“No Matter What’s Going On Around You, There’s Still Room To Rise Above”: An Interview With Fat Tony

Will Hagle speaks to Fat Tony about the themes of his new album I Will Make A Baby In This Damn Economy, always repping Houston, Texas, being introduced to punk music and more.
By    September 12, 2023

Image via Michael Tyrone Delaney

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Will Hagle sometimes hears DMX in his head when he’s looking for things.

Fat Tony is a music historian. He might say nerd, but for the past decade of his artistic career, he’s done far more than merely obsess over hyphy and ‘80s hardcore on message boards with like-minded loners. He documents music history through his own songs, finding the connective threads throughout all genres and regions, and fusing them into a new distinct sound. In DJ sets, he’ll blend Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” into Too $hort’s “Blow Da Whistle” before performing a track of his, showing listeners—in plain, but not obvious terms—how a Houston-raised Nigerian-American who heard country at home and Bay music on his computer and ska-punk and grindcore at shows he attended alone ended up making “Hood Party.” From Chamillionaire to Leftover Crack, Fat Tony has insight into, and stories about, any artist who has ever directly or indirectly inspired him. Whether he tells you in an interview or on record, or in a fleeting moment during a 4-hour DJ set, his work is a product of and conversation with every type of music he’s ever loved.

Music motivates Fat Tony, and in turn his songs do the same. He made himself successful by his own definition, on his own terms, through his own relentless efforts. He worked with Bun B on 2020’s Exotica and now, on the new album, with Paul Wall. He’s a fan who not only studied the greats, but had the right combination of talent and resiliency to get to the point where he stands alongside them. Like 2018’s 10,000 Hours or 2017’s mini-hit “Swervin’,” Fat Tony’s new album I Will Make A Baby In This Damn Economy—a collaboration with producer Taydex—once again emphasizes the theme of ceaselessly pursuing one’s dreams. At age 35, after a decade of DIY-building a fanbase and catalog, he’s clearer and more forthright about his goals than ever.

On his 2013 breakthrough album Smart Ass Black Boy, Fat Tony used the song “Father’s Day” to tell a story about his relationship with his parents, like Scarface on “Now I Feel Ya.” Like Scarface’s mom, Fat Tony’s father worked tirelessly against insurmountable odds to provide for the family. As of that song’s writing, however, Fat Tony had a complicated relationship with his old man. The lyrics accuse his father of getting mad at every single thing he does. He raps, “He cannot understand my music or my young lady / He only understands diplomas and having babies.”

A decade removed from that song, Fat Tony has put out a project with a mission statement dedicated to what he once criticized his father for expecting out of him. I Will Make A Baby In This Damn Economy is both an artistic metaphor and a literal declaration of personal intent. The almost-titular penultimate track, “Make A Baby,” is a smooth bass-driven bop about wanting to have kids that borders on parody while remaining grounded in real emotions. Although the world is bleak, humanity must carry on. Fat Tony makes motivational music, even if he’s just trying to convince himself to keep going.

I called Fat Tony as he was driving through L.A., on his way to record a bit character part for a very famous comedian’s podcast company. We spoke about the overarching themes of I Will Make A Baby In This Damn Economy, and how his own upbringing informed his attitude toward carrying his family and his city’s legacies on to the next generation.

With the title of your new album, which I’ve seen you talk about being dedicated to your father in some ways, I’m curious what your relationship is like with your father, and how it has changed over the years since “Father’s Day” came out 10 years ago?

Fat Tony: Man, my relationship with my father has changed a whole lot since I made the song “Father’s Day” back in 2013. My dad had a kind of traumatic upbringing. He was in a war when he was a high school age person. Growing up in Nigeria, there was a civil war, back in the late ’60s, early ’70s. My dad fought on the losing side of that war. The side of the Igbo tribe that wanted to separate from the rest of Nigeria. The war was really brutal. He got shot in that war. He got an injury from it that still pains him to this day and kind of altered his life forever. He saw a lot of tragedy during that time, and never really talked to me about the war when I was a kid. Anytime that I would bring it up or be curious about it, he would get very emotional, and my mom would like, shoo me away. But in recent years, he’s opened up more. Like actually, it wasn’t until 2017 that he actually spoke to me about the war for the first time ever.

