Fat Joe: ‘the Major Label System is a Ponzi Scheme’

Fat Joe has called out music’s major label system, branding it a “Ponzi scheme” as he reflected on his experience in the industry as a rap star.

Joey Crack appeared at the Wall Street Journal‘s The Future of Everything Festival on Thursday (May 4) where he discussed how record labels conduct business, which eventually pushed him to pursue the independent route after a stint with Atlantic Records.

“I don’t believe in these people. For one, I feel like the major label system is a Ponzi scheme and they do funny math,” he explained. “Whenever you try to see something in life, they say numbers don’t lie. If you look at a chart and the numbers are so clear where you could say, ‘The price of this is this, the price of this is this.’

“And then when you look at a chart and they say 62.1 percent 1.2 — it’s funny math. And so we never understood, we never recouped, you know, you had to be like the Fugees who sold 30 million records to make a dollar.”

Joe continued: “I was talking to [Jennifer Lopez] about it and you know, J. Lo is a megastar and she was like, ‘Man, you know these guys, they only give you this. You never recoup, you know.’ So it’s a funny math, right?

“I would have to walk in the office to a guy who didn’t even really understand our art and culture. They just knew how to market and promote and make profit — how to make the most profit. I used to beg him, ‘Are you gonna push my record or you gonna really press the button?’”

The Bronx native eventually left Atlantic and went the independent route in the mid-2000s for his Me, Myself & I 2006 album.

“Then I figured out, ‘Hey, I got money too,’” the “Lean Back” rapper said. “And so I could hire, the number one radio guy, I could hire the number one streaming guy. I could hire the number one video guy — everybody — self-funding all this stuff.”

He added: “I would go on tour for a month or two to Yugoslavia, China anywhere you name and just save all my money and then invest in making the album, making the videos [for] promoting it. And so even though I went independent [with] everything, I kept that same look.”

Fat Joe also recalled a time he realized once again how cutthroat the music biz was when Atlantic replaced a huge poster of him inside their NYC office with T.I. after the trap pioneer outsold his album.

“[Atlantic’s president] tells me in my face, ‘Man, you’re a failure. You only sold a half-a-million. Look at this guy.’ And it was T.I. ‘He sold two million records. He’s the guy.’ Bro, they changed the six-story poster to T.I. so fast,” Joe said.


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