Fat Tony: "I'll Always Have My Houston Roots"
Anthony Obi has always been a humble and gracious Houstonian. Better known to the public as rapper Fat Tony, this week he drops Smart Ass Black Boy, his first retail album. It's been a long journey from his first LP RABDARGAB, which was inspired by an H.I.S.D. campaign to get children to read.
Photo by Marco Torres Fat Tony (center) onstage at Fitzgerald's, August 2012
The acronym stood for "Read a book, do a report and get a buck," except Tony wanted fans to listen to his album and write a review about it. As his profile has increased, of course Tony often gets that he isn't a "typical" Houston rapper. but those stereotypes mean little to the Third Ward native.
Recently Rocks Off got the chance to have a chat with Tony from New York before Smart Ass Black Boy, which was highlighted on NPR's "First Listen" last week, drops tomorrow:
Rocks Off: So, Tony, this is your first album to be sold in stores worldwide. How does that feel?
Fat Tony: It feels great I finally have a chance to reach people who I never been able to touch before with my music. When you have a machine behind you -- a record label, publicists and stuff like that -- the game changes. Pretty much everything that I wanted to do before, I now have a chance to get in that door.
It's kind of sad to say, but that's really the state of things: you can be a great artist and performer, but unless you have the key to that door you're pretty much locked out of reaching the right audience. Now there are some artists who can overcome that and get it cracking for themselves but for most artists you must have a team behind you.
RO: With RABDARGAB, the "write-a-review" campaign was a great idea to grab the city of Houston's attention. Did you get a lot of reviews with that?
FT: Man, I did get a bunch of reviews but most of the kids who sent stuff to me told me that they didn't even want the money, they just wanted to tell me how much they like the album -- which was even better. All I wanted them to do was listen. That was my first full-length album, and I'm still very proud of it because I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for that RABDARGAB.
RO: OK. A few things have been said and written about you not being the "typical" Houston rapper. What do you think about that?
FT: I mean, it really doesn't mean much to me, to be honest, because I've always felt like a Houstonian. I grew up in Houston all my life and I feel like a lot of the things I do and say are reflected on my upbringing in Texas.
It is obvious that I may not talk about the stereotypical Houston rapper and what they're known for talking about, like cars, sipping lean and all that other stuff. But you know --personally when people say that, it doesn't mean much to me because I'll always have my Houston roots.
RO: True, and you still are an avid listener and look up to the OG Houston rappers, including DJ Screw and the S.U.C., right?
FT: Exactly, man. That's what I grew up on, and that ain't going nowhere.