The forever fascinating and prolific world of Fat Tony

The legendary Fat Tony; press photo courtesy of the artist/Don Giovanni Records.

The legendary Fat Tony; press photo courtesy of the artist/Don Giovanni Records.

The world of media has finally arrived at the realization of Fat Tony's far reaching influence and seemingly limitless versatility. From low key contributions to the evolution of pop music for over the past decade [and this writer’s past insistence on the artist’s goat status], Tony has expanded his artistry into a variety of industries and mediums with success from the inspired and stylish Thrift Haul series, work in fashion, the magazine Found Me, collecting accolades on his own turf to even being honored with Fat Tony Day in Houston (established July 28, 2018).

When the writers and retired contemporaneous journos pen their pop history books on the history of underground/DIY upstarts and key players; Anthony Obiawunaotu, aka Fat Tony, will be recognized as an ambassador of the culture and a figure that has enriched and enlightened all respective endeavors and avenues ventured. From re-imagining all areas of interest from couture, content reinventions, musical syntheses and countless more—the LA/Houston artist has long since expanded the role as an emcee to an ambitious master of ceremonies set on further developing our experiential brands to progressive new types of expression.

Which brings us to Anthony’s debut for Don Giovanni with the towering autobiographical album 10,000 Hours. Not just a labor of love, the record provides a look at the long and winding roads traveled with accompaniment by collaborators that have remained dedicated along Tony’s own twisting paths. This is evidenced by the wildly imaginative and inventive production work supplied chiefly by HevIn with cameos by GLDN_EYE (aka longtime creative pal Tom Cruz), Cadence Weapon, Grey Goon and many more. The tales of tribulations, trials and breakthrough blasts in the beginning with "Through the Storm", keeping the states and stories of the grind going strong on the following title track. Reaches for resolution are heard on the auto-tuned and heartfelt "No Beef", with the big time sentimentality follow-up "You Like It, I Love It", keeping the mood personal in a testimonial to his younger sibling's struggles on "Charles", to the feeling of cruising down Crenshaw with the driver's seat laid back on the Cadence Weapon collabo "Poet Laureate". Southwest tumble weed galloping ballads twang and tussle on "Got It Out the Mud", continuing to keep the Lone Star State weird in the wonky western "Texas", to reflections on bullying in the modern age with "Rumors", keeping focuses on future fancies on the thoughtful "Dream House". Hedonism and sensuality are wrapped into a series of slogans and snapshots from the modern age on "Nike", duetting with Amindi K. Fro$t that riffs on the internet meme about J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive going platinum with "No Features", percolating with the pop ode to patience on "Been Waiting", before bringing down the house alongside Maal A Goomba on the mellow moods of "Best Life" that shines with a joy that finds Anthony taking pride in both the present and the high hopes for what tomorrow may bring. 10,000 Hours is a testament to the time and hard work that Fat Tony has put in with spirit lifting confidence about how beautiful the future can potentially be.

Conversing in-between the artist’s busy schedule we had the chance to catch up with Fat Tony in the following reflective interview exchange of candid thoughts:

Meditations on the hours that informed and inspired 10,000 Hours.

I’ve spent a lot of time obsessing about music as an artist and a fan. All the hours I’ve put into listening, learning, writing, traveling, studying artists, discussing music, and performing has created the foundation for my talents today. I still have more to go. There is never an end to what you can learn about your craft and yourself as an artist. Every year I reveal more of myself to myself. I’m in a space right now where I want to share as much of myself as possible in my music and in conversation. I want to meet people that can relate. I want to grow.

Insights into the collaborative processes with fellow creative colleagues HevIn, Grey Goon, GLDN EYE, Ceci Gomez, Cadence Weapon, Charles Moon, Maal A Goomba, Amindi K. Fro$t, Nate Donmoyer and more.

Every collaborator on this album is a friend. There were no cold calls. No one was featured for clout. I make music with the people who are in my life for more than a good look. I met Amindi K. Fro$t when she performed an LA show with me and Sammus. She blew me away and I booked her to play my next show. We’ve been friends ever since. GLDN_EYE (aka Tom Cruz) is my longtime producer and close friend. He’s family and will always be involved in my music. Hevln is one of my oldest friends from Houston. We were roommates in LA the first year of writing this album. Without his guidance and music there’d be no 10,000 Hours.

Charles Moon lives in Austin, Texas. I was in Austin the night before my girlfriend’s birthday working with Volcom, anxious to get home the next night. I wrote this song while thinking about her and how we grow from our disagreements. You’re bound to butt heads in a relationship but there’s often something to gain from those arguments. I believe we’ve taught each other a lot about being a good partner. I’m committed to growing what we have and being there for her even when we don’t see eye to eye. “You Like It, I Love It” is the most realistic love song I’ve ever made.

Ceci Gomez is an old friend from Houston and lives in Los Angeles too. Hevln worked with her on “Through the Storm”. She added a few sounds in the beat, he added the breakbeat drum track, and GLDN_EYE created the rest.

Cadence Weapon was visiting Los Angeles and stopped by my studio when I was working on the album. I titled the song “Poet Laureate” because he was the poet laureate of his hometown Edmonton, Alberta. He’s an old friend too. We toured together this fall 2018 and back in 2012 too.

Maal is my boy through Morris, the producer of my Look EP. They visited the studio too and I thought Maal would be perfect for the album’s closing song. His voice is so sweet.

