"They make the vaccine so you can live — why wouldn't you take the vaccine?" the star asks while chatting with PEOPLE

By Darlene Aderoju
January 19, 2021 06:05 PM
Advertisement
Fat Joe
| Credit: Pepsi Wild Cherry

Fat Joe has an important message when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking with PEOPLE as a judge for the first-ever virtual hip-hop competition, titled Pepsi Wild Cherry Your Wildest Dreams, in partnership with Triller — Fat Joe opens up about his childhood and music legacy, diversifying the industry and his personal opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine.

New rapper T-Lyon was crowned the series' winner. As such, he will receive a mentoring session from today's stars and has secured his own feature in a Pepsi Wild Cherry digital commercial. "Triller has a huge fan base and it's on the come up," Fat Joe tells PEOPLE of his collaboration. "Pepsi Wild Cherry and I came up with the concept of a virtual challenge to give kids a chance at success. It's always rewarding when you're able to help someone and have fun while you're doing it."

Fat Joe
| Credit: Pepsi Wild Cherry

And after growing up in the Bronx, Fat Joe chased his own wildest dreams. "I came in first place [at the Apollo Theater] four weeks in a row. I always knew I was gonna try to make it. But it's the fans and the grace of God that'll catapult you to the top."

On his way to the top, the star, né Joseph Antonio Cartagena, 50, found the love of his life — wife Lorena, whom he wed in 1995. "We made an oath," says the hitmaker. "We said, 'No matter what comes our way, we're gonna always be together.' We live by that rule. We want to show our people that you can be a family man. You can be with your wife and still be successful and show people a great example."

And Fat Joe is not only a family man with his wife and children — he also adores his parents, whom he recently helped to get vaccinated in efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Just yesterday, they got the vaccine and I picked them up at 6 in the morning," he tells PEOPLE of his Thursday endeavor. "I think getting the vaccine is the best decision in the world. This hasn't happened in 100 years, a pandemic like this. They make the vaccine so you can live — why wouldn't you take the vaccine?"

His parents had been isolating for nearly a year, explains the rap star, "My mother and father have been in the house for 10 months. That's not life. The fact that they were able to get the vaccine was really a dream come true to me."

RELATED VIDEO: Joe Biden Receives Second Dose of COVID-19 Vaccination

Another dream come true for Fat Joe (who tells PEOPLE he was nicknamed Fat Joey from as early as 2 years old within his Bronx community) — he discovered "Still Not a Player" hitmaker Big Pun.

"Big Pun is our Bob Marley for Latinos," Fat Joe says. "He's it, he's the greatest ever. I knew I had to share him with the world and the fact that we had this song that was embracing Black people and Latinos with the 'Boricua, Morena' (which means "dark-skinned Puerto Rican woman"). We were embracing diversity from out the gate. We were like, 'Together. Unity!'" he says with a smile.

For Fat Joe and Big Pun, the "Twinz" duo were always proud to represent their community, which always included "Black queens" and Latina women. "Hip-hop started with Black people and Puerto Ricans in the south Bronx. That's where we're from so we're accustomed to that culture," he explains. "I grew up in a project that was 99 percent Black. Latinos were 1 percent. So, the culture is me, it's us. It's embedded in us. When Pun came up with the concept of 'Boricua, Morena,' it was just perfect. It only made sense."

"'Still Not a Player' is the only record that I ever was involved with that after one play, we knew it was a smash hit," Fat Joe tells PEOPLE — and the pair (along with Joe the singer) were right.

With The Fat Joe Show on Revolt TV, the rapper is happy to collaborate with Diddy on the mogul's network. "He's my brother and I've always admired him," says the host. "We came in the game together. I love his platform and what he stands for and how he represents the people. I wanted to do the show with my guy."

Fat Joe also admires LL Cool J, who he says inspired him to pursue rapping in the first place. "He inspired me," says the actor — who also tells PEOPLE he's happy to see that LL has also been married for 26 years. "I used to actually watch interviews of LL Cool J and KRS-One, who's another mentor, to learn how to speak."

Adds the star, "The Big, Big Show has a soundtrack coming next week. We have a single coming and you're gonna love it."

The Fat Joe Show airs Tuesday nights on Revolt TV at 10 p.m. EST.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.