Fat Joe Weighs In On Being The Next Overweight Lover MC

Rapper continues to climb up from the underground with 'What's Luv?'

One of New York's newest hotspots, the Brooklyn Cafe, is reminiscent of legendary hip-hop club the Tunnel. Sunday night is the jump-off in this virtual thug's paradise, and just behind its doors visitors will find all they need to get hype — basslines from the latest rap jams and hotties loving life on the dance floor.

This weekend Fat Joe was the star of the festivities as he and his Terror Squad took to the stage. And although he got everybody amped by taking it to the streets with hardcore tracks like "My Lifestyle," it was his current heavy rotators that stirred the biggest frenzy.

"We got like 3,000 spins before going for [radio] adds," Joe said last week, amazed at the success of his new single, "What's Luv?" featuring Ashanti. "Somebody likes me. I paid dues going on nine years. It feels good. It feels like we're having a victory parade. I don't know how radio's embracing me like that, but I guess that's my destiny. I'm just gonna continue to bring you hits and hope that radio and video [outlets] keep embracing like they are. This is what I'm in it for. I'm not in it to be an underground rapper. I'm in it to sell millions of records."

Although he's had marginal airplay in the past, Joe has always relied on abyssal street cred to get him over. It wasn't until last year, when he dropped the R. Kelly-assisted "We Thuggin'," from his Jealous Ones Still Envy LP (2001), that he became a viable radio commodity.

"You could take it both ways," he said. "At one point I was just making straight-up gangsta hardcore records where I wouldn't advise them to play it on the radio. Then I started making joints that the masses could get involved in. You start hearing one, then another one, then another one. Then we came with 'We Thuggin' ' and it was like [they said], 'Lets do it. Joe found a way to work his way into it.' "

He said he hopes "What's Luv?" pushes him over the top into that overweight lover category of MC made popular by Heavy D.

The video for "What's Luv?" is "real sexy," Joe said. The clip stars Maia Campbell ("In the House") and takes from the movie "Love & Basketball." "Yeah, Hev put it down for all the big men. Of course Biggie [followed], then Pun. [In] this video, I'm smothered with beautiful women. Ashanti looks beautiful in the video. It was a nice thing."

Joe said that like the video, the track itself was an enjoyable team effort.

"This song was like a jigsaw puzzle," he explained. "The first one with R. Kelly ('We Thuggin' ') was like, I picked the beat, I did my rhymes, he did the chorus. I helped him with the bridge. This one ('What's Luv?') was like a three-way tie: Ja Rule came up with the chorus, I came up with the rhymes, [Irv] Gotti came up with the beat. There were so many elements to this, where everybody wanted this to be something crazy."

What is really crazy was watching Joe slow-grind with a fan he brought onstage just before his set ended at 3 a.m.

"Bottom line, I'm a fat ni---," he told the crowd. "I'm about to pass out. Let me do my dance."

As he wound his hips to the sounds of R. Kelly's "Feelin' On Yo Booty," it was clear his dreams were coming to fruition — he's a hugable gangsta.

"We just need more fat sex symbols out there," he said.