It’s no secret that Fat Joe’s “Lean Back” dance move was heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall culture.
Fat Joe shed some light on one of his biggest hit song and the famous dance at the 2022 BET Hip Hop Awards last week. The NY rapper explained that when he was making the track, Jamaican music was on the ascendancy in New York. It was the vibe of this music, which most likely would have been dancehall, that got him thinking that he needed a track “to rockaway, lean back,” to.
While creating the track, he decided that he should make a dance for it, and it was then that he knew he had a track that would go the distance. “We knew off rip, that thing was outta here. Every now and then you make a song that’s like, ‘Oh no, this is gone. This is outta here.’ Yeah that was it,” Fat Joe told Hiphopdx.
The track, which features Fat Joe with Remy Ma on the second verse, went on to top the US Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, starting on August 21, 2004. It also topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart for seven weeks.
Globally the song was very successful for the Terror Squad leader reaching the top 20 in several markets, including peaking at No. 5 in Denmark. It remains one of Fat Joe’s most successful tracks to date, as it was certified gold in the US and silver in the UK. It also helped to take the Bronx native to places that he didn’t previously envision as well.
Fat Joe touched on one thing that came about because of the popular song, which he believes gave comedic rockstar Kevin Hart one of his big breaks. Fat Joe reveals that while on set for his cameo in 2003’s Scary Movie 3, he met Kevin Hart and found him hilarious. Hart was more of an extra at the time, but his jokes stood out, Fat Joe recalls. That’s why he chose to cast him in the “Lean Back” video.
“Then like two weeks later, I shot ‘Lean Back’ and I called him up. I said, ‘Remember the little funny guy? Let’s get him in the video.’ So he came in ‘Lean Back’ and that was his first big moment. Scary Movie made that all happen,” he added.
The origin of the dance has been disputed though. While Fat Joe said the inspiration came to him through inspiration, according to writer, radio host, and public speaker Bee Quammie it was she who gave him the direct inspiration for the dance back in December 2019.
She claimed that she snuck into a Club Bed in Miami when she was underage, and as she was dancing during the reggae set, Fat Joe asked her to teach him the dance. Using Twitter, she said that the dance was called the “Rockaway” and that Joe recorded “Lean Back” the following week.
A user asked her if she thought that the “All the Way Up” rapper owed her some cash for the inspiration, to which she replied: “He owes Jamaica money! I remember this ’cause I was a kid and Jamaicans were furious and I think a few artists made songs about it too.”
A year later, in 2020, Elephant Man also said that he was the creator of the Rockaway dance and that Fat Joe stole his moves for the Lean Back. He made that claim on Magnum’s Spice It Up talk show.
“Fat Joe come and take rockaway, him no know weh it come from,” he said.
The instructions for the Rockaway dance move featured prominently on Elephant Man’s 2003 release “Blase.”