For the past three years, Fat Tony has reigned over his section of Houston's underground rap scene like goddamn Pol Pot (minus the dead Cambodians, duh; read a book, suckas). This, of course, is a curious situation, because he only released his debut LP, RABDARGAB, two days ago.
There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss this album's importance relative to the local hip-hop scene in the coming days - which will absolutely be done, in both macro and micro terms - but at the moment, only one thing need be done: Pick apart each song so as to weigh the album's listenability so as to decide whether or not it sucks.
Tony is promoting the album in New York this week, but fortunately he bothered to take a break between shows to offer some firsthand insight on several of the songs. His comments are in bold, our firsthand assumptions and speculations are not.
"Nigga, You Aint Fat"
Ostensibly about why his name is Fat Tony, this song scratches at quite a bit more substance. The best part of the song: When he likens people asking him why he calls himself "Fat Tony" to other equally irrelevant questions ("What's my favorite color car?"). He is in no finer form than on the second verse here. Listen to it. And remember it.
"Rap Babies" feat. Tom Cruz
Tony: Tom Cruz is a beast. He was one of my favorite rappers in Supreeme and even has his own solo album called Top Gun coming out.
Indeed, Cruz gives the best verse on the entire album here. He even bests blog-favorite Murs (which was only mildly surprising). That means that you've got the best overall verse on the album followed immediately by the best guest verse on the entire album, followed immediately by the smartest song on the album. Speaking off...
"Luv It, Mayne"
Probably the smartest song on the album. It pays homage to Tony's Houston upbringing, but does so from two steps away and always with a certain "That's What I Hear, Anyway" quality. Everything is always "My uncle tells me this" and "My uncle tells me that." It's obvious, but it's also not obvious, which is kind of a neat little trick that Tony keeps up for the duration of the album; whether he does so on purpose or not isn't important, though it probably was on accident, which is certainly appropriate.
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"Lotus" is the weakest song on the album. It's very clearly an older call-up from his catalog. Tony's new stuff seems to be identified by that humming flow of his, the one that sounds like he might be laying down when he's recording it. It sounds more confident, even though it's doing less. On "Lotus," it sounds the opposite of that. It's not terrible, but it stands out as not being as laser-focused as the rest of the album. Naturally, this will be a bunch of people's favorite song.
There's a Rambo reference in there, which is never not good. And the five spot on an album is usually one where rappers put a song that's just piecing the album's first third and the beginning of the third third together. It does that well. The most interesting part of it - and this is completely unsubstantiated - but it sounds like it was recorded right at the very beginning of the point where Tony began evolving into the MC he eventually became today.
"Put It In The Air"
This is a truncated version of the conversation we had about this one:
Rocks Off: First question: put what in the air?
Fat Tony: The smoke from the marijuana cigarette. Or just hold up the blunt itself as a gift to the gods of weed smoking.
RO: That line, is it some sort of grand metaphor?
Fat Tony: No, no, no, no. Fuck a metaphor.
Here's why that's excellent, and the single most poignant point of the album: This album is, as Tony has become fond of saying, is a testament to his adolescence: Weed, women, drunkenness, music, latent braggadocio, overt braggadocio, dic-grabbing, etc. etc. And that only sounds mildly interesting, because adolescents rarely say anything insightful on purpose. But indirectly, they say insightful things all the time - the entire "Home" song is one great big metaphor, even though he never intended for it to be (which is sort of the point).
"Fuck Yall Niggas"
Tony: That's my short, quick rap, hot-beat type of song like "Rewind" on Nas' Stillmatic or "Hova Song" on Jay-Z Vol. 3 or "Description" on De La Soul's 3 Feet High.
This one is cool, mostly because it sounds like he just said to himself, "You know what, fuck it. I'm getting it in this time." Also, the "fuck y'all" refrain that's paired with the horns, that's fly. Producer Tom Cruz sampled himself for that line, proof positive that he was bred to produce Houston rapper music. Only Lil' Keke is supposed to try shit like that.
Tony: Tom Cruz is Jamerican and makes a lot of reggae solo songs and just produced an album for Cen'C Love (Bunny Wailer's daughter). And he loves Nintendo and used to make video-game music for fun. That's my favorite beat on the album, along with "Luv it, Mayne" and "Rap Babies."
See the "Put It In the Air" notes.
When asked why this one, a soulful R&B sample, and "Nigga, You Ain't Fat" are so different from the rest of the album, Tony said, "Just wanted to diversify the sounds on the album. That song is kinda selfish, basically about being a single guy just tryna get his fuck on but the girl sees more in him."
Tony: They're ["Not Now" and "My Babe"] parallels. "My Babe" is a very genuine* love song. Both represent common young relationships.
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*This is absolutely noticeable.
"Wake Up, World"
It's curious that Tony' goes the whole entire album without remarking on how awesome he thinks himself to be - save for a line about a kid from Princeton sending him a letter saying as much in a separate song - and then just blasts everyone for not noticing it. Then he just closes the door and leaves.
It's exactly the type of thing a twentysomething kid raised on melodramatic TV programming would do; that he does so willingly is quite clever.