Acclaimed lyricist, Fat Tony, has played a significant role in shaping Houston's rap scene with his unique style of music. Raised in the city's historic Third Ward, he has family roots in Nigeria – a part of the world where emerging singers and songwriters from the region are finding success on American music charts. Consequently, mainstream pop acts have been taking notice and are quickly jumping on their cultured bandwagon with featured collaborations. Join I SEE U Host Eddie Robinson for a very candid conversation with master storyteller, Fat Tony, about his music career, the future of hip-hop and how Prince inspires his creativity. The rapper also explains why so many fans of different races and ethnicities gravitate to his music—a notion that tends to ring true for other renown Houston artists and performers.
[00:00:00] Eddie Robinson: Acclaimed lyricist and rapper Fat Tony loves the city of Houston. He grew up in Third Ward, but he has family roots from Nigeria. And he’s known to have played a significant role in the shaping of the Houston rap scene.
[00:00:17] Fat Tony: If you look at Rolling Stone Magazine last year in their annual hot issue, they featured me, Peyton, Maxwell Cream, and a gang of other Houston artists. They named Houston as the hottest scene to watch right now.
[00:00:30] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson and stay tuned for an unguarded chat with master storyteller and rapper Fat Tony. We chat about his career in music, the future of hip hop, and why so many fans of different cultures and ethnicities have gravitated to his music.
[00:00:46] Eddie Robinson: And how that seems to be a trend. with artists and performers who are native Houstonians. Oh, yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U .
[00:01:15] Fat Tony: Let me tell you what I want. Let me tell you what I need. What you want? What you need? What you want, Tony? Let me tell you who she be. Let me tell you what I see. Who is she? Where is she? What you see, Tony?
[00:01:22] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U . I’m Eddie Robinson. And we’re so fortunate to chat with Third Ward, Houston’s own Fat Tony, Anthony Obi.
[00:01:32] Eddie Robinson: It’s a pleasure. Thank you to have you on I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. First off, you know this is my first time connecting with you, you know, meeting you virtually. You are not fat. I don’t know where you got all that from. I mean? What’s up with that?
[00:01:45] Fat Tony: You ain’t fat. My house, my ounce, my mouth.
[00:01:50] Fat Tony: Hey man. What’s up When you. When you grow up, chubby, husky, whatever it may be, you’re eternally fat in your mind. You feel me? Fat is a spiritual thing in my world. And it’s also a way for me to pay homage to great Houston artists like Fat Pat or Big Mo, Big Pokey. You don’t really see those type of monikers very often these days. You saw them a lot when I was coming up.
[00:02:14] Eddie Robinson: Fat Albert, which I remember when I was looking.
[00:02:17] Fat Tony: You know what? There is. There is an art to the fat rapper that is kind of lost these days. You know what I mean? Some of the fat rappers have really blessed us over the years, especially the jovial fat rapper. You know what I mean?
[00:02:31] Fat Tony: Like the Fat Boys is a great example. The fat rapper who’s here to spread love, humor, joy. You know what I mean? Someone that’s trying to relate to the every man.
[00:02:43] Eddie Robinson: And has that, the reason why that’s the case. Now, here we are, 2022 social media, pre-judging all over the place.
[00:02:57] Fat Tony: I mean, I’m sure that’s an element of it, but I think it’s probably that in a, in a mix of just culture changing period. You know, one thing that is way more popular now than in the eighties and nineties is being health conscious, diet conscious, being vegan, being vegetarian, and I think just overall, us, as a society, are trying to get healthier, and we’re trying to get sexier because of social media and dating apps and all kinds of shit. So we’re really trying to put our best foot forward these days. And there’s not a lot of people coming out with fat this and fat that, but I’m holding true. I’m a stay Fat Tony.
[00:03:39] Eddie Robinson: And, and you are holding true, which is why we love you and love having you on this show. For someone who’s listening to I SEE U right now. And that person has absolutely no idea who Fat Tony is. How would you describe yourself? How would you describe who you are as an artist?
[00:03:57] Fat Tony: Fat Tony is a rapper from 3rd Ward, Houston, Texas. He’s a patron of the arts. Someone who not only wants to express himself, but uplift other creatives that he believes in. He’s a person that makes music for the everyman that’s a thinker. For the everyman that is curious. The everyman that wants to travel and see more of the world. That’s why you have me making songs about my hometown Houston, or about Brooklyn, or Los Angeles, or Mexico City, or wherever I’m falling in love with currently, you know,
[00:04:35] Eddie Robinson: Yeah. And if you were to educate someone on fat Tony musically, and you had to tell them three tracks, only three that you’ve recorded in your discography, these songs. Incorporate who you are as an artist. What tracks would you tell them to listen to?
[00:04:55] Fat Tony: Off top, I’d have to say Swervin from my 2017 album, MacGregor Park. The song’s produced by Taydex. That’s a hot one. I think on that track, you really get to see some of my introspective side. And some of my bragging and boasting MC side. You know what I mean? Another song, Hood Party produced by GLDN EYE for my 2013 album smart Ass Black Boy. That’s, that’s a song that I love cause we were able to tackle gentrification in a way. That was still party music. You know, music that made you think, but you could groove to it too, rather than something that’s like super heady and like conscious and felt preachy, which was popular at the time that we made that record. And if I had to pick a third song, I gotta go with BKNY. That’s by far my song with the most plays.