My relationship with my dad now is a lot more open. Growing up, having a stern African father who’s a war veteran, and a very serious man, there’s no room for games. Me being into music was always seen as something by him that was like a less than favorable thing for me to get into. Coming from a Nigerian background, the average parent wants you to be a doctor or lawyer or a scientist. That’s the typical path that a Nigerian parent wants. Especially one that went through all that he went through, and was able to immigrate to the US.

So, yeah, that has, that has been a remarkable change in my life. Getting closer to him and like getting to actually know him as a person rather than just as a parent.

So with the album title, first I have to ask… Did you make a baby in this damn economy?

Fat Tony: Working on it. Working on it. I want to. I have yet to become a father myself. But it’s something that at this point in my life, I’m greatly looking forward to.

Obviously going through a war, even if it’s some years after that that he has you, is like you said a really sad and traumatic thing to experience. A lot of people these days will talk about having kids like, why would you have kids if everything’s going to shit? It seems like to me that that’s always been going on throughout human history, but people keep having kids. That’s kind of what I took away from the album. Is that what you were going for?

Fat Tony: You are totally right. I mean, that’s what I really meant by the album title. I took the title from a lyric in my song “Make a Baby.” And I was saying that, because like you mentioned before, a lot of people are of the mindset now that this world is f*cked up. It’s cruel, and it’s going to shit. Which with the way that things look, it likely is. But to me, the whole title means that no matter what’s going on around you, there’s still room to rise above.

Like, even in my father’s case, I’m thankful every day that he went through what he went through, lived through it all, came to the US, met my mother, had me, and now I have this life that I look at as a total luxury. Where I can comfortably be an artist. I have comfortably lived in several cities around the US.

I have gotten to do so many things that are all because of the sacrifices that my father made for me. When he came to this country, after fighting in that war, he was a janitor for a while, and then put himself through school, became an engineer working for oil and gas companies in Houston, and really made a nice life for himself. This is a guy that came from nothing. Came from growing up in a village to fighting in a war to moving into the US to become a janitor and deal with all the type of shit that an immigrant has to deal with in this country. My dad didn’t become a citizen until much later in his life.

So, I look at the title of this album, and many of the songs on this album, as my testament to being a persistent person that doesn’t give up. Being someone that sets goals for themselves, has dreams for themselves, and pushes through all of the noise to make it happen no matter what. Whether your dream is to become a father, or become a parent, or to get a certain job, or to live in a certain city or to live a certain lifestyle, or whatever the case may be. Whatever you’re out there going for, this album title is meant to remind you to keep going for it. That’s something that I’ve kind of felt throughout all of my music. I feel like on every project I’ve ever made, I have music that is about that. Not only because of my father’s life, but in my own life. That’s how I’ve always seen myself: as someone that’s a bit of an outcast, someone that’s different. Someone that’s not typical. Someone that has interests that some people might think are quote unquote, weird. Someone that is daring to do something different. And staying true to that, even when people around you are trying to tear you away from it, or trying to tell you that it might not be the best move for you.

I was going to ask if you would characterize your music as motivational. You have tons of songs that talk about persisting, like “10,000 Hours,” or “Swervin’” talking about not giving up on your dreams. I know it’s not all of your music but I definitely feel like you’re a motivational artist. Do you see yourself that way?

Fat Tony: Definitely. I make a lot of those songs just to really remind myself, because I’m the kind of person—probably like many people, especially artists—it’s easy for me to get down on myself or feel hopeless or feel like a pessimist or feel like nothing that I’ve worked towards has any value or any meaning. I like to make these songs to refer to my own words to be like, “Hey, remember, there was a moment where you did feel like there was hope, where you did feel like things are possible? Don’t forget that about yourself.” I really think that is true, man.

I heard someone say once that when you’re feeling down like that, you need to think about all the times that things actually worked out the way you wanted them to. Granted, not everything that we want in life is going to happen. And maybe not everything that we want in life is meant for us. But if we put our mind to it, and really zoom out, more often than not, we make things happen for ourselves. We overcome things. We actually succeed. I think many of us need those reminders. Especially in recent years, when life is only getting harder. I really feel ever since COVID, and even a little bit before COVID, there’s so many people around me that are suffering. Either from health problems, whether it’s something that’s coming with age, or it’s a genetic thing that’s outside of their own control, or some money problems. I know so many people in my life that have been really beat down over these last few years. So more than ever, I feel like making songs like “Swervin’” or album titles like I Will Make A Baby In This Damn Economy. They’re more important than ever, for what I want to express as an artist.

