AGE: 34
HOMETOWN: The Bronx, N.Y.
LATEST HIT: The smash "Lean Back"

•Rock the night away:
At August's MTV Video Music Awards, Fat Joe had the crowd—from Sean Combs to Bruce Willis—out of their seats to "do the Rockaway/ now lean back, lean back." "I couldn't really see everybody," says Joe, who performed the No. 1 hit off his Terror Squad's album True Story. 'When I went home and I saw the repeat, I was like, 'Oh my God.' Bruce Willis, you know!"

•Mr. Big:
"I've always been called Fat Joe. I've always been fat," says the rapper born Joseph Cartagena, who started rhyming at 12 and got signed at 19 under his lifelong nickname. "I've lost weight recently," says Joe, who's dropped to about 300 lbs. by running on the treadmill and going the low-carb route. "It's hard for a Puerto Rican. No rice and beans." If the weight goes, would the name? "Never."

•In the house:
In 2000, Joey from the block moved to the burbs in New Jersey. "I'm in the street all the time, in dangerous environments," says Joe. (In fact, he recently responded to a subpoena by authorities about a 1994 murder in which a friend was charged, though his lawyer says he "was not an eyewitness.") "I need to go home to peace and quiet." But when his house was featured on MTV Cribs, "it became like the 'inspiration point' of the neighborhood, so I had to get out." Joe—who has two kids, Joe Jr., 11, and Ryan, 9—and his fiancée, Lorena Rios, 29, now split time between Miami and a different house in New Jersey.

•Fast-forward:
Joe will have a solo CD, Things of That Nature, out in November. After "Lean Back," another single will be "Get Up." Any other orders for his fans? "Wow, I didn't even think about it like that," he says. "Sit down!"