Puerto Rican survivors are in dire need of assistance after facing the wrath of two historic tropical storms, Irma and Maria.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma’s massive destruction, much of the Caribbean was left with collapsed lines, roofless homes, overturned vehicles, extreme flooding, mudslide, and an overall terrifying landscape. Puerto Rico became a safe haven, offering relief to its neighboring territories — until category 4 Hurricane Maria pounded the American island, too. Presently, 3.5 million fellow citizens are fending for themselves throughout nearly apocalyptic conditions in Puerto Rico.
The highly submerged Isla del Encanto (Island of Enchantment) is estimated to be left without power for as long as 6 months, making it practically impossible for natives to communicate with their loved ones on the mainland, and beyond. Also heartbroken by the devastation surrounding his people is Puerto Rican rapper Fat Joe.
Billboard chatted with the emcee on his efforts to unite communities for donations, provide urgent necessities for those affected, and his most beloved memories in Puerto Rico. Join Fat Joe’s call for action below.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused much devastation, what is your message to people throughout the Caribbean?
I tell them to keep their faith in God. Keep strong! Help is definitely on its way. We are going to do whatever we can — by any means necessary, to make sure our people get help. TIDAL X, we’re doing a benefit concert on October 17th. The proceeds will go to Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and the [rest of the] Caribbean.
A bunch of artists came together for charity. We know we can’t do enough. This weather really devastated the whole Caribbean. Puerto Rico has no power. No phones, just floods. It feels like Puerto Rico will never be the same. If they can get this message, the message would be “We won’t stop until we help everybody.”
Do you have loved ones in Puerto Rico, and have you been able to get in contact with them?
Yes, I have a bunch of family in Puerto Rico. We have been able to get in contact with most of them, but I have an aunt in Ponce, and we can’t get in touch with her. My father is really stressed out — it’s crazy. I have a reggaeton rapper, he’s one of my best friends, his name is Tempo. I keep calling him and calling him, but it keeps going straight to voicemail. We got a lot of family and friends in Puerto Rico that we keep trying to get in touch with.
Many celebrities such as Daddy Yankee, Marc Anthony, and Gina Rodriguez have called out for assistance in Puerto Rico. How will you give back?
Man! I already started locally by purchasing containers. We’re going to do a big food and battery drive in the Bronx. The Bronx president Ruben Diaz Jr. [will join] September 30th. After we collect everything, we will send it over there in containers. I am trying to arrange a benefit of my own, where people can come donate and take part in history. We’re rebuilding Puerto Rico. It’s almost like I’m an octopus right now. I’m trying to do it from a local level and [expand to an even] bigger level. I’m working on so many scenarios right now.
What is your fondest memory on the island?
Every time I’ve been to the island, it has been special for me — especially Christmas time. Going to everybody’s house, knocking on everybody’s door to wake them up. They cook for you, then you go to the next person’s house. That’s probably the most fun experience. That’s my roots, that is where my family comes from. I’m going to do everything we can do to help the people of Puerto Rico. Now, and not just a couple of months from now. Years from now we are going to help Puerto Rico. This is going to be a long process.
President Trump said Puerto Rico was “absolutely obliterated,” and that he plans to visit the island. He made no mention of a date. However, what course of action do you expect from him?
There are 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico. So, just like we’re quick to go everywhere else and help, we expect that same of America for Puerto Rico. These are U.S. citizens! I can’t single out Mr. Trump. America needs to help Puerto Rico. We need to really focus on Puerto Rico. It is the U.S., and although we want to help everybody in the world — ‘cause we constantly help, we want to make sure our people get treated as Americans.
What are your thoughts on Puerto Ricans being granted statehood?
This ain’t a political thing for me. This is about my people. This is about humanity. This is about helping them. You know? Some people have their beliefs, others have theirs. What I do know is, we are U.S. citizens. I would really hope that they take that serious — that they come help our people on the island.
Who are your musical influences from Puerto Rico?
Héctor Lavoe, I’m looking at him right now. I have a painting of him in my Miami house. Héctor Lavoe is the greatest of all time. Marc Anthony is the second greatest.
What is your vision for the evolution of musical genres throughout the Caribbean?
I don’t even know. What I can tell you is that for Puerto Rico being such a small island, it has culturally impacted the entire world. This little island makes you think of J Lo, Marc Anthony, and baseball players. When you think of the reggaeton genre, hitting all over central America, Europe, and everywhere — coming out of one island [it speaks volumes.] We’ve given a lot of people a lot of happiness. We’re just looking for people to help us, ‘cause 1 million percent, we can’t do it on our own as Puerto Ricans.
Do you have a favorite memory with your music on the island?
I was scared to fly for a long time. I was representing what we call the Nuyoricans, all over the world. And, when I finally flew into Puerto Rico, it was a big deal. [The venue] was over capacity. Plus, there were people pouring out into the street. That would be my best time musically. When I performed, I had everybody there. Ivy Queen, Daddy Yankee, whoever, whoever! Everybody was in the place, and it was an amazing feeling.