Since you’re talking about success, and you’ve had a decade, decade-plus career at this point, is there a way that you define success? And do you feel like you’re successful?

Fat Tony: Hell yeah. My whole life is a frickin’ success. Because I’ve made music from nothing. I taught myself, most of what I know, to get myself started in music. I started out booking shows for other artists, booking my own shows, figuring out how to record myself, figuring out how to travel and to connect with people. I was never on an airplane until I made music. I never left the state of Texas until I made music. I left Houston only a handful of times in my entire life, until I was 19, 20 years old and started trying to do music in a serious way. I really feel like I owe everything I have in my life, to my perseverance and my determination to be an artist and to live life on my own terms. And it’s led me to so many opportunities and so many friends. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I didn’t take a chance and try to become an artist. I don’t know how you can be a greater success than that.

The fact that I get to basically live my dreams for most of my adult life. Even if my dreams aren’t the same as yours. It’s a dream to me to go on tour. It’s a dream of mine to have any fans. It’s a dream of mine to have people that tell me that my music has meant something to them or help them when they were in a good place or a bad place. So it’s hard for me to not be grateful for everything that’s come into my life since I started making music from day one.

Before having a kid a lot of people think that their career will be over, which is a misguided way to look at it. Do you have any thoughts like that as you’re thinking about having a kid?

Fat Tony: I have several friends who are artists that have kids, and they’ve always told me that they felt like having a kid has done nothing but inspire them. It’s inspired them to be more honest, as an artist. It’s inspired them to work harder as an artist, and as a human being generally. It’s been a motivating force in their life. As I look at how their lives have changed since they became parents, I can really see that it’s true, because it cuts out a lot of BS. It cuts out some of the fair weather friends you have. It cuts out some of the time that you might have given towards people that don’t really deserve your time, or towards topics that don’t really deserve your mind. It takes you away from just f*cking off your time. It gives you something to always be cognizant of and always be thinking about and always be caring for. And gives you another life that is your full-on responsibility. How can wanting to take care of another human being not motivate you to work harder and be a better person and be a bigger person in all areas of your life? I think having kids or any of these big life changes that happen to people, it makes you want to, you know, make up with people that you fell out with, stop beefing with people, stop gossiping about people, stop wasting time, stop giving your energy to things that take away from you rather than give back to your soul.

I know that you grew up in the hip-hop and punk scenes in Houston. I know a little about Houston music but don’t know much about the punk side of things. What was that scene in particular like growing up?

Fat Tony: Man, it’s funny, because when I was in high school, which was 2002-2006, for some reason, ska-punk was still big in Houston. I like some third wave ska bands, obviously, like I like Operation Ivy. I’m a No Doubt fan, especially back in the day. But it was, surprisingly, the dominant subgenre of punk when I was a teenager. Like almost all of my friends who were really into music were in ska-punk bands, or in reggae bands. So I used to go to their shows. I used to book them.

Back in the day, I only had a handful of friends that shared some of my same taste in punk and hardcore. Some of them were older than me, like my friend, Steve. My friend, Steve Matis, I met him on LiveJournal. He was older than me, but he was the guy who would talk to me on the internet every night about music. And he was the guy who would take me to this record store called… I can’t think of it right now. I think it’s called Sound Exchange. But it’s not there anymore. But anyway, it was like a classic record store where you walk in and there’s like a Germs poster, sort of clearly with the vibe, you know what I mean? And he would take me to that record store and we’d just go through all the bins and he would tell me about all these bands that I never heard of. And not just punk stuff, but like, all types of underground music. From Rap-A-Lot records to Memphis records, to My Bloody Valentine, to noise records. He was just one of my sources for music knowledge.

