Before Fat Joe was leaning back and Instagramming hoes, he was Fat Joe Da Gangsta, snatching chains and decapitating haters with the Diggin’ In The Crates crew. He wasn’t exactly the top spitter of the squad – AG was nicer, Finesse was funnier, and Big L was out of this world – but he knew how to hold his own. Joe got his start after asking fellow neighborhood peer Diamond D for some studio time, and ever since it was a matter of keeping up with the group’s level of talent.

‘Represent’ was a bumpy beginning for Joe. Even though he scored a popular hit with ‘Flow Joe’ and the LP was almost flawlessly produced, the big man couldn’t break out of his own shell. He knew all the right things to say, but that didn’t make it exciting, and when you hear Puba kick more easygoing rhymes or Kool G absolutely annihilate his guest verse, the contrast to Joe is too drastic to deny. Still, ‘Represent’ captured an incredible time for D.I.T.C. in the form of stupefying beats from Diamond, Finesse and Showbiz and satisfying rhymes from Joey Crack.

On his next album ‘Jealous Ones Envy,’ it was ‘Fat Joe’s Way’ or the highway. He spoke about landing a clutch KRS-One guest feature for the intro and how he used that opportunity as a challenge to step his rhymes up to another level. He also mentioned that he would have been ‘extinct,’ given the landscape of Jay-Z, Nas, and Biggie, had he not improved his raps, and so his sophomore LP was made with a chip on his shoulder. That project ended up testing positive for dope with Joe highlighting his ability to hone in on topics like ‘Success,’ ‘Jealousy,’ and ‘Dedication’ before capping it off with a stirring ode to his hometown of the Bronx. He still wasn’t considered a God MC, but he was respected for staying relevant and investing in his own style instead of selling out (at least at that point.)

Joey Fatts is on the other end of his career. Coming out of Long Beach and bubbling with his Cutthroat crew (Vince Staples, A$ton Matthews, SK La Flare), Fatts has proved his weight with production more than his rhymes so far by supplying heatrocks for A$AP Rocky as well as his own team. His voice has a blunt depravity and he’s the kind of rapper that only loves his moms. He eyes out grams of weed and maintains other homegrown loyalties, making him more rooted in his past than geared towards the future. He even recently took to Twitter and likened his own struggle to Kanye’s (the tweets have since been deleted), lamenting about how execs wanted him to stick to producing until they heard his newest project, 'Ill Street Blues,' due out this Spring. To say he faces an uphill battle in proving himself as an outstanding spitter is fair for now.

In fact, Fatts might want to consult with Mr. Cooked Coke Crack, considering Joe wasn’t the greatest rhymer in the world either, yet managed to keep his name alive for over 20 years. After all, Darwin said it isn’t the strongest who survive, but those who best adapt to their surroundings. Even after an up north trip, Joe managed to cause some recent buzz by reconciling with 50 Cent and releasing a new record. If Fatts can find a way to make his style stand out while keeping the quality of his music up, he’s got a shot at relevance.

Until then, we’ll have to go with the original D.I.T.C. Don Dada. Even after many musical adjustments and occasional embarrassments, Fat Joe has still managed to maintain his status as something of a household hip-hop name.  Just pay your taxes, Joe – s—t is real.