Tony! Tony! Tony! Has Done It Again

In which the great Fat Tony breaks down the creation of his latest album "Wake Up."
By    February 7, 2020

Credit: Lenore Melo

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Somewhere between DJ Screw and Bad Brains, De La Soul and Scritti Politti sits the Third Ward’s own, Fat Tony. For the last decade, Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu has been everywhere, from star-making turns on the first Rocky mixtape to having a show on Viceland to co-founding a DIY culture magazine with that sweet sweet fellowship money. He has played every worthwhile rap party in America and burnt the stage down every single time. A singular and experimentally-minded rap artist adept at both traditional regional styles and indie pop, hardcore thrash and melodic candy-painted bangers. He is punk in the platonic sense of the word: experimental and subversive, but also funny, whimsical, and virtuosic.

There are a few things you can depend on in this schizophrenic world. About once or twice a year, Fat Tony will drop an album and it will sound like nothing that he has done before. There’s a spirit of creative restlessness and intelligence that runs through his deep discography. He is a national treasure, one of those rappers destined to seem forever underrated until you ask around and realize that everyone in their right mind likes Fat Tony. He is the Whataburger of rappers: if you know you know.

His latest is a collaboration with the producer, Taydex, who previously produced 2018’s finest tangerine-suited interpretive dance anthem, “Swervin.” Released on venerable D.C. indie Carpark Records (Beach House, Speedy Ortiz, Toro y Moi),  Tony continues to define himself by refusing to define himself. It is ferocious fibula-snapping double-time rap crossed with dulcet pop, fog-shrouded experimental roars, eccentric auto-tune trap, and minimalist post-disco sex raps. It is Fat Tony, forever inscrutable and filled with undeniable talent.

In honor of the new release, I asked him to break down the songs on the record. Within 24 hours, he came back with this breakdown full of allusions to Mac Dre and Triple Six, Buhloone Mindstate, and stories of roommate scammers.  The legend continues… — Jeff Weiss

Get Out My Way ft. Sophia Pfister  (Produced by taydex & Derek Howa)

This album is about urgency and optimism. As our world crumbles from climate change and bigotry, many of us feel forlorn and despondent. I want to encourage everyone in my community and around the world that share our values to *keep* pushing forward. This is not the time to fall back, particularly on a personal level. The road to bettering our surroundings starts with the self. This song is musical urgency. Loud and determined, straight from my mind and Sophia’s. “Own up to it if you do it / Don’t hide behind all the lies / Y’all boys wearing a disguise / I see through it, I despise / What’s done in dark comes to light every time / More than ever I’m ready to sever all the ties / Ladies, go ahead, call ’em out / Fellas, go ahead, call ’em out / Put the bullshit to bed / Grab the bull by the reigns / Ain’t no need to live in shame.”

Godly feat. Negashi Armada (Produced by taydex and Heaven the Dude

Peace to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This is my favorite song on the album. It reminds me of a Wu-Tang Clan concert. It’s just a grimy ass beat and lyrics for niggas that like lyrics. Last time I saw Raekwon & Ghostface live, Ghost made a point to declare Supreme Clientele as his finest work and the crowd went wild. That’s one of my top favorite albums of all-time and a constant influence on what I do whether it’s non sequiturs, storytelling, humor, or just having fun with language.

Negashi Armada is one of the best, from his work in the group Supreeme to his songs as Blunt Fang aka Raiden X. He is absolutely “on that other shit” and I recommend you investigate his music if you like originality. “Dressed in all white, feeling godly / She said her man is a square like Godfrey / She let me beat it up like Rodney / Now that boy salty, face scrunched up, Gilbert Gottfried / Watch your tone, pimpin / Don’t watch me / Even though I’m on the green, like bocce.” The latter half of this song features production by Heaven the Dude (fka Hevln) who produced my 2018 album 10,000 Hours. taydex and I love the Deftones, especially their album White Pony. His Deftones tattoo inspired me on this song too lol.