Really outside of him, a lot of my other friends who were into punk around Houston, they were really into the ska-punk thing, or into pop punk. I like both of those. But I didn’t have a lot of people who wanted to go as deep on some of the stuff that I was into. I was really into SST and Black Flag and frickin’ Descendents. So I really found my outlet for fellowship as a music lover on the internet. But I went to some of the shows in Houston.

Also a big thing in Houston when I was a kid was grindcore. So I would go see this band P.L.F., I would see them play all the time. I would go to, like, local bands that had a hardcore show and go check them out. But I never felt like I was truly part of the scene. It wasn’t like other folks in the scene were the ones that I hung out with all the time, I was just a rabid music fan. So I would often go to shows solo. So much of my time as a music lover growing up was just to me and my lonesome. It wasn’t until I really became an artist, and started to travel more and meet different people that I started to meet people who actually had a lot of the same music tastes I had, or the same music knowledge I had.

Not having tons of friends that liked the same music I liked, never ever discouraged me or never made me feel like I was listening to the wrong bands or to the wrong artists. It was enough for me to make me happy, for me to geek out about an artist. I didn’t need the IRL friends there to back me up. But when I found them, it felt beautiful to meet folks like that. But growing up, I was just obsessed with music all day all night. And it was always enough for me to enjoy on my own. I would go to shows, I would hang out at shows. And if I made friends there, it was great. But when I was a 15 or 16 year old, or 17 year old, I could never say that I would show up to local shows, and just knew everybody there. That kind of came for me more in my early 20s.

Were you and people you know fans of Leftover Crack and Choking Victim and those kinds of bands?

Fat Tony: So in my high school, I had a few punk homies and one was this girl named Erin. She was in a grindcore band. She definitely would wear a Leftover Crack shirt. She actually sewed the first patch I ever had on my Dickies messenger bag with some dental floss. I remember she was the first girl I ever met that had hairy armpits. She would talk about doing drugs and stuff. I just thought she was so fascinating. She was also like a year or two older than me. I met her in my German class. She was someone that was like an acquaintance of mine that I always looked up to.

Through these shows, I met a couple friends. I actually met these two girls through going to shows, because I was the type of guy that would get there when doors open and I’d stay till they’re cleaning up the venue. And these two girls, one was named Khrystah. They were always there too at the very end. So I just assumed maybe these were some lonely kids like me. So we became friends. We would make mixtapes for each other and mix CDs for each other. And meet up on the weekends and go to parks and talk about music and talk about dating and talk about how they hated their schools. I was messing around playing the bass back then. Me and them would jam on music sometimes. I even found a video on YouTube of us as kids jamming at my friend’s practice space. And those friends, one of them was the older brother of my friend Khrystah. He’s an artist now named Lucas/Heaven. He’s actually the producer of my 10,000 Hours album and I met him through his little sister. And in this YouTube video I found it’s like him jamming with the guy Mark from that band Khruangbin. We were so young that we’d go to Khrystah’s house and have to wait for the Khruangbin dude and my friend Lucas/Heaven to finish jamming so we could mess with the instruments and make our own racket.

You were talking about moving around a lot and connecting with people in real life and on the internet. Obviously you’re associated with Houston, and I know you’ve lived in other places. Over the years, have you seen the idea of regionalism changing? Now with the internet, people from all over who happen to be into the same things musically can connect with each other. But the importance of local scenes is also important. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Fat Tony: I have plenty of thoughts on it, because that was one of the things that made me fall in love with rap music early on. When I was maybe 14 or 15, that’s when I first heard about hyphy music and the Bay Area scene. Then I learned about Memphis. Then I learned about the ATL bass scene, the Florida bass scene. That’s when it really dawned on me that there was a whole world of music for me to get into that was outside of the radio and outside of the backpack message boards that I was into at that time. That’s what made rap such an exciting genre for me, because there was constantly more to see and more to discover. And there was a lineage of it that you could trace. I could listen to a hyphy artist, in like 2004, and find out that oh, he’s paying homage to a 90s song, to like a Dru Down song. And oh, this Dru Down song is actually paying homage to a Too $hort song from the 80s. And they’re working with the same producer. Seeing that legacy carry out through a region was always really exciting to me.

