FAT joe and TERROR SQUAD at the Guvernment (132 Queens Quay East), Friday (January 21). $15. 416-869-1462. Rating: NNNNN
For as long as there's been dancing, there've been people who don't dance.
Their lives are not easy. The hot flash felt when they're hauled onto the floor, directly followed by a sense of "How did I get here?" as they watch their arms and legs wiggle and shimmy idiotically to the beat - this will always be the most dreaded moment of their lives.
Fortunately, these poor misunderstood souls no longer have to live in silence. They have found their unlikely Mother Teresa. His name is Fat Joe.
Last year, with his Terror Squad, Joe created an anti-dance craze phenomenon, a song rivalled only by Modest Mouse's Float On in terms of ubiquity: all together now - Lean Back.
"The fact is, I do like dancing. I was just thinking about the people," explains a selfless Joe from his crib in Miami, where he hibernates during those iced-out New York winters.
So how do you do the damn thing?
"It's the same two-step with a little twist," he breaks it down. "The name of the dance itself is the Rockaway. Lean Back is explaining to you how to do the Rockaway. It's the joint that Jamaicans do where they cross their hands and just pull back - and I was just, 'Lean back, like you holdin' up the wall? You can just do it on the wall. '"
Original gangstas and real hiphop heads know Fat Joe not so much as a wallflower martyr as the decidedly more gully crack-dealer-turned-rapper Joey Crack of the Bronx, member of the underground committee Diggin' in the Crates, featuring Lord Finesse, OC, AG, the late Big L, Diamond D and Showbiz. He's the Latin thug behind Flow Joe and that infamous LL Cool J I Shot Ya remix where he stomped in with the line "Now who the fuck you think you talking to!?" and swiftly became known as the only rapper who might actually make good on his threats.
For people who know him from that era, the Joe of the last couple of years - who scored a crossover hit in 01 with the Grammy-nominated What's Luv, featuring Ashanti, the man who collaborates with R. Kelly and J. Lo (expect their upcoming video and single to cockblock the airwaves forever) and wears pounds of makeup in his videos - is totally unrecognizable. It's a better fate, Joe has decided, than completely falling off.
"You gotta understand, I been in the game 13 years," he says, "and you know most - probably all - of the guys I walked in with are out of the game, and I'm still here being effective, being relevant. You know, that's what makes me most proud of what I'm doing."
Now that Joey might soon find himself leaning back with a Grammy for that track (though he's worried about the competition from Black Eyed Peas' Let's Get It Started), he's feeling the pressure of having to live up to his new status as hitmaker. The heat is on to bring the fire of another summer banger on his sixth solo album, the forthcoming Things Of That Nature.
"It's definitely hard," he says. "Like, I'm almost going crazy. I'm a mad scientist right now, to the point where I'm making songs that'd normally be a Fat Joe single in a second. 'That's not good enough!' And everybody's looking at us like, 'Are you crazy? That's the hottest shit we heard you kick!'"