[00:06:11] Fat Tony: That’s the song, you know, I played a festival in Halifax, Canada, and a group of kids came up to me, kids like in their 20s, early 20s, maybe mid 20s, and they were telling me that they all became friends and bonded cause they worked some part time jobs together and they loved my song BKNY. And that was their song that they’d play when they’d hang out after work. And they took this road trip to this festival to all come see me. Now that’s a song.
[00:06:53] Eddie Robinson: That is. And it sounds like you’ve got A diverse fan base. Am I correct in saying that, Fat Tony?
[00:07:01] Fat Tony: Definitely, definitely. I think if you go to a Fat Tony concert or a party where I’m the DJ, you will see all types of people. Black people, white people, queer people, straight people, people from all walks of earth that just want to be groovy.
[00:07:12] Eddie Robinson: And you bring up an interesting point, because I can recall after the tragic incident of what went down here in Houston. For the Astroworld Festival last year, journalists and writers were highlighting the fact that there was such a diverse audience attending that festival, albeit a tragedy that unfolded with 10 people dying.
[00:07:29] Eddie Robinson: If we could just for a minute focus on the music per se, I admire how… You know, artists that are from Houston and perhaps other cities as well. But Houston in particular has become this city where musicians from this area, like a Travis Scott or a fat Tony or a Solange or Beyonce or Megan Thee Stallion or Don Toliver.
[00:07:48] Eddie Robinson: I mean, these artists create an energy. With their music that not only has such a powerful influence on the industry itself, but also on the diverse audiences of people who listen and appreciate their music. Do you find it a challenge to create music that appeals to so many different types of audiences and yet still be authentic?
[00:08:08] Eddie Robinson: As an artist, because I don’t think this dynamic happened to the extent that it did back in the 90s and 2000s, where genres were so categorized and so segregated, whereas now cultures are opening themselves up organically in some way, almost to a point. Where radio, commercial radio, tends to react to this music after the fact.
[00:08:32] Eddie Robinson: They start pumping up the material after the fans, the audiences, develop a demand for it. Instead of radio actually being the source where the music is discovered.
[00:08:43] Fat Tony: You know, you’re asking a big question, and I have a couple thoughts about it. One thought is I think that when it comes to rap concerts, Historically, if you’re mainstream as in your own TV, radio, or you’re being advertised in some capacity, you’re probably going to have a predominantly white audience if you’re in the United States of America, right?
[00:09:08] Fat Tony: That doesn’t matter if you you’re a Black, white whatever if you’re popular enough That’s gonna be the most visible part of your fan base possibly Another thought is that when it comes to music nowadays, I I think maybe since the 90s but really with my generation the Millennial people and then now with Gen Z people we kind of broke free of of the genre plantation, you know, we, we ran away from the genre plantation a long time ago and just kind of live freely and listen to music freely growing up for me.
[00:09:47] Fat Tony: It was nothing to like music of any genre. And I felt like it was the same for those around me and I felt like folks my age were just breaking out of the rigidness of these kids are over here jocks are with jocks, punks are with punks, gay people with gay people, Black people with Black kids, you know what I mean?
[00:10:06] Fat Tony: And we just kind of embraced everything, especially when it comes to music, media and content. And I think these days. It’s even less rigid than my generation. I think the young kids now, they are way more savvy and way more intelligent when it comes to embracing a variety of music styles and genres. They don’t let nothing hold them back because there was still holding us back when I was a kid.
[00:10:32] Fat Tony: You know, I graduated from high school in 2006, which is around the time I started making rap music, which is around the time that you had this big old debate in mainstream music media about Southern rap music being not as smart or as good as East Coast rap music. And East Coast rap music falling out of favor when it comes to pop radio.
[00:10:55] Fat Tony: So, so there was still a bunch of BS going on about some rappers ain’t the real rappers, etc. And if you listen to a certain artist, then you’re a wack person. But that I think is pretty much dead these days. Radio’s too far behind.
[00:11:35] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we dive deeper into Fat Tony’s Nigerian ancestry and how his family arrived in Houston. We’ll also learn more about his dad, who fought in the Nigerian Civil War. Fat Tony candidly reveals the trauma and emotional toll that it had on his father and even how he just learned about the impact that it had on his dad just a few years ago.
[00:11:59] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U . Our next segment with Houston rapper… Fat Tony, right after this.
[00:12:06] Fat Tony: If you can do you for the rest of your life and get paid then, you made it. Shout out my brother, it’ll fade him. Remember when we went to Vegas, we got so lit on your 30th. Swear to God…
[00:12:19] Eddie Robinson: if you’re enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review. We love getting feedback from our listeners.
[00:12:54] Eddie Robinson: It’s I SEE U . I’m Eddie Robinson and we’re chatting with Houston’s own fat Tony about his musical career and his amazing contributions to rap hip hop, the culture of music and creativity in general. You know, I ain’t gonna laugh at Tony, but when I first saw your album cover to 10, 000 Hours,
[00:13:13] Fat Tony: 10, 000 Hours.