When I started making music in the early 2010s, I remember linking up with all these artists who are from these areas that were previously like, just a hot region for like underground music. It was my dream that we would all be the second coming of that. That we would always be very loud about where we come from. For me, I’m always screaming that I’m from Houston, even if I’m not living in Houston currently, because Houston isn’t just my hometown, but it’s a legacy of music that I come from. I want people to understand that because it’s very important to me. An artist like Devin the Dude is in the line of music that I do. A rapper like Bun B is in the line of music that I do. I love being a storyteller lots of times. In my mind, when I’m doing storytelling rap, I think I’m Scarface, you know what I mean? That’s always something that’s really important to me.

I feel like the internet has kind of changed that and made it less of an important thing for the listener. But I’m starting to see it come back. What’s happening in Michigan and in Wisconsin, I’m starting to see people talk more about scenes and about regions and how they have their own sound and their own slang. That is something that will always stand out to me in music. I’m more interested in what is specific to your region than what’s the Top 40 song, what’s the mainstream song. I want to hear music that tells me not only where you’re from, but where your people are from, where your friends are from, where your family’s from. I think that it’s human nature to have certain things in common if you live in a certain state or city or region. That will never change. But I think the way to access it changes because of internet and technology and how media happens to not highlight those differences as much as they did. Also coming up in the early 2000s era, that’s when Houston was big and was seen as a really different place for rap. That’s when the Bay Area was big. That’s when you had crunk and snap music coming out of Atlanta. Even then, I was seeing the world responding to all these regional scenes, which I always thought was the most interesting music happening. In my mind, that was going to last forever and ever.

Yeah and it kind of has in different ways. Also what you’re talking about, being inspired by different styles and sounds and making connections throughout the music, you’ve definitely proved in your albums that you can try out different styles and approaches and it all make sense. And even if you’re inspired by different regions, you always come back to Houston.

Fat Tony: Thank you. Living in LA or Brooklyn, it doesn’t make sense for me to rep that. Because even though I have lived in those places, I’m not of those cultures. As an artist, I don’t represent those cultures. I represent where I’m from. So I would never change my bio to a different city, or start talking about a different city in my music. There’s a few mentions of other places, but I predominantly talk about Houston, Texas.

Speaking of which, on the new album, there’s a Paul Wall feature. How did that come about?

Fat Tony: Man, first of all, I’ve been a Paul Wall and Chamillionaire fan ever since they put out their joint album back in the day. It’s called Get Your Mind Correct. It’s one of the main albums that ever inspired me to be a rapper. That album came out the summer before I went to high school. Those artists are from the north side of Houston. I’m from the south side of Houston. Growing up, I rarely if ever went to the north side at all. I had no family members up there. I had no friends up there. In my mind it might as well have been a totally different world. As far as the Fifth Ward goes, the Fifth Ward is so close to downtown, in my mind, I never thought of it as the north side. But Paul and Cham and them, they’re from much further north. They’re from like Jersey Village, Acres Homes, much more of what you would think of as a quote unquote north side of Houston. So it blew my mind, one to hear these artists who are from the north side, because I didn’t even really think they had rappers on that side of town, really. And they were young enough to make me feel like, as a 14 year old, they were speaking more to my life experiences than an older rapper like a Scarface or a Lil’ Keke. And they were not only reppin’ Houston, but they were really spittin’. They were really barring out. They were really rhyming their ass off in a way that really appealed to me and my friends. Because we were the type of rappers coming up where we wanted folks to look at us as like, lyrical. Just to prove that like, we are not just rappers. We are rappers, but we’re also some MCs. That was our mindset growing up. I felt like that album was the first of its kind to really rep that, and they were younger than other Houston artists. It just inspired me to death, man. We used to wear that CD out.

So fast forward years later I would see Paul Wall in passing at shows and different events. Then I joined the Recording Academy. Paul Wall has a leadership role in the Recording Academy. To my surprise, I found out that him and 9th Wonder are the hip-hop folks that have been in the Recording Academy the longest. They’re constantly working on things for the Recording Academy. They’re like really, really in it. So I started to see him at these Recording Academy meetings. Then I’m doing a show with my friends, The Suffers, they’re a band that’s from Houston too. Paul was at the show doing a song with them. At that show is when I really got to chop it up with him, got his number. Then a few months later, I’m starting to make this album. I make the “Baby Boy” song and I was like, man, what if I can get Paul Wall on this album? I hit him up, and he’s sent me back a verse, man.

