About two weeks ago, Anthony Obi — better known as Fat Tony — released “Wise,” a song about getting racially profiled by Ohio police while touring. When asked for a reason for the traffic stop, one officer actually “said he had a family to feed.” Whatever the hell that means remains a mystery. But a few days later, Fat Tony had happier news: He finally released a much more important song, "Drive-Thru," an ode to Whataburger.
Fat Tony has referenced Texas’s beloved fast-food chain on a few different tracks and even appropriated the chain's logo for his hats and T-shirts. It turns out he was priming us for his latest single. Tony only spent one night on his song about racial profiling. But his track about fast food took years to perfect. His reasoning is sound and the song is no joke.
“I always felt that this song had a lot of potential,” Obi says in a phone interview. He is still on tour opening for The Garden. “Whataburger is something regional that is very special to people from Texas. But fast food is very interesting to me because it’s one thing that we can all agree on.”
If only they had Whataburger in Ohio.
“I saw a picture of Kanye West at a McDonald’s drive-in looking happy as shit,” Obi says.
At first, he wondered why a rich guy would buy fast food. But then he realized it was something that could appeal to anyone regardless of age, income level or background.
“Through this song, I hope that people can get on the same page with at least one topic,” Obi says.
Currently living in Los Angeles, he also enjoys the opportunity to remind everyone he is from Texas.
“I like hearing music that talks about the hometown,” Obi says. “I like hearing Run-D.M.C. songs about White Castle and blink-182 singing about their favorite burrito place in San Diego. I think it just adds to the legacy of artists if they can attach themselves to something that is culturally important to their hometown and, in some ways, much bigger than them.”
He originally planned to release “Drive-Thru” with his Whatatony shirts back in 2015, but it wasn’t completed yet. Over the years, the song went through many different lyrics, melodies and beats. But he eventually decided that the delay was a blessing in disguise. “By the time this song hit, people were already wearing the shirts,” Obi says. “They were already familiar with my affection for Whataburger.
“I really want to leave people with an interesting physical product that is more than the norm,” he continues. “More than just a shirt or a record. A hat can be worn damn near daily. But I am also putting out a magazine next month. I want people to get something that can last a bit longer than what people normally buy at shows.”
Last year Fat Tony and partner Matthew Martinez received an Idea Fund grant funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation. I Found Me is an impressive collection of photographs, essays, interviews and short stories dedicated to Houston’s creative community.
“We took a year off to work on this magazine and we are really proud of it,” Tony says. “It’s really more of a book, to be honest.”
“Drive-Thru” has received enthusiastic responses from his fans, and the Whatatony hats he brought on tour have been sold out for days. The video features comedian Brandon Wardell dancing outside a Burger King, making not-so-subtle references with hot dogs. Meanwhile, Fat Tony gorges on fast food with beautiful women.
Produced by his longtime collaborator, GLDN_EYE (formerly known as Tom Cruz), “Drive-Thru” is synth-heavy but not stripped-down. It has a rich, organic sound, with plenty of musicality. In the lyrics, Fat Tony disses Big Macs, makes his distaste for mayonnaise clear and says that Sonic makes him vomit.
“The humor element is really important to me,” Obi says. “It breaks the ice.”
But it is very clear that he isn’t trying to cross over into parody or goofiness at the expense of his art. He may use humor to drop people’s guards, but his music thoughtfully conveys a wide range of emotions with great sincerity.
Fat Tony even has a thoughtful answer when asked about giving out French fries at shows: “Eating is a fantastic thing we do everyday. It needs to be celebrated instead of just being seen as a chore or daily ritual. And some people like to drink. We don’t want them to leave with an upset stomach.”
Fat Tony comes home to Houston Tuesday, April 25, at Walter's Downtown (1120 Naylor) with The Garden and Moth Wings. Doors open at 7 p.m.; $13-16.
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