[00:13:14] Eddie Robinson: I immediately thought of the album cover to the self titled Prince album from 1979. You know, and interestingly enough that, you know, the tracks on 10, 000 hours, you know, really remind me of how I felt when I was listening to Prince and his Controversy album. I got the feeling that you listened yourself to quite a few genres of music growing up, right?
[00:13:39] Fat Tony: You know, and I think Prince is a great example because he is by far my favorite artist. And when I did, when I discovered his music. It was the first time that I saw an artist model the variety of music styles that I like. Like I love that Prince would have funk songs, ballads, rock songs, you know, new wave sounding songs, really like hard funk club sounding songs too. And I just thought that that was incredible because I never, you know, I actually got into Prince because of a high school teacher, my high school history teacher, Mr. Garner at Carnegie Vanguard in Houston. He was a music head and I would talk to him about music all the time, mostly rap music and I’d trade him CDs. Like he would put me on the groups like Souls of Mischief. I put him on to punk music. I liked like Bad Brains and I learned a lot of music from him. And this one day, I talked to him about Prince, because I knew that he was a big fan.
[00:14:41] Fat Tony: And I was like, man, so I finally listened to Purple Rain, and really listened to it. And I really liked it. And then I listened to this album, Dirty Mind, and I really liked it too. What else should I listen to? And he told me to come back to his class the next day early. I came to his class and he burned me nine CDs of Prince, The Time, Prince B Sides.
[00:15:05] Fat Tony: He basically burned me everything from 4U to Love Sexy. He burned me all the Prince CDs, the first Time album, and then the third disc. That’s the B Side from the Hits Collection from the early 90s. And he was like, yo, just take all these and see what you think. And that’s basically the foundation of like what is considered like the canon of Prince music.
[00:15:35] Fat Tony: You know what I mean? So I just dove into all that and it took me like a couple years to listen to all that music, but I loved it and it just kept me coming back for more and really inspired me as an artist to be brave and be daring to do whatever I want.
[00:16:12] Eddie Robinson: I miss Fat Tony, the creative freedom back in the late eighties, early nineties. Of those hip hop forces like Diggable Planets, like Black Sheep, like A Tribe Called Quest, like De La Soul, Arrested Development, Mantronix, even Rex in Effect, you know, with the Rump Shaker. Good grief. Do you, why has that component gone? Like it has, poof, evaporated in 2022 and beyond.
[00:16:42] Fat Tony: I think it’s just harder to find. I don’t think that it’s gone. You know, I think that if you really think about it. From the totality of rap music, we’re really in somewhat of a golden age over the last ten years or so. Some really incredible new artists and new styles and new approaches have been coming out.
[00:17:01] Fat Tony: And a lot of music that also harkens back to the energy that you’re talking about, especially with like, that like, Diggable Planets tribe energy. I can name so many artists who are popular on the underground that, that might bring back some of those feelings that you’re talking about, and they have an audience of very young people who are tuned in to that style and that sound too, and that’s what they like.
[00:17:26] Fat Tony: The same way when I was a teenager, I loved Tribe and De La Soul and all that type of native tongues, like, like that was my favorite stuff as a kid. And I look at some of my peers that work in those lanes and I see their audience have the same energy and enthusiasm I had.
[00:17:46] Eddie Robinson: Your term, this, the genre plantation, really takes on a lot. You know, that’s a loaded term, right? And that’s what just kind of gets me at how do we discover these artists that you mentioned? How do we get to them? Even though, yeah, social media and, you know, Apple Music, Spotify, we’ve got these, but it just seems like there’s just these solo lanes that are on demand for those young years that it’s hard to discover new music nowadays, only if you have your own sort of lane, right? You have your own subscription service. You have your own sort of culture. And it’s hard. You’re exactly how do you break that mold of music discovery when radio in and of itself, the music radio side of things is subscribed to that genre plantation. And there’s really no way of getting that kind of discovery, uh, anymore.
[00:18:43] Fat Tony: Yeah. I mean, one thing I want to say is that I think we really took for granted what the old model was back in the day. And I’m thinking back in the day of just when CDs were popular, you had a music ecosystem where the audience really determined based on sales and their preference, what went up and down the charts.
[00:19:08] Fat Tony: That’s why you could have breakout artists. From the underground, like UGK or Hootie and the Blowfish, et cetera, back in the nineties or The Offspring or any of those groups. You had the ecosystem of the music press that was basically a recommendation service would tell you what to get, what is good, what is not good, and you could go out physically pick it up and really engage with the art form the way it’s meant to be engaged with.
[00:19:38] Fat Tony: Nowadays with streaming, everything is based on an algorithmic reference or a recommendation service. And that can be tricky because the algorithm doesn’t pick up the way that the human does when you’re spreading music via word of mouth or through press or through radio or through the billboard charts based on what’s being bought or sold.
[00:20:03] Fat Tony: You know what I mean? Everything is decentralized in music to the point that it makes it difficult for the consumer like us to find new music that we’re going to love. Everything is set up to make us not do that. And actually there’s some interesting essays that come out recently that state that the current trend is that most people are listening to older music, not new music on average.