That’s another reason why I feel like I’m a winner in my life, because I’ve had so many of my dreams come true. I’ve done music with Paul Wall. I’ve done music with Bun B. I’ve played several shows with Devin the Dude. I’ve done so many things with heroes of mine. The fact that I even get to be in the room with these people and to make music with these people and have it down on paper, until the end of time that Fat Tony worked with these legends, I’m super over the top thankful for it.

What does it feel like, being such a huge Paul Wall fan and then actually meeting him and working with him. Does that become normal, or are you still appreciative and understand what it means?

Fat Tony: It’s kind of mixed, because on one hand, I feel like it validates me as an artist. Like me personally. When I have these legends, these OGs, want to hang out with me or make music with me, it makes me feel like yo, no matter what, this person that I admire, they think that I’m tight. That’s enough for me. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to not feel like a fan. If you’re a legend like that, that I grew up with, there’s always going to be a part of me that’s like, pinch me, am I dreaming? Am I really here hanging out with so and so? That’ll never leave me, because that’s how I’ve spent most of my life looking at the world. I’ve spent most of my life listening to artists, and really, really praising them.

I want to make it clear too, when I praise someone, when I’m a fan of someone, when I’m looking up to someone, I’m looking up to them as an artist. I’m looking up to them as a person that makes amazing music. I’m not looking up to them for how they live their life outside of music all the time. Because some people that I admire as artists, we might not share the same values, or the same opinions about many things in life. But when it comes to music, we’re on the same page. That’s enough for me to love you. That’s also enough for me to leave it there if there are other parts of your life that don’t really vibe with how I live my life. Not to say that’s the case for Paul Wall or for Bun B. But I just want to put that out there because I think a lot of people when they do admire an artist, they go all the way into stan mode where everything they do is great. Or I want to eat what they eat. I want to wake up at the same time as they wake up. I want to have kids that look like their kids. I’m not really into all that. I like to keep it music.

Since you mentioned hyphy, the Bay Area, Memphis, even Paul Wall, and punk bands, are you drawn to the independent hustle thing most in music?

Fat Tony: I’m absolutely drawn to it because, like I mentioned earlier, everything that I did at the very beginning of me as a musician, it all came from me. It all came from my own hustle. It all came from a very DIY mindset. Really, it is because of punk. That’s the best thing that I got from being a fan of punk and hardcore, and just underground rock music period. Seeing the way that those artists move is what really inspired me to do it myself.

I remember, back in the high school days, there was this Minor Threat DVD that came out. It was some concert footage of them and some interviews with the singer Ian [McKaye]. Minor Threat was the band that the girl with the hairy armpits at my high school showed me. She saw me listening to some punk CD, maybe like Blink-182 or Green Day or Jawbreaker or something like that. She was like, “Oh, do you like this kind of music? Have you ever heard of Minor Threat?” and I had never heard of them. She burned me the Minor Threat CD with all their music on it. From Minor Threat, I got into Bad Brains and Black Flag and that really opened my eyes to old school punk. Up until that point, the oldest I went was the 90s.

I got the Minor Threat DVD. I’m watching the interview portion of it. They’re talking to Ian, and he’s talking about how Minor Threat books their own shows, their own tours, they saved up money to buy a van, they saved the money to press their own records. At the time Ian was doing that interview he was like 17 or 18. I’m like 15. I’m like, yo, this guy’s doing all that… Granted, it’s in a different time period. But he’s doing all that. And he ain’t that far from how old I am. I should be doing that. That’s when I turned to all my friends that I was rapping with, and I was like, guys let’s just DIY everything. Let’s record ourselves, buy some equipment, figure it out. That’s the biggest takeaway that I got from the punk scene: not being afraid to get started on your own, not having to wait to get a record deal or get a manager or get a booking agent to get yourself out there. It’s all up to you, and how you can push yourself to reach more people to make better music and be greater tomorrow than you were yesterday.

Punk music does get a lot of credit for that. Also hip-hop, like the scenes we mentioned, and even in Houston, there are people that are selling CDs out of the trunk or building their own labels. It has a DIY culture that is acknowledged like punk, but maybe not as much as it should be in comparison.

