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By Nate Burleson, CBS News | Before the platinum hit records, Grammy Award nomination and acclaim, Fat Joe was Joseph Antonio Cartagena from the Bronx. In his new memoir, “The Book of Jose,” he details the toll of his upbringing, mental health and becoming a rapper.

He described his childhood to CBS News as beautiful, saying, “We didn’t have nothing. We didn’t have no money. We grew up on welfare. We grew up in the projects but we didn’t know what we were missing.”

Born in New York City’s South Bronx to Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, Cartegena said he struggled to fit in as an overweight kid with blonde hair and green eyes. He recalled getting beat up “every single day” while growing up.

In an excerpt from “The Book of Jose,” Cartegena explained how his reality impacted him.

“I sat in my bedroom with hatred festering,” he wrote. “My heart turned black. I no longer cared about anybody. I wanted to inflict as much violence and fear as I could on anyone who stood in my path. It didn’t matter whether they were good or bad.”

He recalled patrolling neighborhoods in the 1980s, which included robbing and intimidating community members.

“When I pray at night to God or I give back to the community, I don’t know if I can make up for the pain I gave to the community,” Cartegena said.

But nonetheless, the rapper said he “was a great kid” who would have perhaps become a doctor, lawyer or pastor had he grown up under different circumstances.

“I came with a pure heart, with a good heart,” he said. “It was the streets and the environment that changed me into that person.”

By the early 1990s, Cartegena’s skill with the mic was starting to break through and he began spending more time in the recording studio with his first hit in 1993, “Flow Joe.” He said he had “changed [his] life completely to get in the music business,” drawing on early advice he received at the time from rapper LL Cool J.
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Hear Why Rapper Fat Joe Struggled With Suicidal Thoughts

Video story, CNN | Rapper Fat Joe joined CNN This Morning to talk about his memoir “The Book of Jose,” in which he candidly discusses his struggle with bullying and mental health.

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