Fat Tony Exotica

CAK148

Oct 23rd, 2020

Storytelling isn’t merely a vehicle for self-expression, it’s a mode of transportation. A two-way mirror in which we process gilded dreams and grotesque nightmares, the transgression of cultural taboos and the upholding of ancient tradition. It’s also the animating idea behind much of the greatest popular music ever made. Consider Exotica, the new album from Houston iconoclast, Fat Tony, the latest brilliant entry in that fabled tradition, what Outkast once described as “shooting game in the form of story rapping.” 

While hip-hop supplies the foundation of the Third Ward native’s assault on genre, his futuristic soundclash encompasses seductive velour soul, lecherous French chansons, fluorescent new wave, and even splashes of African pop and reggae; the latter two being the residual effect of Tony’s Nigerian heritage and a sojourn to Jamaica to record the Carpark Records-released album with engineer, Abijah Livingston, son of Bunny Wailer. 

“This album is an ode to the art of storytelling through music,” the polymath born Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu says, distilling Exotica’s essence. “Picture records like The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, or Bob Marley. Every lyric was carefully considered to make sure we properly conveyed each character’s narrative and motivations. I wanted to create a world of unique stories with room for each to be interpreted in distinct ways.”

Assembling a Manhattan Project-style team of experts, the atom-splitting production came via Tony and his longtime collaborator, GLDNEYE (aka Tom Cruz), and engineering via Livingston and Brooklyn’s Steel Tipped Dove. To make the Third Coast cypher complete, Bun B pops up on “What Wake You Up,” courtesy of a cross-island dash where Tony paid visit to the legendary underground king, then vacationing in Montego Bay. 

Each song is a rich and compact iteration of rap short fiction: Biggie’s “I Got a Story to Tell” channeled through John Cheever. Take lead single “Feelin’ Groovy,” a frantic meditation on lust, desire, and the notion of throwing it all away while puffing on a Black & Mild. Picture something like if Fat Pat fronted Scritti Politti. Or “Gambling Man,” where Tony one-ups the late great Kenny Rogers to tell the story of a ne’er-do-well schemer named Johnny, obsessed with the thrill of the roller coaster emotions before he discovers whether he’ll win or lose. If the Tom Tom Club knew every word to DJ Screw’s Wineberry Over Gold, it would probably sound like this. 

Bob Dylan once famously said that an artist should “always be in the state of becoming.” And in the case of Fat Tony, Exotica is the latest stage in an evolution that has included everything from a bravura turn on the first A$AP Rocky mixtape to co-hosting a TV show on Viceland, founding a DIY Houston culture magazine to subversively expanding the parameters of experimentally-minded rap. Here is Exotica, nine new stories, more untrodden ground on the left hand path, a novel strain ready to be unpacked. 

Tracklisting

  1. What Wake You Up (feat. Bun B)
  2. Special Girl
  3. Gambling Man
  4. Feeling Groovy
  5. Je Ne Sais Quoi
  6. New Beginnings
  7. Jeremy Bixby
  8. Intimate
  9. Back In The Saddle

Audio

Other Info

UPC(s):
LP (Tri-Color Vinyl): 677517014815
CD: 677517014822

  • North American publicity by Orienteer
  • College/Non-Commercial radio by Terrorbird
  • Digital playlisting & positioning by Terrorbird
  • Sync licensing by Terrorbird
  • Facebook boosted posts and targeted Instagram dark posts throughout campaign
  • “Feeling Groovy” and “Gambling Man” music videos in the works
  • “What Wake You Up” features Bun B of UGK
  • Press on Tri-Colored Vinyl, includes free digital download

Press Photos

Hi-Res TIFF Album Art:

Lead Press Photo:

photo by Aileen Son

photo by Aileen Son

Artist Bio

Somewhere between DJ Screw and Bad Brains, De La Soul and Scritti Politti sits Houston’s native son, Fat Tony. For the last decade, Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu has been everywhere: from star-making turns on the first A$AP Rocky mixtape to hosting shows on Viceland and Super Deluxe, to co-founding a DIY culture magazine to playing every worthwhile rap party in America and burning the stage down every single time. A singular and experimentally-minded rap artist adept at both traditional regional styles and indie pop, hardcore thrash, and melodic candy-painted bangers. He is punk in the platonic sense of the word: experimental and subversive, but also funny, whimsical, and virtuosic.

 

Over the course of more than a half-dozen LPs, and countless other short-form gems and collaborations with everyone from Das Racist to Bun B, Fat Tony has reimagined and blurred the boundaries of hip-hop. There are a few things you can depend on in this schizophrenic world. About once or twice a year, Fat Tony will drop an album and it will sound like nothing that he has done before. There’s a spirit of creative restlessness and intelligence that runs through his deep discography. He is a national treasure, one of those rappers destined to seem forever underrated until you ask around and realize that everyone in their right mind likes Fat Tony. He is the Whataburger of rappers: if you know you know.

 

Raised in Houston’s historically black and culturally radical neighborhood, the Third Ward, Tony’s mom and teachers educated him from the get-go about how this was the regional cradle for the Black Panther Party — and how BP hero, Carl Hampton, was murdered by the Houston Police Department. It was an environment where social awareness and Pan-Africanism were always around and celebrated. His childhood home was filled with records—country music, King Sunny Adé, and Jimmy Cliff from his father’s collection, his mother’s classical music, rock, and soul, and his granny’s gospel. Then as a teenager, empowered by the internet and his discovery of independent artists like E-40, Bikini Kill, and Bad Brains, Fat Tony began recording and distributing his own music. Heavily influenced by renowned Texas rappers like UGK and Scarface, Fat Tony started playing and organizing live shows at a time when there wasn’t much of a scene for young artists in Houston. He started booking bands of all types from all over, hand-making flyers for the shows and mailing them to addresses nabbed from the Carnegie Vanguard High School student directory.

 

His dedication to Houston’s rap scene earned him Houston Press Music Awards’ “Best Underground Hip Hop Artist” in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013. Primed for more national audiences, Fat Tony began taking his music on tour and collaborated with more artists around the country. His sonically unpredictable and emotionally vulnerable music has garnered praise from Pitchfork, The Fader, and Noisey. His achievements in rap have pushed him out of his comfort zone into other performance and hosting opportunities on TV and the Internet. This fall, Fat Tony releases Exotica on Carpark Records. It heralds his most visionary work yetan ode to the art of storytelling through music. A rich and compact iteration of rap short fiction that firmly establishes him as his own one-man genre, the preeminent post-modern griot shooting game.