In 1999, Ruff Ryders, led by DMX and producer Swizz Beatz, was the hottest crew in hip-hop. (Just think of what G.O.O.D. Music means to hip-hop right now).
However, there were numerous crews on the Ruff Ryders’ tail: The Jay Z led Roc-A-Fella Records, Juvenile’s Cash Money crew and Ja Rule’s Murda INC clique.
There was also another crew that is often forgotten.
Led by Bronx-natives Fat Joe and Big Pun, the crew was unique in hip-hop because all the members were Latin. Terror Squad was on its way to really banging with the likes of Ruff Ryders and Roc-A-Fella until Big Pun died of a heart attack in 2000.
After Pun’s death, Fat Joe carried the flag — this time pushing Remy Ma as the group’s marquee artist — but things wouldn’t ever really be the same (even though 2004’s “Lean Back” is one of the biggest hip-hop songs ever).
So what went wrong?
Why didn’t a crew that included talented acts like Prospect and Tony Sunshine pop like it should have?
Maybe you’ll get a clue by reading up on the members of the Terror Squad.
Scroll down, check it out.
Even though Fat Joe had minor success as a rapper — “Flow Joe” off of his debut album, Fat Joe Da Gangsta, was a street anthem — Terror Squad, as a crew and label didn’t really getting popping until Joe found Big Pun. Joe met Pun, who used the name Big Moon Dawg at the time, rapping in the Bronx. Hearing that he could spit, Joe put him on “Watch Out,” off his Jealous Ones Envy album.
Pun would play the background for awhile, then 1997 hit and he dropped “I’m Not a Player,” a song that would go to number three on the rap charts.
In 1998, Pun released Capital Punishment and the album was a huge success: the LP would go platinum and he would get nominated for a Grammy (losing to rival Jay Z and his Hard Knock Life album).
You know how with Cash Money Birdman plays the role of the leader while Lil Wayne plays the role of the lead artist? Terror Squad had the same kind of situation: Joe was clearly the leader, while Pun was the one everyone wanted, appearing on almost every relevant rap album from ’98 to 2000.
With success, however, came more problems: Pun’s issues with his weight are legendary. He was 400 pounds when Capital Punishment came out. His weight would balloon to nearly 800 pounds by 1999. And even though he made an effort to lose weight (he would brag on “It’s So Hard:” “I lost 100 pounds…I’m trying to live!”) Pun would die of a heart attack on February 8, 2000. He was only 28 years old.
Throughout the early ’90s, Fat Joe was known more for his rep then his lyrical prowess (urban legend has it Fat Joe once yolked up Masta Ace in a club after the two traded shots on magazine and song). However, when Pun came out, the Bronx rapper brought Joe respectability as far as his music goes. J.O.E. and Don Cartagena are two outstanding albums.
When Pun died, Joe took over the reigns and he actually held things down. “We Thuggin,'” featuring R. Kelly, was a huge smash, which led to J.O.S.E. going platinum in 2001. Things seemed to reach a peak for Joe in 2004 when he released the Remy Ma-featured “Lean Back,” which was a smash hit.
However, True Story, the Terror Squad compilation album the song was featured on, bricked.
Slowly, Joe would stray from the Terror Squad brand and focus on his solo career. Occasionally he would throw a Rob Cash or a Mike Beck (R.I.P.) on a song, but Terror Squad, by the late 2000s, was pretty much Fat Joe.
It was well established that Cuban Link was the second most gifted rapper after Pun (this was before Remy Ma really established herself in rap circles). Cuban Link’s first major look came on The Beatnuts’ “Watch Out now,” which featured him rapping alongside Pun.
When Pun passed, Cuban was expected to be the next in line. It didn’t work out that way. “Still Telling Lies,” his first single, was released to little fanfare.
Cuban would leave the crew, but not peacefully. Cuban and Fat Joe would start beefing and things would hit the streets.
In 2001, Fat Joe got into a fight with Sunkist, a Bronx rapper who was friends with Pun, and during the melee, Cuban Link would get his face slashed, forever killing any opportunity for peace between him and Joe.
Over the years, Cuban has released a number of independent rap projects. For a while he was rumored to star in some kind of Scarface sequel. Thank God, that film never got developed.
Unlike Cuban Link, who would stay with Terror Squad for another year or so, Triple Seis left the crew right away. After leaving, Triple would mostly stay underground, releasing his first album, Only Time’ll Tell, in 2004. Over the years he would star in a number of low budget films Narx and Da Curse. Supposedly, he has an album coming out this year called THE UNDERDAWG.
Unlike Cuban Link and Triple Seis, Prospect would stick around for a couple of years, appearing on Fat Joe and Terror Squad projects. However, Prospect would never really be able to make any mark, and over the years his appearances would be less and less frequent, until he was just gone.
In an interview a couple of years back, Armageddon said that Prospect was just flat out “lazy.”
Armageddon was actually the first rapper Fat Joe tried to put on. However, despite being by Joe’s side for more than 10 years, Armageddon would never release a solo album under the Terror Squad umbrella, always playing the sidekick role. Armageddon would eventually leave Joe and Terror Squad in 2009 and try to launch his rap career on his own.
Tony Sunshine had been with Terror Squad since he was 13-years-old, when he met Joe. Tony first became established for all the vocals he laid on Big Pun’s sophomore album, Yeeeah Baby. He would also play a crucial role on the True Story album. But, and stop if you heard this story already, Tony would never be able to get his solo R&B project going, despite releasing a number of singles over the years. In 2008, he officially left the crew and Tony went right at Joe’s neck, claiming that the rapper still owed him money.
Over the years, the other somewhat success story Joe can say he had was Remy Ma. She first appeared on the scene in late 1999, spitting a mean verse with Pun on the radio and then appearing on a solo cut on Yeeeah Baby the next year.
She would rock by Joe’s side for years, releasing her somewhat successful debut album There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story in 2006.
Things would go downward from there. Remy ended up leaving Terror Squad soon after and she started beefing with Joe, claiming that she was never paid right for her years of service. In 2008, Remy would get convicted of shooting another woman in the stomach.
She is expected to be released in 2015.