Houston’s own Fat Tony is sounding the alarm and forcing everyone to wake up. “The whole album is about the chaos that we are in right now, not explicitly about the chaos, but about how it's making us feel and my ideas about how we can react against it,” says the artist.
Fat Tony has relocated to New York but will be returning to his hometown for a show at the White Oak Music Hall Thursday, March 5. The first generation Nigerian-American was raised in Houston’s Third Ward and made a name for himself with his unique blend of in your face lyrics combined with an undeniable element of fun.
“I want this album to be a push for people to stay true to what they believe is right and what they believe is fair and to fight for themselves but also have a lot of fun while doing it too.”
His message is clear in Wake Up and the tracks resonate deeply with a mix of all the feelings people may have about the current climate of the world set to bouncing beats. The album is short and sweet and is sure to get toes tapping and thoughts rolling.
Wake Up saw Fat Tony teaming up with friend and fellow artist Taydex. The two met when set up by Taydex’s manager for a session in the studio with a handful of artists. What the two got out of the evening spent in the studio was a deep friendship filled with many conversations about ideas they shared.
“I think it's those conversations that really birthed pretty much every song on this album,” says Fat Tony. The first track that led them to seeing this project through was the hauntingly seductive and smooth track “Godly,” inspired by a Bishop TD Jake sermon that Fat Tony happened to come across when surfing the web.
He describes how the video of the Bishop caught his attention as it features Jakes screaming, sweating and pleading for his congregation to wake up to the world around them instead of turning away, a feeling Fat Tony was familiar with when discussing topics with his friend. “It went from being something I thought was really funny, to something I thought was really potent and some wise words.”
Fat Tony and Taydex definitely found a way to balance humor, strength and their opinions with rich beats and complex layers of sound throughout the album, released this February on Carpark Records.
“There are lyrics where I say my opinion about very serious things and the very next lyric I might tell a joke. There are songs where I’m very angry and loud and there are some that feel calm, mellow and joyful,” he says. “I want to show people that there's a balance in this life and I hope that they feel it.”
Fat Tony went from Houston to Los Angeles and then New York, letting his various projects lead the way. His recent move to New York was for a now-canceled Vice show called “Vice Live,” a two-hour talk show featuring the rapper on a nightly panel with celebrity guests.
“I will say that it was a life changing thing. I met so many people that I continue to work with from that show and if it wasn't for that show I literally wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing right now.”
Friends and good vibes are Fat Tony’s guiding light. The rapper describes how Wake Up and all of his projects have been made around feeling a natural synergy with other artists. “Every producer that I've made an album with they're all people that I relate to on a deep music level, but when we get together were not just making music, that's our time to hang out.”
Being true to himself and genuine is Fat Tony’s motto and it comes across in not only his musical style and collaboration choices, but also in his eye for fashion. “From the moment when I thought of making music when I was a kid, what was most important to me was to be original, and a great way to be original is just by being yourself and by representing all the facets of yourself that you think are your core,” he says.
His music is littered with beats and energy drawn from rock and roll, punk rock and rap from all over the globe. Fat Tony admits that he has always been drawn to punk, but not tempted to dress the part. What’s more punk rock than being yourself no matter the cost?
“There's a deeper ideology that I like to pull from when it comes to that and I think that that's one of the ways where I find myself coming across as an original artist without feeling like I’m pandering.”
When discussing the different rap niches of the moment and the older cliches of rappers being manly men with guns and attitude, Fat Tony knows this is a dying stereotype.
“I can tell that people are getting bored right now and more than ever I want to put that Fat Tony energy into the music world of just some truly different shit, and not just different for the sake of being different, but different because it actually is and it's coming from a place where our purpose is to blow your mind, show you something different and have fun while we’re doing it.”
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No matter where he is on the map, one thing Fat Tony never lets go unnoticed is his love for Houston. He may be one of the best ambassadors for the city. “It's my duty to be on the news like this and spread the word about Houston because I think Houston is of course a well known place, it’s got millions of people and it's got a reputation, but I think culturally it doesn't get the respect it deserves.”
Fat Tony is already working on another project addressing his views as a first generation Nigerian-American trying to get in touch with his roots. He admits he keeps his mind open as far as where this road will take him.
“I’m on a roll and I’m not stopping with all kinds of projects, from music to film, I just want to keep running my mouth,” he says with a chuckle.
Fat Tony will perform with Fade Em All and Michael LaCour, Thursday March 5 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main, Doors at 8 p.m, $10-12.