[00:20:30] Fat Tony: People listen to music that is at least 18 months or older than new music on all streaming. Now, I think that that’s also due to there’s an overload of new music too. If you are looking out there, you will just be awash with hundreds of new artists. With none of the criticism or press or word of mouth or record stores or other things that would signal to you in the past what you should be paying attention to based on signals of what you like.
[00:21:01] Fat Tony: You know what I mean? Like if you were a Prince fan in the late 80s, you might have been led to Lenny Kravitz or Terrence Trandarby or whatever the case may be for your certain niche music preference, right? But I think nowadays if you want to find new music, You have to do the dirty work yourself. Also, get off the playlist plantation, and just think that that’s gonna just be the only way that you find out about music.
[00:21:28] Fat Tony: Cause so many people will just tune in to their Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, or whatever playlist is out there. Press play, let it roll. And songs go in and out. They have no idea who the artist is. And you know what I mean? There’s there’s there’s no connection for them to latch on to an artist, even if they heard a song that they liked on a playlist.
[00:21:50] Fat Tony: So you’ve really got to go get online, Google, look and find yourself. You know what I mean? Find out new music yourself and it’s a bit harder, but I think that it’s worth it. Cause like I said before, there’s a lot of amazing new artists coming out there just waiting to be heard.
[00:22:07] Eddie Robinson: And I get so upset with Apple music because I’ll have a fresh unheard of UGK bootleg remix. And then overnight that algorithm switches it to its original single and I’m just like, wait, I didn’t…who changed this?.
[00:22:20] Fat Tony: Yeah. I hate that . Yeah.
[00:22:21] Eddie Robinson: What happened to that.
[00:22:22] Fat Tony: Apple music? iTunes. Yeah. They be messing up your whole library, man. man. I’m telling you. Gotta rock for some of these third parties.
[00:22:30] Eddie Robinson: Yeah, well, i, I have to find out what they are.
[00:22:34] Eddie Robinson: It’s I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, and we’re chatting with Houston’s own Fat Tony about his musical career, his influences, his amazing contributions to rap, hip hop, the culture of music and creativity, and the future of rap, where he thinks this genre is headed. Fat Tony, I wanted you to… kind of give us some insight on your childhood.
[00:22:54] Eddie Robinson: You told us a little bit, but you know, being that you’re, you know, Nigerian, your father, you know, fought in the Nigerian Civil War. You know, did, did your father ever talk to you about any of his involvement?
[00:23:05] Fat Tony: Honestly, honestly, no. You know, my, my dad immigrated to the U.S. After he fought in the Nigerian Civil War, he fought on the losing side, the Igbo side.
[00:23:18] Fat Tony: And when he got to the U.S. He was in his early twenties. He was a janitor put himself through school in college. He met my mom. She was the TA in his German class and basically stepped to him and told him to drop the class because he was failing and somehow they hit it off and started kicking it. And growing up, I knew bits and pieces about his past, but I mostly knew about him as his. American life. You know what I mean? Like he would talk about jobs he had growing up when he got to the U.S., but he never really talked about before coming to the U.S.. And when I did find out about the Civil War, I would come and ask him and he would clam up.
[00:24:07] Fat Tony: He wouldn’t want to talk about it. He might start crying. You know, it was obvious that it was like a very emotional thing for him. And it wasn’t until.
[00:24:16] Eddie Robinson: Okay.
[00:24:16] Fat Tony: I want to say maybe like five, five years ago, he finally talked to me about it in more detail and you could really see the kind of PTSD that he was going through.
[00:24:28] Fat Tony: You know, he would probably never think of it as that. You know, it’s a term like that. It’s probably never even crossed his mind. But I saw that in what he was telling me.
[00:24:36] Eddie Robinson: And how did you get to Houston? What was that sort of connection there? There’s actually a pretty strong Nigerian presence here, correct?
[00:24:42] Fat Tony: Yeah, huge, huge Nigerian population in Houston. I think that’s what brought him there because he has friends that, that also moved to Houston too. But like many immigrants, when he first came to us, he came to New York city from there. He’s somehow got to Oklahoma with a friend, worked some jobs there. And then he told me he went through a winter there. That was so damn cold. He was like, I got to get to Houston.
[00:25:13] Eddie Robinson: I can feel his pain too, because I used to live in Minnesota for a minute. And I went to Prairie view undergrad and I was thinking all this, get me back. It’s the Prairie View, the Whataburgers, I need some now.
[00:25:26] Fat Tony: Yeah, man. That’s a, that’s a different type of cold. That ain’t even like a New York City cold. You know what I mean?
[00:25:31] Eddie Robinson: Yeah.
[00:25:32] Fat Tony: That’s a bone chilling cold in Minnesota.
[00:25:35] Eddie Robinson: But props out to people in Minnesota and, you know, Chicago, all those, you know, they living it up. In Minneapolis. Yeah, absolutely. I love that area, but it was just too cold. That’s it. It was just too cold. Now, I remember reading something that you ran into a Houston artist, Bun B, the other half of UGK while in Jamaica.
[00:25:57] Fat Tony: Yeah.
