Things are different. Like, REAL DIFFERENT. Except some things are the same, mostly.
The last time Fat Tony released an album, it was 2010. He'd become a beloved underground performer -- cool, clever, handsome, fun to watch perform, etc. -- but his arms hadn't yet extended out too much further than the Beltway. He was Houston's own, but only because he was still owned by Houston.
Last year, Overweight Anthony moved. He packed up his African-y windbreakers and "I Am Third Ward" T-shirt and traveled west, landing in L.A. with producer/rapper cohort Tom Cruz (who was responsible for creating debut album RABDARGAB's soundscape).
For a lot of people, things weren't much different. He was still very visible on Twitter and on the spaces that covered him before he left and on the shows he's played before. The only thing that seemed evidence of his new Zip code was the dwindling frequency of his performances, which in retrospect had already begun to taper off months prior to his exit.
But then he released Double Dragon. And holy fuck. It could not be more different.
There are similarities between DD and RABDARGAB, but they're almost all incidentally (technically, it's still the same guy; he's probably wearing the same kind of shoes; things like that).
Where RABDARGAB opted to float around in the cosmos, to rattle around in the base of your brain, DD announces its presence with a noticeable confidence, frontal lobe flexing.
A million things will be said about the album's 8-Bit bite, and with good reason; it is utilized as creatively as any rapper ever has. But the reason DD is so enjoyable, so undeniably smart, is because there are no fundamental compromises made for creativity's sake.
He unironically raps the bar, "I'm a fetus/ Damn, I can't believe this/ Came from the nuts right out my daddy's penis," showing off a polished, more effective version of that droning, stream-of-conscious flow that earned him seemingly unanimous praise.
He builds an entire song around drinking Guinness and wearing denim, sounding singularly focused and preoccupied with nothing else on planet Earth (if there was a regular criticism of RABDARGAB, it was that, on occasion, he appeared concerned with what he was going to do or say next). He shares space with Bun B, after much mutual public courtship between the two following the release of RABDARGAB, and running mate Murs, who gives a full-hearted effort this time around.
He hat tips Houston without anxiety, starting off a song with a screwed "Southside" sample, then peppering it in more and more along the way. What's more, he's doing so on a song about attempting to sleep with someone's wife; you can connect the pieces between moving from Houston to L.A. and infidelity and how that all might be related.
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Double Dragon is a California fresh (tinged?), unforgiving, inspired album. It doesn't sound like anything Fat Tony has ever done. It's different. But it's really good. And that's the same as it's ever been.