Fat Joe’s Years-Long Beef With Jay-Z Originated Over A Game

In the history of rap beefs, Jay-Z has been linked to at least half a dozen. There was the one with Beanie Sigel, several with Kanye West, some diss records aimed at Cam’ron, and of course, the epic exchange between him and Nas.

There were others, and in that batch is one with Fat Joe. We’re not sure if you were aware of that feud, but the “Lean Back” rapper recently reflected on how and why the whole thing with Jay-Z got started. It all came down to hoops.

Fat Joe and Jay-Z
Fat Joe and Jay-Z at Roc Nation Pre-GRAMMY brunch | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation

Fat Joe said it started way back in the 2000s

During a recent appearance on Angie Martinez’s WEtv show, Untold Stories of Hip Hop, Joe spoke on the origin of the beef. What fans heard on records began on the basketball court at Rucker Park in Harlem.

The location was legendary for its street basketball tournaments, and in the late ’90s, Joe formed his own team called the Terror Squad (yep, just like his rap crew). It was a time when hip-hop celebs and basketball stars (local and NBA-level) were coming together to win games.

Complex reported that along with seeing the likes of Fat Joe and Diddy heading teams, players like Allen Iverson and LeBron James were up and coming students who would light the court up. According to Fat Joe, he loved the Rucker and was heavily involved in the competition each year as a coach.

Eventually, Jay-Z decided to join the action one year, and that’s when the rivalry began. Joe was a seasoned coach and winner, and at the time, he did not understand why Jay-Z wanted to challenge him for the crown. This was 2004.

Fat Joe said the beef went from the court to the studio

Both squads–Jay-Z and Fat Joe’s–made it to the championships and were set to face off against one another. DJ Clue stated that the game was a big deal and that “players were flown in” from across the country.

The park was packed with a crowd waiting to see the game, but Jay-Z’s team never showed. The game was forfeited to Joe’s team. He told Martinez that he “didn’t know how to turn the switch off” and avoid turning it into a beef or confrontation.

After the win, he took a shot at Jay-Z on the famous “Lean Back” record with the lines, “I don’t wanna speak about the Rucker/Not even Pee Wee Kirkland could imagine this/My ****** didn’t have to play to win the championship.” But the diss records went both ways.

The two wound up not speaking for over 10 years, and it got so bad that Jay-Z wouldn’t even speak to him on an elevator. That is until Fat Joe reached out to squash the beef.

Using rapper N.O.R.E. as a diplomatic middleman and Jay-Z’s friend/crew member Memphis Bleek, Joe extended an olive branch and asked Jay to be a part of his “All The Way Up” remix. Within minutes, he got a call from Jay-Z agreeing to do it.

That was in 2016, and Joe joked that once they got together, Jay wouldn’t stop talking about the Rucker. Today, the two are friends and do business together.

It’s not the first time Fat Joe has discussed the feud

Relieved that the whole thing was over, the rapper talked to multiple outlets about how much he’s changed since then. “All The Way Up” was a hit (and is still a banger at the club) and for Jay-Z to hop on the remix was a big deal for several reasons.

Fat Joe told Fader that it was time for them to move on and come together:

“The past is the past. I’ve grown out of any immaturities that I used to have, and stupid ways of thinking. I’m mature. I’m a business man. I’m much smarter, wiser, and I just figured the game deserves to hear a Fat Joe and Jay Z song sooner or later, for the hip-hop culture. Because I’m not going to be rapping much longer. Jay and me both came up on hip-hop culture. We’re businessmen now. We took different roads, but we’re real hip-hop.”

Ultimately, it was about growth, smart business, and forging ahead for the sake of the culture. But it’s still unclear if there will ever be a rematch.