'I look at my life as a pizza pie,' Rapper Fat Joe on managing his empire

Joseph Antonio Cartagena, better known as Fat Joe, has come a long way from leaving his family home in the Bronx at the age of 14. Throughout his more than 25-year career, the man known as “Joey Cracks” has not only entertained millions but also made millions as well, and the rap mogul has learned a thing or two about managing money. He recently sat down with Yahoo Finance to talk about how he’s used diversification to avoid the financial problems that plague many entertainers. 

“I look at my life as a pizza pie,” the multi-platinum rapper told Yahoo Finance. And it’s a large pie at that, with a lot of slices.  “I make money from acting. I make money from being the president of Market America, Urban Latino. I make money from managing artists. I make touring money. I make money from my stores. I make money. So that’s how I look at it, and we bring it all together.” 

Fat Joe has a sneaker game like few others, and is one of the biggest sneakerhead celebrities out there (His licking the bottoms of his never-worn Air Jordan 7 Barcelonas lives on in sneakerhead history). In 2016, he launched a chain of New York-based sneaker stores called UP NYC — the first of which opened in the Washington Heights neighborhood. 

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 05: (L-R) Fat Joe and DJ Camilo attend The Grand Opening Of Fat Joe's Sneaker Boutique and Gallery at UPNYC on November 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

“But I’ve been collecting sneakers my whole life, and I love sneakers, and I’ll never get tired of it. If a new one comes out, I gotta have it,” he told Yahoo Finance. 

In fact, UP NYC is one of the few non-Nike (NKE) stores that gets every Air Jordan release, a feat that that did not come easily. The Swoosh brand was not initially a fan of the stores.

“I had this relationship with Nike for over 20 years and now, and they send me sneakers, and I do their events. So I went and built a store in the hood, which is very important to me … And then Nike tells me, ‘Yo, it doesn’t work like that.’ ... They were like, ‘You gotta get grandfathered in. You have to get vetted to have a store.’ I was like ‘What? I have known you guys for 20 years.’” 

Fat Joe ended up getting some help from His Airness himself. “I went to a party that Michael Jordan was throwing for Neymar Jr., and everybody was in there, and out of nowhere, you hear a loud voice, and it’s Michael Jordan. He goes ‘Big Joe!’ (He calls me Big Joe.) ‘Big Joe, your store’s grand opening. I’ll be there. I’m there,’” he said.

“Immediately the Nike execs and everybody went, ‘Oh, so you’re going to have a store? Oh really? Oh, we’re coming up there tomorrow and open it up.’ And so basically I was blessed Jordan heard a rumor about my store ... They were fronting on Joe.” 

On December 6, Fat Joe dropped his 11th studio album “Family Ties,” which features a who’s who of the rap world, including Cardi B, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Mary J. Blige, Jeremih, Ty Dolla Sign, Anuel AA, Dre (of Cool & Dre).

Some speculate that it might be Fat Joe’s last album. He did tell Yahoo Finance that he wants to spend more time with his family. 

“My daughter's 13 and a half, and I'm telling everybody I'm flirting with retirement because I want to be there when my daughter comes home from school.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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