in the morning Saturday. It is what it is, bro. You know?
Do you feel ready for this journey? This is gonna be an emotional journey.
It sure is, bro. It sure is. You know, I’m always ready for everything. You know what I mean? I just wanna let the people know… I did an interview on CNN, and I started talkin’ in Spanish because for the few people in Puerto Rico that do have power I wanted to let em know. You know, during Katrina… When you go into Katrina and you hear some of the people right here in the United States, bawling, Those first couple weeks they felt like they were in a world of their own. Like they didn’t know nothing. They had no communication. Now Puerto Rico has even less communication than Katrina. So when I went on CNN I spoke to them in Spanish to let them know: “My brothers and sisters hold on! We got your back. We comin’! Don’t panic. We comin’! We ain’t gonna stop comin’!”
I know that must have made them feel great.
Maaaan… Like I told you, we’re not gonna stop. We’re gonna continue to do whatever we can. We’re not the government. We’re not super-rich people. We’re doing what we can. We’re doing what we can.
And you’re showing what is possible, which is so powerful. It’s inspiring to other people to make their own efforts. People can come together and do this.
The blueprint has been set. There’s no way around it. It’s set. God forbid we have another tragedy somewhere else, we can come together like this. Yes, we can come together like this.