[00:25:59] Eddie Robinson: What was that? What was that all about? And will you, you get to, will we get to hear any more Houston based collaborations on the horizon?
[00:26:07] Fat Tony: Yeah, of course. Come on now, but I was doing this album right here. Exotica. I was recording this album in Jamaica with my producer Goldeneye. He lives out there and I was posting on my Instagram story that I’m out there and Bun B DM me and was like, yo, I’m in Jamaica too.
[00:26:27] Fat Tony: And I said, would you look at there? I’m in Jamaica recording an album. Bun B, my friend, my rap hero is in this thing too. I have to get him on the album. So I hit him up. He’s like, yo, I’m on vacation. It’s my wife’s birthday. I’m not working or anything. I’m just on some, you know, chill stuff. You know what I mean?
[00:26:49] Fat Tony: But, I would love to come through your studio. Send me the address. I sent him the address. It turns out, he’s three and a half hours away on the other side of the country. Jamaica. Rather than let that hold us back, we get a car, we pack up some gear. I get an Airbnb, me and Goldeneye drive cross country for one night to record Bun.
[00:27:15] Fat Tony: Now Bun is out there with his wife. So there’s no way to set a schedule, right? He’s trying to make time when he can. He’s like texting me like, Yo, I think I’m good right now. I’m going to come through. And then it’s like, Oh, my wife wants to get a couple drinks. I’m gonna give me like an hour. Then I’ll come back.
[00:27:31] Fat Tony: Then I hit him up. He’s like, Oh, Oh, now my wife wants to get a massage. Give me like another couple, couple hours and I’m gonna pull up. And then. He’s like, Oh, my wife wants to have dinner. I could, we go on the beach and I’m gonna come through after that. And then finally he pulls up. He’s like, bro, I got like 30 minutes comes through me and Goldeneye are in the living room, watching TV, hip hop evolution on a Netflix. And it’s an episode about like. Puffy and Biggie and Pac and stuff and Faith Evans and all that. Bun B sits, sits down, starts talking to us about that. Like just, fellas just having fun talking about hip hop or just like debating who is tight or whatever.
[00:28:07] Fat Tony: That goes on for like 10 minutes. Then he’s like, alright, I got like 20 minutes left. Let’s make the song. I take him upstairs, I play the song, I tell him what the song’s about, and kinda what I want. Kind of what role I want his verse to play the whole time that I’m playing a track and I’m talking to him He’s just typing it in his phone.
[00:28:26] Fat Tony: He’s just eyes glued to his phone type and type and type in a way he asked to hear the song one more time play the song again, and he’s like yo, i’m ready he gets up, records the verse and it was perfect. The first time he did it.
[00:28:40] Bun B: My, you know that life is what you make and whatever it gives you, you give it back or you can take it, shake it off your shoulders, take a sip of Folgers. Just try to remember just what the big homies told you. We all human man. We believe the same blood. Don’t matter what you claim or your certain neighborhood. We, y’all got people that we loving and looking out for.
[00:29:01] Fat Tony: Absolutely. Perfect. We took a second take just for safety, but it, it was perfect. And then he walked home fully in the 30 minute timeframe.
[00:29:14] Fat Tony: And I’m like, this man is a pro and not just gave some like BS verse, a verse that was on topic fitting, perfect, exactly what it needed to be. I mean, that is what happens. You’ve been writing songs for over 30 years. Like he has, you know what I mean? He understood the assignment.
[00:29:32] Eddie Robinson: And the love of Houston.
[00:29:34] Fat Tony: And the love of Houston. Yeah, he made it happen. His wife was like, why don’t you just do it when he’s back in Houston? He’s like. He not gonna be there for a while. Like we need to do it now. , do it now. You in Jamaica now we need to do it now.
[00:29:47] Eddie Robinson: That’s it. That’s fantastic. I love that story. And you know, I wanted to get your thoughts on Houston, you know, and the hip hop scene in the city today. You know, here in Houston, you know, I remember Jamaica, Jamaica 18 to get in 21 to drink.
[00:30:02] Fat Tony: I remember hearing those radio ads.
[00:30:04] Eddie Robinson: The energy, 97. 9 The Box, the live DJing on air, you know, uh, the energy, the flavor of the city, you know, engulfing 3rd Ward, you know, I swallowed up, you know, those record stores and trying to get the 12 inches and heard my cousin blasting DJ Screw.
[00:30:20] Eddie Robinson: Hearing him in the driveway, blocked away with bass in his car speakers. Frenchy’s, you know, Screwed Up Records.
[00:30:30] Fat Tony: What I hear is you talking about.
[00:30:31] Eddie Robinson: Bennigan’s
[00:30:31] Fat Tony: Are you talking about the 90s?
[00:30:33] Eddie Robinson: I’m talking about the 90s. Yeah. That’s when I got here.
[00:30:38] Fat Tony: Wow. That fool said Bennigan’s. Bennigan’s on, uh, South Main. Wow. See, I’m not. See, I was I was young enough that I couldn’t go to Jamaica, Jamaica, or like a bar or a club, but I heard about them because I was obsessed with rap music and listen to the radio constantly. So I heard all the ads of all the spots and I noted all the references and all the songs like if they mentioned Carrington’s, I knew that that was a bar on Main.
