Joey Fatts first left his mom’s house in the San Fernando Valley to play high school football in Long Beach, but a combination of injuries and “distractions” would cut his career short. Along the way, one of Joey’s cousins, rapper Vince Staples, would turn him on to music as an alternative to the bleak futures found on the street. Staples, who’s growing profile remains eclipsed by his critical acclaim, shares many of the same sonic and lyrical traits to the younger, albeit more aggressive sounds found on Fatt’s Chipper Jones trilogy of mixtapes. More often than not, matter-of-fact music about the circumstances faced by disenfranchised youths in America gets misinterpreted as bravado, but Fatt’s confessional lyrical style is both sobering and enthralling. Since being discovered by members of Harlem’s A$AP Mob, Fatts has aggressively established himself as one of hip-hop’s newest leaders, signing with Waka Flocka Flame in 2013 and starting his own label (Cutthroad Records) with Staples and fellow L.A./A$AP Mob associate A$ton Matthews.
This Friday, October 3, Fatts shares the stage at the Ear Warren Showgrounds with Waka Flocka Flame. We recently talked to Joey about his experiences on the road, about the reception of his music, and who he thinks will get into the NCAA Football tournament.
About a year ago, you said in an interview that you feel misunderstood at times — that your music and your lyrics give people the impression that you’re mean, when you’re actually very friendly. Is that still the case? Well, after I said those things, I started making myself a lot more vulnerable to the supports and stuff, and I let people know my situation. Now they’re more understanding about the fact that it’s all about hardship and what I’ve been through, and they respect me because they see that I’m a humble dude. I don’t talk much when people see me, you know what I’m saying? I don’t want to be like “Yo, I’m Joey Fatts!” [Laughs] But when people find out who I am I’m just like, “What’s good?” and I take pictures and do all that stuff. It’s cool.
You’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the last few years. What have web the highlights? Diana [Madagascar]. It was crazy seeing my community out there in a third world county, with the hardships that they face. Not having anything, walking around barefoot. The love that you find in the air over there is crazy; they just welcomed us with open arms. It was dope, but it was crazy. I mean, we were staying at the nicest hotel over there and the water was still brown.
Has traveling like that affected your music at all? Absolutely. When I went to Diana I had most of my project done. But after I got back I made the song “Ended Up,” and that’s one of the most powerful songs on the album. It’s about where I’m from, and about that trip and about celebrating Waka and stuff like that.
Does it ever feel strange to share your story like that with so many people, especially people who may not understand it? Man, this is better than the streets. Honestly, this is my job. Nothing ever changes me as a man. I feel highly about myself and all my homies, and I’m still in the same predicament that I’m in. It doesn’t make me any less of a man to make myself vulnerable like that. It’s not doing anything but helping us out financially and helping providing a way for all our people who are hurtin’ right now. So, fuck it, dude. I’ll be the sacrifice. I don’t really give a shit. Ain’t nothing about me false, so what can somebody say about me? “You’re homeless?” Well, okay, I’m homeless, but I have $55,000 around my neck.
Are you rapping or producing more now? Producing right now. Honestly, I make a lot of beats. I rarely rap like that. When I rap, it’s when I have Pandora open or something and I hear an oldie that’ll just take me back. I’ll go “oh shit” and I’ll just start writing. But I can’t sit down and say “I’m gonna write.” I can’t do that.
When was your most recent “oh shit” moment? I just wrote something two days ago. It was “Anquette, “I Will Always Be There For You.” I listen to that song and it takes it all the back to the ‘90s, man.
Working in the music industry means you get exposed to some pretty weird stuff. Is there anything that you find yourself listening to that surprises you? Everything is weird. Waka’s EDM shit is weird, but that shit is tight. The more that you can make sense out of stuff that you wouldn’t usually listen to — like, for instance, Waka rapping over EDM beats, but he’s still talking about where he comes from and what he’s about, so it makes sense, and it makes it that much tighter. Like, damn, I’m not just bobbin’ to a Lex Luger beat right now — I’m on some Skrillex shit in fuckin’ Brazil with a bunch of naked girls, and I’m not worried about being shot at or nothing right now. We’re just wild ’n out.
You tweeted something the other day that I want to ask you about: “The day you stop worrying about what people think of you, and do what makes you happy will be the day you succeed.” Can you remember whether coming to that conclusion was a sort of epiphany for you, or was it more gradual than that? When I was homeless, I could have easily just done my stuff in the hood — violence and drugs and shit like that — but I always knew that situation was temporary, because I didn’t give a fuck about what anyone thought about me, and I wanted to be at the top. That’s where I wanted to go, so I started to sign twirl, and I would sign twirl for ten dollars an hour. I was working in Forever 21 in the stock room. You get what I’m saying? I didn’t care what anyone thought about me, and I knew that one day it would all pay off. That’s how I view my life. If you’re about your money, you got to be about your money. As long as it isn’t fuckin’ up your character as a man, then get your bread. That’s what I was about.
I know you used originally moved to Long Beach to play ball, so I’d like your opinion on some things… Come on, man. I’m all about football, mang.
Who’s going to the Super Bowl? I know it’s early. I don’t really like the NFL like that. I like college.
Okay, so which four teams are going to get into the new NCAA tournament this season? Okay, I got SC…
…SC? Like Pat Hayden on the field SC? Are they even going to win their conference? SC can play with anydoy man, come on now. You wanna put some money on that? Come on man, holla at me.
I’ll put money on it when SC plays Alabama, sure. Pssh, SC would run through Alabama, boy! You are talking crazy right now.
Well if USC figures out how to get in, then I guess we’ll see. Who are the other three? Well, Alabama is one of them. They can’t fuck with SC, though. Let’s see. Who else is nice right now? Stanford is trash, they already lost.
FSU? Nah, I don’t fuck with Florida State. They ain’t that good.
They got a pretty good player, though. Jamies was good. He ain’t even that good this year! He threw like two interceptions in his first game!
Well sitting out a full game because he yelled like an idiot in the middle of the school didn’t help anything…
…yeah, word. Let’s see… Oregon ain’t no ticket… It’s gotta be someone else in the SEC, I don’t know who though.
Oklahoma? Nah, I don’t fuck with Oklahoma either. They’ve got a history of choking in the big games, man. I wouldn’t bet any money on Oklahoma.
Right? Who started calling Stoops “Big Game Bob” anyway? Exactly, man. He had one good run with Adrian Peterson and that’s it.
Joey Fatts opens for Waka Flocka Flame at the Earl Warren Showgrounds (3400 Calle Real) on Friday, October 3 at 7 p.m. For tickets and info, visit wakaflocka.nightout.com.