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.