Fat Tony started by throwing away the notebook.
Spiral-bound, pages filled with sample lyrics and hooks, “the notebook” is one of those eternal conceptual staples in hip-hop lore, the place where all songs are born.
So it was no small leap for the celebrated Houston rapper (born Anthony Obi) to write songs for the new Double Dragon mixtape (released Friday) entirely freeform. Talking by phone from his new home in Los Angeles, Obi said there was hesitation followed by liberation when producer Tom Cruz pushed him to go into the recording booth with as little as one verse or a chorus hook fully fleshed out, with the rest coming direct to tape off the top of this head.
“You cut out the filler that way, because when you’re writing all that stuff down it gets to be like you’re writing an essay and we all know, what are you really doing when you’re writing an essay? You’re mostly bullshitting,” he said.
“Tom has been trying to get me to write down the words in my head for a while, and once you give it a try you feel free. You just have to have a strong imagination and learn how to visualize a before it’s done, so you’re really just filling in what’s not already there.”
The result is a relaxed, quick offering–only one song over four minutes–-that never takes itself all that seriously. Tony said he wanted his first release in two years to “sound like summer,” with a lyrical focus on Golden Age standard fare (good times, friends, and parties) even though Cruz’s stuttering, glitch-heavy beats are thoroughly modern.
The more cerebral, introspective side of Fat Tony will come out on the already recorded Smartass Black Boy, which will likely drop in the fall.
It’s been nearly two years since the release of his debut album RABDARGAB, time Tony spent touring with Das Racist, A$ AP Rocky and fellow longtime Houston colleague B L A C K I E, and switching his home base to Los Angelese for the foreseeable future.
“I came out to L.A. to make a fun album because I wanted a change of pace and to get my mind in a different place instead of being in the same old situation in the Third Ward with the same friends, and the same family I’ve always been around,” he said. “This is probably the place to be for someone in music and who is interested in film and other entertainment. I still want to get back for parties and shows in Houston, and I’m hoping to use whatever momentum I gain from being out here and put it back in my home.”
To promote Double Dragon, which is the first release for the new Young One record label, Tony and his labelmates jumped on the punk and metal-heavy Chaos In Tejas festival in Austin and also booked a spot on Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest, which was also chock full of indie and other non-rap acts.
Listen to Double Dragon here.