[00:31:10] Fat Tony: You know what I mean?
[00:31:11] Eddie Robinson: Yes.
[00:31:12] Fat Tony: I think that 90s. 90s, Houston was a special time musically because you had Screwed Up Click dominating the music style of Houston. You had Rap A Lot dominating Houston music on the national chart. That Scarface album. The Diary from ’94, it debuted at number two on the Billboard Top 200.
[00:31:42] Fat Tony: That’s a big record. That is Houston music in the spotlight at the same time that there’s a burgeoning underground scene happening with Screwed Up Click and other labels too locally. I think that that was so special for me as a kid to come up being surrounded by that because that really inspired me and I never had a thought of like, no one makes it in my town, or no one ever gets pop it in my town. Like, I saw all those Houston artists on the same level as famous people like Master P, or Jay Z, or Biggie, all artists that I would hear at the same time, who often worked with many Houston artists too.
[00:32:25] Eddie Robinson: That’s right. I remember that infamous Notorious B. I. G. line, Not from Houston, but I raP a lot. When I first heard that, I’m like, Oh my god, Houston is on the map. Houston is on the map.
[00:32:39] Fat Tony: Yeah.
[00:32:40] Eddie Robinson: Where are we now with the sound of Houston hip hop in this city today?
[00:32:47] Fat Tony: I think we’re in a special place cause we have a lot of interesting new artists coming out of Houston over the last few years.
[00:32:54] Fat Tony: I think all the work Houston artists have been putting in for the last 10 years. It’s like starting to pop off like artists like Beat King, TisaKorean,Megan Thee Stallion. A lot of these people are seeing the limelight and they’ve been at it for a while locally and regionally. And now they’re popping off and they’re popping off with a style that is different than what happened before.
[00:33:24] Fat Tony: They aren’t trying to imitate what Swisher House did in 2004 or what Screwed Up Click did in the 90s. They’re putting their own flavor to it, but it’s reminiscent of it too because I listened to some teaser. Uh, Korean stuff and TisaKorean kind of rap like he could be in S. U. C. too sometime. He has his own take on that S. U. C. Houston flow. You know what I mean?
[00:33:55] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, our final segment With Fat Tony and why he’s concerned about the future of hip hop. The 3rd Ward Houston rapper believes the music industry has deliberately made it inaccessible.. To find and discover new artists in a genuine and authentic way. And we’d love to hear your feedback and learn about what you think of today’s hip hop music and the future of Houston rap. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter, or you can send us an email, talk at I S E E U show dot org. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U .
[00:34:34] Eddie Robinson: We’ll return in just a moment.
[00:35:15] Eddie Robinson: It’s I SEE U . I’m Eddie Robinson and we’re chatting with Houston’s own Fat Tony about his career in music and his amazing contributions to rap, hip hop, punk rap, the culture of music and creativity. Where are we truthfully? right now with hip hop. I’m very concerned Fat Tony because I’m concerned about the creativeness of hip hop and I question whether it’s saturated with so much commercialization.
[00:35:42] Eddie Robinson: You know, for instance, you know, I think the reason why the Super Bowl’s halftime show resonated with so many people, so many different ages, You know, not only based on the fact that, you know, you had Generation X ers reminiscing on those really cool old school songs from back in the day, including, you know, including me with Snoop Dogg and Dre and, you know, the early 90s with Mary J.
[00:36:02] Eddie Robinson: Blige, 50 Cent, Eminem, you know, the New York vibe. Millennials had their moment with Kendrick Lamar. But also it was music that impacted so many people, so many different people across the country, so many different cultures around the world. You know, we didn’t need… commercialized artists to do cameo appearances on songs.
[00:36:24] Eddie Robinson: You know, West Coast, Dr. Dre. He had that vibe. East Coast, Mary J., with the Bronx vibe. You know, New York swag. Right now, what I’m hearing… Especially with hip hop. You’ve got these artists that feel like they need to partner with a Justin Bieber or an Ed Sheeran in order to get on a Billboard in order to get on some kind of playlist that’s curated by a programmer who only wants to make sure that certain artists are thrown into the mainstream not to judge Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber You know for those people who love those people and their fans It is what it is with what you like and that’s it, you know, but i’m sure You know people love these artists, but what i’m getting at is I’m concerned about hip hop and I’m concerned about the creative future and the freedom that it gave us back in the 90s and the early 2000s and where we are moving forward with it.
[00:37:28] Eddie Robinson: And the only way we could hear some really good down by law is to go underground, but how can you access that point of being underground? You know, what, what do you do? How do you, how do you come across that, that sort of dichotomy, right?
[00:37:43] Fat Tony: If you want to look at it. And just be really honest, just the state of music period is in a bad place, especially music that we love because They’ve made it inaccessible for us to find new artists in a genuine way, unless they do some type of brand partnership, or they’re with a pop singer.
[00:38:07] Fat Tony: But then, when you have the rap artist paired up with the pop singer, like that Migos, Katy Perry song from Five years ago. It doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t last. It doesn’t affect people. It becomes forgotten. And if artists want to spend so much of their time on work like that, and not on the work, that’s going to make people feel something.
