Despite what his name may leave you to believe, rapper Fat Tony (born Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu) is full of spunk and vigor. The Houston native rocked the Duffy’s Back Lot at the annual Lincoln Calling music festival on Thursday, Sept. 19, promoting his sixth studio album, “10,000 Hours,” released September 2018.
With three singles already released in a year since the album dropped, Fat Tony is constantly creating music. The rapper sat down with the Daily Nebraskan to discuss his roots in Houston rap, what it’s like to be a young artist and the process of musical creation.
Daily Nebraskan: So your name is Anthony — how did you get the name Fat Tony? Are you a really big Simpsons fan?
Fat Tony: Yeah, I was a big Simpsons fan when I was a kid, and I was a big fan of Blink-182. So in eighth grade, Blink-182 put out an album called “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.” They went on a promo run for it and they went on TRL (Total Request Live) and held a contest to let an upcoming band come and join them in their studio. The band that won the contest was named Fat Tony, and that was the first time I ever heard the Fat Tony name outside the Simpsons. So I was like, ‘Oh that’s dope,” so I went to school the next day, and I was doodling Fat Tony on a styrofoam cup… and my friend was like, “Is that your new rap name?” And I was like, “Yeah!” So it just stuck.
DN: So how young were you when you first started making any kind of music?
FT: I think I was like 13 or 14 when I first had the idea to make music, like writing rhymes in notebooks and s***, but I didn’t actually record my first song until I was 15. I wanna say it was my sophomore year of high school, and I had a buddy at school who had turntables and microphones and software and all that. So me and my friend Keith went over to his house and started recording, loved it, so I got some demo equipment at my house, and I started recording myself and recording my friends and just kinda caught the bug. But it wasn’t until 2005 or so that I made my first CD. We’d put on shows and really try to get it out there, so that involved me really becoming a solo artist. Then, in 2008, I put out my first Fat Tony EP, and then in 2010, I put out my first album, “RABDARGAB,” and I’ve been doing this ever since.
DN: I know you just talked about this [in the rap panel you just did], but I know plenty of college-age kids or younger who are extremely passionate about rap and music in general. The guy to your right [in the panel] said the advice he would give any aspiring artist would be to “be likable.” Anything you would add to that?
FT: Well I think [being likeable] is really important because when you’re in a creative business whether it’s music or art or film, people who want to work with you also want to be your friend. So it is all about being likable and making these relationships. It’s not like other aspects of business where you can be kind of cold… but more importantly, just like I said up there, you gotta have fun, be wild, be daring, be brave enough to put yourself out there. I think a lot of people in music get caught up in quote-unquote “making it,” and that’s dangerous to your creativity because it makes you imitate people and trends that are working right now. That’s a recipe for disaster because nobody wants the second hand version of something that you’re already used to.
DN: Well, that brings me to my next question. Your music is so diverse, how do you go about experimenting with different sounds? Does it come naturally or does it take some concerted effort?
FT: I think it comes naturally because I love music of all types and genres, and I always have, so I’m very open-minded. But I think the diversity in my music comes from my collaborators, you know, like I meet people, and if I like them and dig their taste, I find which parts of our music taste align, and I try out making music in that style with them. If it turns out to be a good song, I’ll make another one, and then I’ll make another one. If it really meshes, we can get a whole project out of it.
DN: Speaking of collaborators, how was it to work with A$AP Rocky?
FT: It was cool! That really happened because of A$AP Yams. Yams messaged me on Twitter and was like, “Hey, I have this new artist, and he uses the same engineer that you use, would you come down to a studio session and just kick it?” I went down to the studio, I met Yams, I met Rocky, they played their song and asked me to talk on it, like the way people talk on Screw tapes [of the recently deceased DJ Screw]. We just spent the whole night hanging out at my buddy’s studio. A few months later, Rocky’s album drops. It’s a great album, it gets a lot of attention.
DN: Which album was that?
FT: That was his first record, I think it’s called “Live, Love, A$AP.” It’s not on Spotify or anything, it was his very first record. It was a mixtape.
DN: Is there any particular city that you would say is most conducive to success as a rapper?
FT: I would say if you’re in music and you live in the United States, you should make a point to go to Los Angeles, because that’s where you’re going to find a lot of artists who are trying to do their thing and you’re gonna find the industry there that’s going to challenge you to be better.