Bronx natives Fat Joe and Congresswoman Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez hopped on Instagram Live Wednesday night to talk politics, capitalism, covid-19, and hip-hop, joining the trend of mix-and-match celebrities chatting on Live for all to see. Though not as odd as Reese Witherspoon and Offset promoting some Quibi show, Raven Symone and Kiely Williams burying the hatchet, Bernie Sanders and Cardi B shitting on President Trump, or Miley Cyrus and Elizabeth Warren discussing voting rights, the combination of the dude who sang “What’s Love?” and a member of Congress still fits into the weirdness of the covid era perfectly.
The conversation began with Fat Joe asking Ocasio-Cortez off the bat who she’ll be voting for in the general election.
“In November, I’m going to be voting for Joe Biden,” Ocasio-Cortez said. When asked if this was the first time she’s said it, Ocasio-Cortez admitted, “This is the first time I’m saying it declaratively like this.”
Fat Joe called it “breaking news.” It wasn’t, but sure!
“Bernie [Sanders is] your guy, he’s my daughter’s guy,” Fat Joe said. “I love a lot what Bernie has to say... some things, you know, I’m more of a traditional Democrat.”
While he was concerned that Sanders was making promises for change that he couldn’t possibly keep, Fat Joe appreciated Sanders’s stance on Medicare-for-All and that he didn’t take money from special interests. He noted that as an entertainer who works with sponsors, he’s familiar with the pressures of feeling beholden to corporations that give him money to help fund his ventures.
Fat Joe then asked Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, to explain her views on capitalism and “people making money.”
“When we get to a point where we start to prioritize certain profit margins above people’s core rights—like healthcare, their ability to have a living wage... when we pay people less than their ability to live, to have rent, to feed themselves, to send their kids to school—that it is unethical, and there is actually a limit to greed,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez added that this isn’t to say that people shouldn’t strive to have prosperous lives, but rather that some things—like jails, healthcare, a good education—simply should not be for profit.
“What I believe is that we should have an economy that is centered on workers, where workers have control over their lives, where they aren’t being exploited in warehouses,” Ocasio-Cortez said. She pivoted into critiquing the way democratic socialism and capitalism are discussed when Fat Joe cut her off.
“Communism!” Fat Joe yelled. “Nah, nah, AOC, man, I got some DMs, ‘She’s a communist! How you got a communist in here?’ And they’ve been using that word forever in America! But I’ve never really met an American communist!”
Ocasio-Cortez suspects this is due to a deliberate whitewashing.
“Did you know Martin Luther King Jr was a democratic socialist?” Ocasio-Cortez asked. Did you know Albert Einstein was a democratic socialist? Did you know James Baldwin was an anti-capitalist? They don’t teach us our own history!”
“We had over a thousand socialists elected in all different seats in the united states of America about 100 years ago,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “And you know what we had? One of the strongest labor movements. That’s when we started to establish a five day work week, that’s when we got weekends, that’s when we stopped child labor, that’s when we made all these strides. They don’t teach any of that to us in school.”
Fat Joe said that people expect him to be a Republican and vote for President Trump because of his wealth, but that because he cares for his people, he votes Democrat. Still, he considers himself a capitalist and wondered how that squares with empowering the community.
“If not for capitalism, how could you have JLo, who’s a boricua from the Bronx? [Or] A-Rod, who’s a Dominican for Washington Heights?” Fat Joe asked.
Fat Joe touched on a point that I believe troubles a lot of black and brown communities in the United States, particularly those who are lower income. Wealth is a particularly alluring prospect for people who have been otherwise written off or unlikely to rise beyond their social position for classist and racist reasons. So the lifestyle of those who made it—especially high-profile celebrities with similarly humble beginnings—is celebrated in such a way that the figures themselves become heroes in a way that wealthy white people simply do not.
But Ocasio-Cortez warned against this emulation, emphasizing that the strive for prosperity is fine, but the tokenistic way in which people prosper is concerning.
“The way our society is organized right now, you’re going to be an owner or, oftentimes, you’re going to be owned,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That power structure, that relationship, is something I think we should question.”
She added that we should also question why we were born into these conditions and inequities in the first place.
“It’s beautiful what you’ve been able to accomplish in your life, it’s beautiful what JLo and A-Rod... have been able to accomplish in our lives,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “But if it’s just a handful of us, we need to start asking the deeper structural questions. Not ‘how can a couple of us get out of the hood?’ It’s not about that. It’s about how do we make society work for all of us.”
“You know, when I hear you, you’re like a lightning rod,” Fat Joe said. “You’re like a bull.”
The half-hour-long conversation continued, with Ocasio-Cortez relaying what it was like going from bartender to one of the most scrutinized politicians in the country overnight, as well as learning from mistakes she’s made and how it feels to be surrounded by a bunch of old farts in Congress. They also discussed covid-19, and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s potentially fatal decision to re-open the state by Friday. But they ended on a light note
“You’re from the Bronx... your five rappers of all time,” Fat Joe said, assuring her that she didn’t have to include him.
“Imma just say the top five, not in order,” she went on. “Nas. I think Big Pun is up there. Of course we got Biggie. I think Tupac and... the fifth one is so hard… KRS-One.”
“Oooh, that’s a mean starting five,” Fat Joe said. “I like you, man! I didn’t know I’d like you this much, that’s crazy!”
Too bad Instagram Live doesn’t support three-way videos, because a cameo from Remy Ma right then would have been the icing on the cake.