[00:38:39] Fat Tony: They’re in a, they’re in a losing battle because that attention for standing next to someone or something is very fleeting. But giving somebody a feeling through music can last forever. That can make a song be passed down through the, through the generations. You know what I mean? Hit or not. And I think, you know, I, I’m, I really do believe.
[00:39:02] Fat Tony: That music isn’t a good place because I hear so many great new artists every month that blow my mind and make me think, wow, if I had this music when I was a kid, this would be what I was all about. 1000%. But it’s music that’s underground. That’s hard to find that I got to get on this court to find that I got to.
[00:39:23] Fat Tony: Dig through YouTube to find that I got to dig through SoundCloud to find that I, that I have to really go to friends of mine who do that digging really tough. And I trust their opinion when they recommend something to me, you know, these are playlists that people are clamoring to get on. They often don’t represent what people are even listening to fully. You know what I mean? You might have an artist like NBA Young Boy
[00:39:51] Fat Tony: who outsell most rap and pop artists, but you don’t see him getting the. Getting super play on radio outside of his region where they think it’s going to work. He’s not always at the top of a playlist unless, you know, it’s, it’s cause his like label is like promoting his new album and he’ll be on the playlist for like a week or two.
[00:40:13] Fat Tony: And then we’ll start shuffling lower and lower down through it as they prioritize the type of songs that you’re talking about. So, you know, I think that we’re in a losing battle and, and, and. Any music lover needs to one, get back to saving music, because if you think that just staying on Spotify and Apple music is the way to preserve your music collection, you’re a fool because one day those services will be gone.
[00:40:43] Fat Tony: Do the same way that my space is now gone and we store so much stuff on it the same way that Facebook has changed the Meta and whatever stuff we had on it might be gone in the future. Save your music. Get back to downloading music, buying CDs, vinyl, whatever it takes to make sure that the music that you love and care about can be yours.
[00:41:05] Fat Tony: And that’s a great way to really support a new artist that you come across to go to Band Camp and buy and download their music. Or order the vinyl or order the CD or whatever you listen to. You know what I mean? That’s the way to really get out of it because, um, if we just pay attention to what Spotify is telling us or what any of these corporations trying to feed us, music is going to tell us we’re going to just be lost.
[00:41:33] Fat Tony: And we’re going to be hearing the same regurgitated BS over and over again that they’ve been pushing since like 2015. Do you notice how a lot of, uh, corny music still sounds like it was made in 2013, 2014, 2015 folks are coming out with music now that sounds like an old Beyonce album, or, or, or it sounds like.
[00:41:58] Fat Tony: Like, like an old Migos album, or Watch the Throne, and back in the day, you couldn’t really get away with music that was that dated being pushed to the forefront. But you know what? For so many people, music is just a background thing now. People are more engaged with other forms of media than music now.
[00:42:17] Fat Tony: And people are listening. If you look at the stats to older music, more than newer music. So they’re not even, even caring about this stuff that we’d like to argue about. We don’t listen to the music that we, that is advertised to us and it’s advertised to us and we think it’s the most popular, but it’s not.
[00:42:37] Eddie Robinson: I’m glad you said that. And I’m really excited about that note, that, that stat.
[00:42:42] Eddie Robinson: It’s I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, and we’re chatting with Houston’s own fat Tony. Is Houston finally getting its props?
[00:42:50] Fat Tony: I think so. I mean, if you look at Rolling Stone magazine last year in their annual hot issue, they featured me, Peyton, Maxwell cream and a gang of other Houston artists.
[00:43:00] Fat Tony: They named Houston. As the hottest scene to watch right now in that issue to know just a few months ago.
[00:43:09] Fat Tony: Walked in the store with 24 slots left with a dollar and a lot of ticket got back in the car went back to the block. Now we in the house cooking up a new plot.
[00:43:18] Fat Tony: So I think that with press like that, that is just a sign of what’s to come. I’m personally hearing about new Houston artists every day that are blowing my mind and I think that You know, when, when I was coming up, I put out my first record in 2010 and around that time I felt like my peers in Houston, all folks did was complain about how we don’t get enough attention and no one cares about us because we had seen the 2004 Swisher House thing where like all those artists went super, super duper viral, platinum, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Chameleonaire, Slim Thug, you know what I mean?
[00:43:55] Fat Tony: We, we had the all-star game coming. We had Super Bowl coming. We had so much stuff happen from like 2002 to 2006 that we thought that it would never fade. But trends fade, right? And when we started to fade, I felt like many people rather than buckle down on our artistry and try to come up with some new flavors, some new styles, some new stuff that is ours. We tried to regurgitate the past and kept seeing diminishing returns on it. But these artists of my generation now. I feel like we’re actually doing something different and it’s being embraced. None of us have that old school sound. None of us sound the same. But we’re all proud of Houston. y!
[00:45:00] Eddie Robinson: And Even just Googling, uh, what city is the hip hop capital of the world? Houston. Houston pops up. Houston pops up. Last question, be as honest as you possibly can. What’s the biggest lesson, Fat Tony, that you’ve learned about yourself thus far?