Fat Tony: Honestly, the fact that in the interview Ian said it so plainly and so clearly, that’s what made me go, “Oh, that is how you do it.” Even though I went to independent record stores in Houston growing up. Like I knew about Rap-A-Lot. I knew about Wreckshop, I knew about Swisha House. I knew about Dope House Records, but it never dawned on me how independent of an operation things can really be. Until you see somebody just say it plainly. Also to have it on that DVD, where you’re seeing the visual, like seeing them at their concert. You’re seeing them do the sound check, you’re like seeing them sell their merch. You’re like actually seeing it all happen right in front of you.

As we’re talking, I realized I kind of think of you as a music historian. I don’t know if you would agree with that?

Fat Tony: Thank you. Yeah, why not? I’m a big enough nerd to be one.

Exactly, you’re a fan of the music who also makes good music. Then you DJ as well, and have crazy live performances that are very entertaining. Do you see any distinction between those three forms? Or is it all different aspects of the same thing?

Fat Tony: I would say that it’s different ways of expressing myself. But it’s all the same artist. When I’m a DJ, I feel like I get to play with more paint than when I make a song sometimes, because as a DJ, I have the entire history of music to pull from to really show you the listener what I’m feeling right now. I definitely view being a DJ as an emotional thing for me. I play music that really gets me through what I’m going through, whether I’m in an angry mood, or I’m in a sad mood, or I’m in a hopeful mood. That all comes out in my DJ sets, which is why I love to DJ for like, hours at a time. Just a few days ago, I did a four hour DJ set. I love when I get to do something like that. Because then I get to really go through everything that’s been on my heart and mind for that past month. I get to go through different decades, different eras, different regions, different genres, different tempos. I get to really express who I am fully.

The fact that I’m an artist too, I often perform in the mix of my DJ set. So I might be playing someone else’s music… Like, perfect example: I love to go from “Still Tippin’” to my “BKNY” song. Because they’re about the same tempo, the key of each song is not far off. It just feels good to warm people up with some of my favorite Houston music, and then go into my own music from it. And come out of that with some other folks’ music, and pepper some of my own music in there too throughout the set.

Being a music nerd, I get to really flex on all the songs that I love. There’s so much music that I like to play as a DJ that I’ve never heard out in public before. Sometimes I will meet people that will come up to me and say, “wow, you know, I love that song too. I’ve never heard somebody play that.” Because maybe it’s like an outtake or it’s a B-side, or it’s just like something lesser known that wasn’t a hit. But I like to give that music shine too. I don’t DJ and just play the top 40 songs or like the same songs that we’ve heard our whole lives. I like to switch it up.

Is there any story behind the “Neon Moon” into “Blow Da Whistle” mix?

Fat Tony: So the whole story about that is kind of linked to my family. So my godmother, when I was a teenager, my godmother taught a line dancing class, right? In the line dancing classes, she would have folks dancing to blues, country, R&B, soul music. Just a little bit of everything. Just like the whole melting pot of the type of music that folks like here in Texas, right. I was the kid that had the TC and I had the CD burner. So she was always coming to me to burn CDs for her class. I remember this one day, she had me put “Neon Moon” on one of the mixes. I thought it was interesting because growing up, my dad—much like many Africans—he loves country music. He pretty much only listens to country music. I remember back in the 90s he would listen to the radio a lot when he would drive me places, and I would hear “Neon Moon” on the radio stations. When my godmother asked me to put the song on that mix, I was like, “wow, I haven’t thought about this song since I was a kid, that’s interesting.” That must have happened in like 2004, 2005, 2006, something like that.

Fast forward to the 2010s. I’m at this bar in Houston in my neighborhood that’s called The Spot. The Spot is like a dive bar. It’s like a Black dive bar that mostly middle aged folks hang out at. The crowd is typically 30s, 40s and 50s. It’s the kind of neighborhood bar that I’d walk in there sometimes and the barback is my friend from like, the fifth grade. Or I would run into someone from middle school there that’s like, a club promoter now, right? This one night, Monday night, I’m at The Spot. It’s pretty dead inside. So the bartender’s drinking with the customers and just having fun. She’s like getting on top of the bar dancing and shit. She first got on top of the bar and started dancing because the DJ played “Neon Moon”. And yet again, I was like damn, here’s that song popping up again that my godmother and my dad liked. That must’ve been like 2014, or 2015. And that’s when I started saying, “You know what, I’m going to put this in my DJ sets,” because this is something that Texas people like, and it’s probably a curveball that you might not expect me to play. So I’m gonna play it.

