“This is my first time really coming back to Texas and playing shows in a big way after a lot of time at home. I wanted to make it more of a blow out,” says Tony of his 8th Wonder performance. He also wanted to squeeze some more low-key fun into the weekend with his DJ set at Wonky Power, considering the busy weekend as a “warm up” for his upcoming fall tour.
“I’m calling it ‘Club Exotica’ cause it's all about having fun, it's just a groove. I want to have a fun, safe party for all my old friends, family and fans. Something where we can come together, dance outside and just feel good after a lot of hurt and a lot of waiting around.”
Club Exotica visitors are asked to make an optional $5 donation which will be used to fund Tony’s fall tour with Cadence Weapon which will bring the two to White Oak Music Hall on October 13.
Fat Tony is known for his ability to melt various influences and genres not only in his music but also his high energy DJ sets where only he can smoothly transition from the country classic “Neon Moon” to the hip-hop jam “Blow The Whistle.”
“I feel like all music has a place with each other and there's a way to thoughtfully string it all together,” says Tony describing his DJ style. “I’m not trying to do anything jarring when I go from genre to genre. I always make sure the transition is tasteful and has a purpose whether it's playing on lyric, sample or beat from the previous song. I'm trying to give you something that is varied, but sensible.”
Regardless of whether he is using other people's songs or his own to communicate with the audience, Tony’s style, much like Houston itself, pulls from many different genres to create a beautiful mashup of sounds and stories.
When asked to describe the difference between spinning for a DJ set and hitting the stage as Fat Tony he says, “It is completely different because when I'm the DJ it's more about the vibe. It's more about me digging into the music and putting out whatever vibration I think the audience needs and we are just grooving with each other.”
“When it comes to my concert, it's more of an organized affair. I look at my live performance as my ultimate expression as an artist but I love being a DJ too and that's where I get a lot of fun out.”
He released Exotica in October of 2020 but due to the pandemic, Fat Tony has not had the typical opportunities to present this album to audiences, something he is really looking forward to finally getting the chance to do.
The well received Exotica took Fat Tony and his producer GLDNEYE to Jamaica where the two delved deep into the characters they were writing about down to the artists visualizing every detail of the personas, much like method actors do.
Look no further than the track "Gambling Man" where Tony takes listeners on the downward yet blindly hopeful journey of Johnny who gambles it all away despite warnings from his wife and the law. Once again, only Fat Tony could combine a mariachi band with this country sounding story in a free flowing rap style. He considers this one of his favorite tracks and one that he says he will almost always perform live when given the chance.
“It was a big challenge to do a full album from this perspective and not rely on some of the tropes and some of the filler that a lot of the rappers get into. When you are doing storytelling, you can't fall on the tropes of bragging or how you're the best at rhyming or your jewelry or whatever that is very distracting from the narrative. When it comes to storytelling, every word counts. Every word has to follow the narrative and as a writer and I just loved having that challenge.”
Recording in Jamaica proved beneficial to developing the characters in his songs and providing some relief from the day to day occurrences of American life.
“I want to keep leaving the United States when I make my albums because I think that there is clearly so much hate and suffering in our country that it's sometimes hard for me to focus when I’m trying to make a project here. I think that my music deserves to be made in a place that’s more spiritually rich and I think that Jamaica is a beautiful country and maybe the country that loves music the most.”
“When you remove yourself from all that you can really be more free to be imaginative and that's the whole thing that I'm trying to do with my projects. I’m trying to make something that is very, very unique smart, thoughtful, heartfelt and honest music.”
This same mentality is the major driving force behind his and Matthew Ramirez’s project Found Me, a magazine and newsletter focused on bringing to life the stories and art of Houston’s BIPOC people, a population Tony describes as the group they “prioritize” when reviewing submissions.
Found Me was started five years ago with a physical copy which sold out quickly, much like old school zines. The project was made possible by Ramirez and Tony receiving a grant from The Idea Fund.
“It’s open to everything,” says Tony of the submission and acceptance process. “It’s really not just about a certain thing, it's just about people expressing themselves in a way that is honest and hopefully something that is reflective of the self. We want all this material to be timeless and really be reflective of the person and not of just the current moment.”
Though Found Me has expanded to include digital newsletters, his upcoming tour will not only provide him the opportunity to perform songs from Exotica but also to again sell physical copies and new issues of the magazine.
Found Me and his songs aren’t the only way Fat Tony is constantly spreading the good word about Houston's thriving creative community. He was recently included in Rolling Stone’s “Hot List” featuring Houston rappers and R&B artists who are making a name for themselves nationwide.
“It’s an honor to be put on lists and I honestly think with my last album I made such an effort to make sure the music and concepts were strong and interesting. I think without those efforts, we wouldn't see the things that are happening right now .”
“All this work that we started in 2019 and we put out in 2020 and we got love for it but we couldn't see the full love because we were all indoors. Now we are really starting to see the benefits of all the new people who found out about me over the pandemic and all the old fans that are proud to see me doing what I'm doing at this point.”
Fat Tony will host his Club Exotica DJ set on Saturday, August 7 at Wonky Power, 3534 Navigation, 10 p.m., $5 optional donation. He will perform with Howard, The Nosebleeds,Sea Sic and DJ Trillanoise on Sunday, August 8 at 8th Wonder Brewery, 2022 Dallas, noon to 8 p.m., Free
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.