[00:45:21] Fat Tony: That’s a great question. And that’s kind of the stuff I like to think about daily. Honestly. I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned about myself when it comes to music, especially or just me as a person even.
[00:45:39] Eddie Robinson: You as a person, you know, because Fat Tony, you’ve been through it, man. I mean, you, you have gone through it and, and, you know, musically it could be that too, but your biggest lesson as a man, as a person that you’ve learned about yourself thus far.
[00:45:55] Fat Tony: I need to give myself time to shut up, think, and take in new information. And that sounds basic. But it’s the thing that probably helps me the most, whether it’s dealing with some emotional problem, or a relationship problem, or a business problem, rather than spiraling and just being in my head, taking some time to go read a book, or watch a movie, or write in my journal, or take a walk, something that kind of takes me out of that frenzied space.
[00:46:30] Fat Tony: Let’s my mind focus on something else and then come back to it with a clear head and hopefully look at it with better vision. You know what I mean? Look at it with the idea of all right, let me remove the anger, the frustration, whatever may be clouding me making this choice and let me look at it for who I really am and what I really want out of my life.
[00:46:56] Fat Tony: And how I want to treat the people around me. And I think that that also works with writing, too. Like, I’m working on some new music right, right now, and I have a bunch of new books that I’m going through. And having these moments to read and take in others ideas, whether it’s a collection of essays or a novel or a biography or whatever it may be.
[00:47:18] Fat Tony: Just taking in some new information. So I have new ways to color how I want to express myself. Even if, if, even if I’m expressing a feeling I’ve expressed before in music. There’s always a way to find a new way to word it or put a spin on it. And if I don’t take in some new information to inspire me, I’m just going off the same stuff that inspired my last record.
[00:47:42] Eddie Robinson: Houston has created some amazing artists. Is there something about Houston that produces
[00:47:51] Fat Tony: Yes, I think Houston is special because for a long time we’ve had music scenes and we’ve had music scenes that created their own style and were self sufficient with their own music ecosystem. Like rap music, 90s and early 2000s Houston rap music was such a force because we didn’t bend to the will of any other territory sound.
[00:48:21] Fat Tony: We didn’t hop on trends. We stayed true to our own composers, our own producers, own rappers. We created our own trends, our own styles and stuck to it. Right. And I think in moments of yeah. Annoyance or stress or frustration for not getting on more like the early 2010s when I was coming up in those moments, Houston artists started to try to hop on other people’s sound, try to sound like whatever is popping or try to play it safe, not knowing that it’s really them going against the grain that made them so popular in the first place.
[00:49:04] Fat Tony: And I think that that’s what has always made Houston Music Special from blues, to country, to rap, to what, whatever. All the Houston greats put a different spin on their genres. ZZ Top, Scarface, DJ Screw, everyone that was something from Houston. Was an innovator.
[00:49:25] Eddie Robinson: I love that. I love that answer. That’s perfect. I love that answer. That’s it. That’s, that’s, especially when you mentioned self sufficient, you know,
[00:49:33] Fat Tony: Because every place…
[00:49:33] Eddie Robinson: This was in New York, right? This wasn’t New York city where, you know, you could, you know, have this, that and the other and have the resources. No, you, it was self sufficiency that kept a lot of these artists going and, and that drive. Right? It was something that here in Houston, you know, TSU, Prairie View, you know, it’s something within us that is like, you know what? We got to keep going. We got to, we got to push. We got to push. We got to make this happen. Third Ward.
[00:49:59] Fat Tony: Rap music now, Michigan. Michigan artists are having a crazy run over the last four years. And they’re not all over the playlist, but if you get on YouTube, they have millions of views, which is a place where you can actually gauge what people are listening to. You know what I mean? And they have their own sound that is not like anyone else. Little Yachty. Little Yachty made a Michigan rap style album.
[00:50:25] Fat Tony: He went out there and worked with a bunch of artists just to get on that swag because it’s so cool. And so attract it’s really artists from Flint, Michigan, which we know has gone through the worst in the last decade and Detroit, Michigan, I think places like those cities, Houston, Memphis. Atlanta, even in its early days, New York, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, those places are important hip hop meccas because they have their own sound, their own style, Miami, New Orleans. This isn’t like the guy. Maybe in like Iowa who’s trying to rap like 50 Cent. You know what I mean? These are people who are not trying to bend to anyone’s trend or anyone’s will. They’re doing their own thing. And that’s how you get your scene some notoriety in my opinion.
[00:51:21] Eddie Robinson: He’s a nigerian American whose music has transcended a plethora of genres. Third Ward Houston Zone, Fat Tony. Thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U with Eddie Robinson.
[00:51:34] Fat Tony: You’re an amazing host, Eddie. Thank you for having me.
[00:51:57] Eddie Robinson: Our team includes Technical director Todd Hulslander. Producer, Laura Burks (Walker). Editors, Mark DiClaudio and Jonmitchell Goode. Sound designer, Dave McDermott. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media.
[00:52:12] Eddie Robinson: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And for more updates and episodes, visit our website. I S E E U show dot org. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson. Thanks so much for listening. And remember, I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U . Until next time.