Big Ego feat. Dai Burger (Produced by taydex)

Despite what Dai Burger says in the intro of this song, she talks a lot of shit herself. I love the opening lyrics of my first verse and wish they were the first words you heard on this album. “Young, black, and free / I don’t need to sing in key / I don’t need to be on beat.” But this ain’t an intro type of song. Putting “Big Ego” first on my album would feel too thirsty, too cheesy. You gotta groove a little before you get to this one. I had The Neptunes on my mind when we made this song, specifically Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You.” taydex came up with the guitar riff and the beat on the spot with Sophia and me in the studio. We did a live stream of us making this song from start to finish for The Hyv. You can see the whole thing here at the 01:09:48 mark:


Magnifique (Produced by taydex)

This is my second favorite song on the album. I love Bay Area rap music in all of its forms, but the songs at ~100 BPM are what I love the most. This was inspired by the going away party my girlfriend and I threw in summer 2019. Our friends were way more respectful than the guests in this song but no matter how well it goes, hosting will always be a little stressful. If anything inspired this song I’d say it was the first time my girlfriend’s parents came to one of my DJ sets and loved when I played Mac Dre’s “Feelin’ Myself.” Her dad particularly felt the “I treat my bitch like an ATM card” lyric lol.

Run It Up feat. Sophia Pfister (Produced by taydex)

By now you’ve heard Sophia Pfister three times on this album. I met her through taydex when he brought her to one of our sessions. De La Soul’s Buhloone Mindstate inspired me to have her featured on the album so frequently. I love how often Shortie No Mass appears on that album. I feel like taydex was in his jazz bag on this one. He’s an amazing drummer and it really shows on this beat. This is my introspective tune for the album. If anything inspired this song I’d say it’s Common’s album Resurrection, which is his best album and we should never debate about it.

Omaha feat. Clarence James (Produced by taydex)

This song was inspired by the many miles I’ve racked up touring. Performing is my favorite part of being an artist and I barely left my hometown until I started traveling as a musician. I’ll never take it for granted. This song is all about that gratitude and my view from the road. “Fork in the road, I took a right / Looking for a spot we can spend the night / We’ll get gas in Omaha / We gon’ get there in no time / Just missed the rest stop, then I missed the next spot / Pissed in a Starbucks right by the Best Buy.” Clarence James is a very soulful young man from Texas. I discovered him through my friend Steven Cantu in Austin. He was visiting L.A. and came to one of our sessions. I believe it was one of his first times in California so he definitely felt where I was coming from.

Wake Up (Produced by taydex)

”Wake Up” and the sentiment of the album was inspired by this clip of Bishop T.D. Jakes. I found this while in a session with taydex and Heaven the Dude in early 2018, just goofing around on my phone. At first, I thought it was hilarious. His tone, his neck, the sweat. I made a little Jersey Club edit of it for fun but then I took a deeper look at it. I felt what he was saying! “Wake up! Wake up out of your sleep! Wake up! Stop crying and wake up! Stop worrying and wake up! Stop fretting and wake up!” It made me think of myself and the folks around me that want to give up and clock out when things get tough. But fuck that! We must keep going. Things are going to get hard sometimes but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve what we believe is right, just, or fair. We gotta keep going for it. I sent taydex the clip and he sampled it into a monstrous beat. I consider this song an interlude but I wish it was much longer. The verse is cut from something I wrote and recorded during that early 2018 session. We took the best part of the original verse that fit the message of this song.

Cut That (Produced by taydex and Derek Howa)

We brought the guitars out in full force on this one. Three 6 Mafia influenced this track, particularly their song “Watcha Do.” It’s an album cut that I think is one of their very best. That beat is straight-up beautiful and you get a clear take on each member’s particular style. “Cut That” is an all-out assault. It’s easily the loudest I’ve ever been on a song. This song was inspired by a roommate I had my first time living in Los Angeles in 2012. He was a random guy we met at a bar on our first night in the city. He was overly friendly, seemingly charming, and wouldn’t stop talking about his former drug addiction. My friends invited him to our place to hang out after the bar, then he shows up the next day because “he was in the neighborhood.”

I never trusted him, but my friends liked him enough to let him move in *and* handle sending money to the landlord. Months later, he hustled us and rented out our rooms to his friends. After we moved out, I heard he stole camera equipment from the roommates, pawned it all, left his dog and fled town. The second verse is all about him. “With friends like these / Who needs enemies?”

Make It feat. Revenge Wife (Produced by taydex and Derek Howa)

This is about the connection you make when two people share a creative dream. I got to know taydex through our collaboration in a way that’s deeper than if we only knew each other socially. I believe in everyone I’ve committed to making a project with. I’m thankful for the work we’ve done and the relationship that’s developed from it. I met Revenge Wife when taydex brought her to one of our last sessions for this album. She’s in the band HOLYCHILD and wrote “Xanax Damage” for Future. I feel like this song is the perfect closer for the album. It’s one last reminder to keep it pushing despite the things we think we can’t overcome. This beat feels like nighttime in a small town when you can see every star in the sky.

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