Then I’m messing around. And it just came to me. I was like, “Yo, what if I blended this with ‘Blow Da Whistle.’” Randomly. I keep a notepad where I write down all these different ideas of DJ blends and mixes that just come to me if I’m listening to a song and in my head, I’m hearing how the mix could happen. So I started playing around with it. Then I blend the two songs, and it sounds dope. And then I start to use that blend as the intro to my “Hood Party” song. To kind of show how the “Hood Party” song is my take on a Bay Area beat.

I did that at every show I’ve played since 2017. But it wasn’t until I played a show in 2019 that someone filmed it. They sent me the clip and said, “Yo, I got this clip of you doing this blend. I think it’s dope. Here’s the clip if you want to post it.” It’s funny because the guy that actually filmed it is my homeboy that has this brand called Trill City. This dude was the first person to ever invest in me as an artist. This guy gave me money to make my first demo. When I was in high school, he found me on MySpace. He was not from Houston. He was from Dallas and living in Austin. He booked me for my first Austin shows, too. He’s one of my day one homies. I think it’s so beautiful that he is the one that filmed this clip and sent it to me and told me to post it. Because much like he did when I was a kid, he saw the value in something that I was making, that in my mind was just something that I did for fun. Like, I did that at every show for a couple years at that point. So I thought nothing of it more than, like, a cool intro for my song. When he had me post it, it obviously blew up a bit. I just love it because I think being who I am, being a guy that’s from Texas, that loves Bay rap music, and loves being an artist and loves being a DJ, I feel like that one blend tells you more about who I am than almost anything else I’ve ever done.

Talking about getting music from your parents and godmother like “Neon Moon” and country music… While you were talking I was wondering if you rebelled against the music that your dad liked. Then also, if you’re going to make a baby in this damn economy, have you put any thoughts into passing music onto future generations? Whether it’s your own kids or just future generations.

Fat Tony: To be honest, I feel like it was more so my parents were the rebels against my music. All the music that my parents like, I was into it. I grew up with my little brother, with my mom, my dad, and my grandma, who is my mom’s mom. My grandma loves playing country and gospel music. My mom loves rock music and classical music. And my dad pretty much only likes country and Al Green.

My mom’s music tastes were a bit more like mine. Like, my mom had the Nevermind album. My mom first showed me Devo and first showed me David Bowie. She had a Clash album, the frickin’ Ramones. She had music tastes that were more similar to me. So we always connected on it. Any music that she was into that I didn’t like naturally, I was still curious about it. Because I always thought that my mom was cool.

My dad’s country music tastes were always classic country, which I always liked. In the 90s, he would listen to the radio, sometimes country radio. But by the 2000s he had decided that this newer country music is bullshit. And that the classic country music, especially the outlaw country, that’s more of his vibe.

But I will tell you this, there was this one time… My dad hated rap music, thinks it’s nothing. Definitely doesn’t like rock music at all. You know, my dad told me once that he only likes country music because unlike rock music, country music tells real stories about real people. Which I think is such a beautiful statement. But this one time, I’m in my bedroom at my parents’ house, and I’m blasting an Al Green album. I’m blasting I’m Still In Love With You. I’m blasting the f*ck out of it. Normally, my dad comes in my room and is like, “turn it down” But he came in this one time and was like, “What are you listening to?” I showed him the Al Green CD. He closed the door. Then he came back like 20 minutes later. He burned me like three Al Green albums. And he was like, “Now this is real music.”

That’s great. But only Al Green.

Fat Tony: Yeah only that. Oh, and my dad was a John Denver fan for some reason.

But I definitely want to have kids that are into music. I think that would be great. I can offer them so much. We can hang out, I can introduce them to some of my artist homies later on. I can take them to concerts, I can take them to the studio. If I have kids that are into music, even the least bit as much as I am, it’ll be a big blessing, man. For real.

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