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Fat Joe is not quite ready to retire

The New York rapper on his new album ‘Family Ties,’ Carmelo Anthony’s return to the NBA and the late Big Pun

Something is different about Fat Joe’s publicity run for his latest album, Family Ties. The dreaded “R” word has crept into the veteran rapper’s vocabulary.

“I think I’m 85 percent toward retirement,” he said.

Family Ties, released on Dec. 6, features A-list artists such as Eminem, Cardi B, Mary J. Blige, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Wayne and Remy Ma. Even LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports co-produced a song on the album, alongside producer Boi-1da.

Fat Joe spoke to The Undefeated about Carmelo Anthony’s return to the NBA, trying to recruit Kyrie Irving to the New York Knicks and the late Big Pun.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been in the game since 1992. What are you bringing to the table with this new album?

Man, it’s a classic! It’s a lot of artists that we call rap gods and we put them up in the Mount Rushmore of rap. All those guys had at least one album that we call a classic, like Illmatic or Ready To Die or Reasonable Doubt or Capital Punishment. So, I never felt like I really put out a classic. I’ve put in my work but not just a body of work and album that’s considered a classic, so that’s what we went for. If Family Ties ain’t a classic, you need your money back.

I’m hearing that this might be your last album.

I don’t want to say I’m retired, then come back in another year or two, but that’s how I’m feeling. I’ve never felt like that in my career, but I’m feeling like that. My daughter [13-year-old Azariah Cartagena] is getting big. I want to spend more time with her and things of that nature, you know?

Outside of this new project, what are your personal favorite songs?

“New York,” “New York” with Jadakiss and Ja Rule, because we just represented our ’hood and where we’re from, man. My second one would be “Twinz (Deep Cover ’98)” with Big Pun. It was me and my brother, may he rest in peace, going back-to-back. Those are my favorite two.

I remember as a kid watching the Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya fight in 1999, where you and Big Pun performed that song as Trinidad entered the ring. How did you guys pull that off?

I remember we confronted Don King and he ain’t have no clue of who Fat Joe or Big Pun was. He was saying he was gonna have Ricky Martin walk Trinidad into the ring or something and sing, and I was like, ‘Look, we love Ricky Martin, but he ain’t Fat Joe and Big Pun, not for the fight of the year with Trinidad against De La Hoya. You need us!’ Then after I met with him, I left him my info and he did some investigating and called back like, ‘Man, why you ain’t tell me y’all just sold $2 million worth of records?’ and then told us, ‘Of course I’m letting y’all do it.’ It was an honor for us because Trinidad was special in my lifetime, where you had Hector Camacho, but right after Camacho, in my lifetime we’ve never had a great Puerto Rican champion like Trinidad, so it was an honor to walk him in the ring.

Big Pun died in 2000, I know you refer to him as your brother.

Pun’s death affects us every day, and not just me. When I speak of us, I speak of Terror Squad as a whole, the whole family. It’s not a day that doesn’t go by where we don’t think, ‘what if?’ or think ‘Yo, we miss our brother.’ Every single day we think of Big Pun and it’s almost been 20 years.

You’ve never been afraid to express your love for the Knicks. But how do you feel about the team now after another rough start?

They ain’t turning nothing around this year. Maybe they need to get Fat Joe as an assistant coach and stop playing. They need to get somebody who really knows the game. Let it be known, I’m applying for the job.

Is it true that you tried to recruit free agents to come to the Knicks?

Absolutely. I was all over Kyrie Irving. He just didn’t want to play for the Knicks.

How do you pitch the Knicks to someone like Kyrie?

I get on my knees and I beg, ‘Please, we need you, we love you. You don’t understand. Please!’ Kyrie’s the man and Brooklyn fans are cool. The people over at the Barclays Center and the organization, they’re really good people. I can’t talk bad about them, but it’s not the same as playing for the Knicks. No way, no how. He made a mistake. He’ll see it in the future.

How do you feel about Carmelo Anthony finding his groove with Portland?

I always knew he had what it takes to keep playing in the league. He just needed a team to believe in him and sometimes God gives us a down period to really discover ourselves and know ourselves. I see him hungrier than ever. I see him more determined and humble with his position in the NBA right now.

You always have a sports reference on your albums that can be edgy. On 2017’s “So Excited” track, you said, “I’m about to go Carmelo, boy, and risk it all.” How did Melo respond?

I’m about to Meloooo.

Really, he didn’t tell me nothing about that, man, but on the album Family Ties, we’ve got a song where we’re talking about Shaq and Wade. So, we definitely make a lot of references toward athletes and basketball, and we feel like we’re the rapping athletes.

Anthony Davis says Chicago is the mecca of basketball.

That boy better loosen up his brows. Nobody got better streetball than New York City in the summertime. It’s over. Chi Town is right there with everything and any kind of entertainment. Them guys always create stars, but New York City summertime, you can’t beat it.

If this is your last album, how would you like to be remembered?

What did Howard Cosell used to say, ‘He is going all the way. He is going all the way.’

Eric Woodyard is an NBA reporter for ESPN. A native of Flint, Michigan, Woodyard is a disciple of the Michigan State “Flintstones” – Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell and Antonio Smith – proudly representing 810.