No artist personifies the DIY culture of both underground hip-hop and Houston as perfectly as Fat Tony, the Third Ward-born musician who stormed through the indie-rap gates more than a decade ago. Through years of writing and performing amid the hip-hop scene of the fourth-largest city in the country, the man known as Anthony Obi has graced stages with the intent to always honor his inspirations, musical or otherwise. He’s found himself as an artist among the likes of fellow Houstonians who mix inward-looking pathos with storytelling and a swagger all their own—from Devin the Dude to Scarface—as well as like-minded iconoclasts from other genres such as Prince.
Fat Tony has emitted vital dispatches from his hometown to the world since he was able to pick up the mic and pass out CD-Rs and post links on MySpace in high school. Following a slew of independent releases, his 2013 record, Smart Ass Black Boy, introduced Tony’s singular voice to a national audience. A voice that was introspective but slyly humorous, keen to recording barnburners about house parties inside gentrifying neighborhoods on the same piece of wax as an ode to the tough love doled out by his immigrant father.
The winding road he’s traveled in his career reflects the range of his vision—an artist captivated by the spirit of punk rock and hardcore music, eager to put his on for his hometown as much as decamp to New York, Los Angeles, or Mexico City for inspiration. He’s always been deeply interested in human connections, whether as guest lecturer at a contemporary arts museum, editor of a self-published zine focused on artists of color, or co-host of a talk show on Vice. Along the way he’s collaborated with such key figures as Bun B, A$AP Rocky, and Maxo Kream, fronted a noise-rock duo, and picked up accolades from every Texas-based publication imaginable, as well as national outlets including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and The Fader.
Speaking on his latest project, I Will Make a Baby in this Damn Economy, Tony said: “At this age, giving game is my main objective. What am I doing if I’m not sharing wisdom in my lyrics?” I Will Make a Baby in this Damn Economy is the sound of an artist firmly in control of his best instincts and adept at making music that could only come from him. Back in the studio with Taydex, with whom he recorded Wake Up, a pop-oriented record released in 2020 months before the self-contained episodes of Exotica, Tony has located a key collaborator who’s as discerning as him in pulling out what makes them tick. This is a leitmotif of Fat Tony’s career—always driven by himself, but finding the right people with whom to make the best art. Whatever he’s done, he’s got it out the mud.