A short Q&A with Houston’s most influential rapper: Fat Tony.
I want to start with a question that gets asked so often it might seem like a cliche while allowing for some interesting answers. What does music represent for you?
Music represents so many different things but at its core for me it represents a voice for people that typically may not be heard, a way to bring together a community of people no matter how big or small that community is, and the ultimate form of artistic expression. Music isn’t just about sound anymore. The visual element is just as important and that goes for music videos, styles of dress, album and single artwork, and more.
What would you be doing if it wasn’t music?
I started off going to university as a psychology student. I was determined to become a clinical psychologist for young adults but put it aside because I felt like I wasn’t giving it 100% if I was pursuing a music career too. If it wasn’t for this, I’m sure I’d still be at it. I actually find myself as a musician accomplishing some of the same goals I wanted to meet as a psychologist. Connecting with people, empowering people, and comforting people definitely happens through my music with some fans. I see it frequently in the letters, emails, messages, and fans approaching me after shows telling me I’ve had a positive impact in some way on their life when they’ve been through a rough time.
Who are your music heroes?
I’ve got plenty but some that come to mind right now are the Ramones, Prince, Michael Jackson, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Morrissey and The Smiths, E-40, Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, 2Pac, UGK, Outkast, DJ Screw, Three 6 Mafia, Mac Dre, Too Short, Aaliyah, R. Kelly, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, Rick Rubin, Beastie Boys, Scarface, Devin the Dude, Kilo Ali, Ice Cube, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Mannie Fresh, Bikini Kill, Lil B the Based God, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul. Haha, I know that’s a lot already but trust me there’s more! Even though he’s not a musician, I’ve got to list my man Richard Pryor, one of the greatest entertainers we’ve ever seen. He’s absolutely been a big influence on me from day one.
It is very difficult to differentiate music these days. Where do you take inspiration to keep your music fresh?
I’ve always got something to say. I’ve always got a new idea to put out there. I’m a artist at my core and I’m stuck with this whether I’m doing it professionally or just for the thrill of it. We’re together forever.
You are one of the smartest musicians in the industry right now. Yet, you do not make a big deal out of it. What do you think of the self-proclaimed geniuses?
To each their own. I prefer to let my music and all I do speak for itself. Like Pimp C once said, “opinions are like booty holes” and we’ve all got one.
'I Shine' is a very politically charged song. You showcase and protest the rights of different groups in our society. What drove you to write a song that not only protests against oppression, but celebrates the differences between different social and cultural groups?
We made the Smart Ass Black Boy album around the time a lot of gay rights activism was happening in mainstream media and around the death of Trayvon Martin. Those two events just got my mind going about a lot of human rights issues and with that song I was just letting my stream of conscious let loose. It’s important to let progressive, open minded thoughts out into the world. Even if you’re not going in depth about it, just the fact that you’re giving support to a sometimes unpopular opinion will reach the people that need confirmation that their thoughts are valid. It will motivate them to stay true to how they really feel and voice those feelings whenever they feel necessary.
On a lighter, and perhaps humorous note: Would you consider writing lyrics for any other genre? Perhaps a rock or even a country album by Fat Tony?
Yeah I’ve got a rock ‘n’ roll band called Cunt Killer with some friends here in Houston. I play bass and write some of the music in the group and we’ve recently found a singer who’s penning the lyrics. We’re going to release a split album with Party Animal, a band from the bay area that Kool A.D. (formerly of Das Racist) plays drums in. I’ve also got a duo called Blasian. It’s me and a singer named Bebe Panthere where we’re doing music that’s a bit more pop. It’s really fun and lighthearted stuff for now.
In the interest of giving your fans more of you, what are some of your musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty about any music I like! A lot of what I’ve been listening to since high school gets exposed on http://www.last.fm/user/yeahobi but I’ve never been shy about expressing what I’m into or what I’m not into. Some people think Chief Keef sucks, but I’m fascinated by his music. Same goes for Lil B. It’s whatever to me.
You are the type of artist that does not hold back on helping others. Do you have any advice for rappers and musicians who aspire to be like you?
Be yourself. Aim for originality. The more you copy, the more you fail in the long run. Get some business sense about yourself and put your money where mouth is. If you’re serious about being a musician, then reasonably invest in yourself. Keep your options open. Stay in school. Keep a job. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Always step outside of yourself and look at your situation realistically. And last but not least, do not get caught up in your own hype. No matter how successful you may become, stay humble and eager to work hard to earn more. Save your money cause it won’t be around forever!
Any last words?
Thanks a lot for having me and God bless all the Fat Tony fans out there. I’ve got a lot more to give you. B-)