On August 10th veteran rapper Fat Joe surprised fans by announcing a new project titled, What Would Big Do 2021? with none other than prominent mixtape DJ, DJ Drama. Following the announcement, the next day, the Bronx-bred emcee and his team flooded social media with the track list. Executive produced by longtime collaborators, Cool & Dre, the 9-track album, included a list of dope features from Remy Ma, Ceelo Green, Lil Yachty, French Montana, Sevyn Streeter, and others. 

Prior to the release, Fat Joe delivered two moderately successful singles, “Sunshine,” which was produced by internet sensation Amorphous, and “Back Outside” featuring Remy Ma. What Would Big Do 2021? marked the 11th studio project from the “Lean Back” rapper and offered an old school, heavily sampled, Miami, feel-good summer vibe. The project’s nod to the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. can be credited to Joey’s lyrical muscle over R&B influenced soulful production which caters directly to the ladies. On select tracks he flips some of B.I.G’s most popular lyrics. 

Released across all streaming platforms on Friday, August 13th to mostly positive reviews across hip-hop sites and on social media, as of today (August 23), the project is no longer accessible on Apple Music, Tidal, or Spotify, and Fat Joe, Cool & Dre, or DJ Drama have yet to explain why, or even acknowledge the project’s removal. Fans have begun to demand answers.

What Would Big Do 2021? is arguably one of Fat Joe’s most cohesive project to date. The project includes replay worthy tracks and Joe sounds quite comfortable throughout bringing his infectious, boastful NY energy. The “Intro” feat. CeeLo Green, “Michael,” “Diamonds,” “Babyface,” feat. Seven Streeter, and “Sunshine” are all standout potential chart-topping hits that solidifies the rapper’s longevity in hip-hop. In addition to Joey’s attention grabbing wordplay and smooth cadence, the projects production is quite impressive. Led by Cool & Dre, producers Bongo By The Way, 808-Ray, Amorphous, Dj Khaled, and The Mercenaries all bring something valuable to the table whether its the heavy-knocking 808’s, creative sample chops, or various drum patterns. 

We spoke with Skates Beats of The Mercenaries, a hip-hop producer collective from Raleigh, NC who are signed to Cool & Dre’s Epidemic Music Group. The talented producer provided some insight on the disappearance of What Would Big Do 2021? When asked what happened to the project, he said the following:

Of the nine songs, two of them were singles that were already out [“Sunshine” and “Back Outside”], so they just put them on the project. You can still hear those two songs. Unfortunately, Cool and Dre could not get clearance on any of the samples. So the plan was to put the project out and roll the dice anyway to see what happens with the numbers. If the number go up, then these labels are gonna want to get paid.Out of the other seven songs, we [The Mercenaries] did four of the seven songs, and we knew what we were sampling was not going to get cleared–like we were sampling Prince and Michael. The whole project was only up for four or five days and then they had to take it all down. That’s why you can’t find it–its gone. 

There was a time in hip-hop history where artists were able to sample any record without penalty, whether obscure or contemporary. There is an art to sampling and by the early 90’s it became a huge component of hip-hop’s sonic landscape. During the lawless days of sampling, recycling classic Jazz, funk or R&B jams was an affordable (and also creative) way to make a beat. It wasn’t until hip-hop achieved global success that record labels saw an opportunity to cash in on the reuse of music, even if it was just the cadence. Artist like A Tribe Called Quest, Biz Markie, The Beastie Boys and De La Soul all have experienced what its like to get sued for unauthorized usage of someone else’s sounds. Almost thirty years later the music industry has a clear understanding of what constitutes as sampling and what doesn’t, and there are strict costly guidelines set in place to gain permission. According to Skates, the veteran executive hip-hop producers did make an attempt to get all samples cleared. “Oh they tried. The “Michael” track with Nefertiti, she was the demo. [Cool & Dre] were trying to put Doja Cat on there and just have her rap Nefertiti’s verse. But because they didn’t get the track cleared, they didn’t go through with pursuing Doja Cat, they just put the demo on their and mixed the record,” he said. There are a number of reasons besides monetary that a label or artist’s estate deny sample clearance requests. Prior to his passing, the legendary Prince was known to deny all sample requests. 

By many accounts, What Would Big Do 2021? further proves how underrated Fat Joe is. He put together a dream team that included a dope ass DJ with a track record of one of hip-hop’s most iconic mixtape series, two grammy-nominated executive super-producers, talented newcomers like Amorphous and The Mercenaries, and a list of perfectly fitting features from some of the cultures most talented vocalists. One could only imagine the possibilities if every sampled was cleared. 

For now, fans can still listen to the album in its entirety (except for the Prince sampled track) on YouTube and Datpiff.com 

Listen to “Sunshine” and “Back Outside” below. 

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