By Dan Weiss
Single Again is where Dan Weiss investigates chart hits of the past and present, their stories, what they meant and how good they really are.
For this edition of Single Again, Radio.com spoke to R&B singer Joe about the 1998 smash hit “Still Not a Player,” a remix combining the late rap legend Big Pun’s “I’m Not a Player” with Joe’s “Don’t Wanna Be a Player.” Joe’s new single, “Love & Sex Pt. 2,” with Kelly Rowland is out now, and his upcoming album Bridges arrives later this year.
Radio.com: Who first hatched the idea to combine your song “Don’t Wanna Be a Player” with Pun’s “I’m Not a Player?”
Joe: That was actually Terror Squad, you know, Fat Joe and Big Pun. It happened to be I had the song out first, and Pun a short time after released a song that was similar to that. They had an idea about merging the two songs together, and when I first heard it, I was like, “Wow, it’s a nice record.” But I didn’t know it was gonna be a big song until it was already out, and everyone was saying like, “Yeah man, you got one now.”
How much of a hand did you have in writing the new version?
Oh man, I didn’t have to really do anything. I just added in the “Boricua” and those things at the end, but other than that it was just mine with new verses.
Where did you get the idea to do the “Boricua” chant at the end?
Well that was Terror Squad again. Those guys added in, you know, the idea to merge. Because I’m sitting here thinking about doing the video at the same time, while we’re doing this whole thing. And we came up with this idea where I go into the all-Latino dance club and he goes in the all-black club. So that idea comes from those guys from the beginning.
Was there anything you disagreed with when they were reworking it?
Oh no, not at all. Not at all. For me being an R&B guy, it was an important thing to be also connected to hip-hop. I loved the record even though I had no idea it would become that big. So no, I had no disagreements with it.
Did you already know Pun personally or did you first meet when you were working on the song?
Nah, that was the first time. I was a fan of another song he had out [“I’m Not a Player”]. I knew the sample from “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love)” [by the O’Jays] and he just ripped it.
What struck you as different about him?
He kind of reminded me of Biggie. Obviously with his size, but his flow was just so unique on that record. His timing on the song, the way he flowed was just very different, and he was really clear.
And like Biggie he was so funny, the stuff he gets away with. The “six rulers” line and everything.
Yeah well, you know. [laughs] That’s hip-hop.
Did you ever have a chance to see if he had a gift for flirting or picking up women at all, like on the video set?
Ah well…we won’t really get into all that. We’re gentlemen, we don’t really talk about behind the stage stuff. But it was a fun video and we met lots of women and people. It was a nice day.
I guess I should rephrase…was the song true to reality?
“I’m not a player, I just crush a lot?” [laughs] You know, I really can’t say. I don’t think it went that far.
Did you have plans to work with him again before he died?
I would’ve loved to. I’ve worked with other artists, Donnell Jones, [Peter Mardsen] and made good records with them. But he was a guy who still moved on his way, and he was still feeling about in the game. And he understood how to make records as well. So it was a huge loss.
What’s your favorite line of Pun’s in the song?
“Since I found Joe/ Every pretty, round, brown…” well, you know.
Whose idea was it to change the radio-ready version to “crush a lot?”
Well of course, with Joe we’re always on the same page. And you have to understand radio stations don’t let you say things like that if you want them to play your record.
Yeah, it’s one of those weird moments where the clean version becomes more well-known than the album version.
Are you surprised at what a classic the song’s become over the last 15 years?
Yeah, I really am. It’s great for me because I still get to perform the song with my verse and everybody loves it. But it’s a fun record to do, and one of the biggest records of my career.
Do you have any other stories about Pun that you can tell me?
Well, I remember I think it was Rochester or maybe Rhode Island, and we had a show. I think they put us together because the song was so huge. We didn’t normally do shows together. I think it was one of those summer festivals. And I hear this voice backstage, as I’m singing, it’s like a voice singing along, but it’s messing everything up. And I got really, really upset, because I’m thinking someone’s trying to sabotage my show. So I made a comment into the mic, like, “don’t get it twisted.” Come to find out it’s my man Pun, and he’s trying to sing along but he’s got his mic on real loud. So you know, he was a big jokester.
You have a new single out with Kelly Rowland, “Love & Sex Pt. 2,” and an album coming out later this year. How did it go working with her?
Phenomenal. Phenomenal. She’s one the premier artists today. My hat is off to her because she came in and made a great record. Very classy, very elegant, but today. When it comes to African-American music, she’s a creative genius.
What kind of things do the songs on your upcoming album Bridges deal with?
It’s the story of love and sex. Without love, sex is really not gonna last. This is my message since day one, since putting albums out. So I’m just gonna keep rolling with that.