Grey Goon is one of my favorite producers and engineers to work with. He records many of the songs I make for Flocabulary, an edutainment company that makes rap songs for K-12 public school curriculums. He’s produced some of my music too and we share a lawyer, Neil Shulman.

There's a real motif of renewal and uplifting transcendence that stretches throughout the new record. Reflect on how the meditations and making of the album helped bring you both enlightenment and new perspectives.

I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and that can be felt on this album. I love myself and accept myself for who I am more than ever before. Life brought me those revelations and it just so happened I created this album at the same time. Finalizing this album was my favorite part of the process. Towards the end I picked apart the songs with Hevln and GLDN_EYE’s advice. That allowed me to really hone in on what this album is about. When I put the best songs from our sessions together I could really see what I wanted to say. My best songs just come out of me. I don’t labor over the lyrics if the intent is pure. That doesn’t mean each song takes a certain amount of time, it just means it never feels forced when I create it. But that’s only when it goes right! I’ve made more than a few songs where the words wouldn’t come to me and I felt something was off. There were very few moments like that on 10,000 Hours. And we cut the songs that sucked, or repeated a sentiment already expressed on the record. The original outro song felt too close to what I expressed on “Through the Storm.” “Best Life” sat somewhere else in the sequence until it dawned on us that the outro we need was already there! It just needed to slide down to the end of the album.

Origins on how you joined the Don Giovanni imprint family.

I was introduced to Don Giovanni through the artist Sammus. I originally met her when she lived in Houston in the late 2000s. She’s released records with Don Giovanni too. She introduced me to the label owner Joe at SXSW 2017 and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Don Giovanni is a great fit because they’re truly independent and believe in putting the art first, just like I do. It’s nice to work with smart punks.

Candid conversation and thoughts with Fat Tony; photographed by Michael Delaney.

Candid conversation and thoughts with Fat Tony; photographed by Michael Delaney.

Notes on what's inspiring you between the LA, Houston, Brooklyn and beyond scenes these days.

Houston is always growing. There seem to be more artists doing their own thing, more venues to play and more excitement there every time I visit. Houston rap music has always been unique and every Houston artist doing something original carries that legacy. I miss the energy of being in Brooklyn so often in the early 2010’s. Even with the changes the city has seen from gentrification there is still a quality that can never be stripped from New York. I look at Los Angeles as one big office. I moved there to create and grow my career, and I’ve received so many opportunities since relocating there. I lived there in 2012 to make Smart Ass Black Boy and Double Dragon with Tom Cruz but it never felt like home. Now that I’m more settled and have a cute apartment with my girlfriend it feels more like a place I can call my own. I’ve recorded all of my albums and EPs in LA since 2012. I’d be interested in recording and writing my next record somewhere else. I’ve got my eyes on Jamaica.

As someone who has always embraced the waves of creative change and stylistics over the years — interested in hearing your thoughts on how your own eclectic approaches have evolved in recent days, months and years.

My comfort zone is going against the grain. If I see the majority of rap artists going in one direction my instincts tell me to go another way. I believe that now more than ever before. I’m not afraid to experiment and try any sound, but I know when something isn’t worth my time. If a style is currently being done to death I don’t want any part of it. I love writing songs in my head. I’ve seen so many artists I admire work that way from Michael Jackson to Jermaine Dupri to Lil’ Wayne to Jay-Z to Biggie and more. There are many artists I love that don’t write down the words too. I find myself editing faster, trimming the fat and remaining true to the song’s intent when I don’t have the distraction of writing or typing the lyrics.

I want to go into my next album with no intentions. I plan to write and record it spring 2019. For now, I’ll be living more experiences I can write about.

Fellow artists that you recognize, other artists that you have been collaborating with on the low key and other folks that you want to collaborate with.

I’d love to work with Quelle Chris. He’s my favorite rapper/producer I’ve discovered in the past couple years. I’d love to work with my guy Milo too. Stimulator Jones is my friend from Virginia and a fellow Prince fanatic. I’d like to feature him on my next record, with his little soulful ass. Mitski and I have been messaging for a while now. I’m coming to her LA show and it’d be a dream to work with her in 2019 too.

Best self-care tips to help us live our best lives.

Be yourself. Listen to yourself and your needs. Take some time to be alone and in your thoughts because we are bombarded by distractions every second. You lose your way when you aren’t mindful with yourself.

Insights on how to be more enlightened in engaged with our communities and one another in our daily routines and roads traveled.

Pay attention to the community around you. Many of us are transplants, working freelance gigs and creating things in communities that originally don’t belong to us. We should all be aware of the privileges we’ve been afforded and make sure to not only TAKE from our surroundings. We can give back, even if it’s just being kind to our neighbors and keeping our areas clean. My girlfriend and I live in a neighborhood that has a history of being well to do because we don’t want to be gentrifiers. If anything, we’re fucking the neighborhood up!

The future of Fat Tony and all Fat Tony projects.

The future is creating whatever I want and finding organizations that can fund my projects – from music to television to our magazine Found Me to film and whatever my next obsession is. I will be recording a new Fat Tony album spring 2019.

Anthony, appreciate all you have done to inspire both me and countless others over the years.

I ain’t done yet! Thank YOU for the support. I absolutely would not have the confidence to do this without you and everyone that shares their enthusiasm for my work.

Always a pleasure to work with you, my friend. Never be a stranger.


Fat Tony’s anticipated new album 10,000 Hours is available now via Don Giovanni Records.