SXSW Interview: Fat Tony
Friday, March 15, 1:15pm, Hotel Vegas
Last month, Houston rapper Fat Tony arrived home from a New York City mini-tour to discover that a guy named Mark Spencer had declared him "Mind Cancer." Spencer chose as his critical venue a YouTube video for the party track "Like, Hell Yeah."
"He is the epitome of everything that is wrong with America," wrote Spencer, whom Tony says he had never heard of before.
Rather than blow a profane gasket, Tony instead proudly tweeted the diss along with an Instagram screenshot of the insult.
"It made my morning," he says, "Being an artist and getting high praise and getting heavy criticism means you're doing your job. I'm making people feel something."
The atypical response reflects typical Fat Tony. Born Anthony Obiawunaotu, routinely shortened to Obi, and raised in Houston by his American mother and Nigerian father, Tony earns high marks for his precise couplets and quirky humor. Even so, "Like, Hell Yeah" didn't even appear on his 2010 debut RABDARGAB, a DIY-flavored production recorded with longtime collaborator Tom Cruz. With new album Smart Ass Black Boy due in June, Tony doesn't dwell on Spencer's slight. "This is the best record I've done," says Tony, who released free LP Double Dragon in 2012.
"It's a coming of age album, but maybe not in a traditional sense," explains the nimble 24-year-old hustler, who delves into race, identity, and his Nigerian roots on the SABB as well. "It's about going from being a teenage boy wanting to fuck anything that moves to being a mature man looking for love."
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