Rapper Fat Tony isn’t just an artist — he’s an influencer. The Houston native, who goes by Anthony Obi offstage, has been making his mark on the hip hop scene for a decade as a rapper, DJ, and video host. Through the years, he’s managed to stay fresh in the world’s most unpredictable business by hustling, adapting, and embracing multimedia. Obi cut his teeth emceeing alongside legends like OG Ron C and Murs back in the late 2000s. His sophomore album Smart Ass Black Boy catapulted him into the mainstream in 2013, turning the heads of industry executives and casual listeners alike. Since then, he’s lived around the country and taken his talents abroad on a dynamic, and seemingly limitless, musical journey. Obi’s most recent album, MacGregorPark, dropped in August of last year and got love from Spotify, Earmilk, Uproxx, and the legendary critic Robert Christgau among others. The project was bookended by national tours with California punk rockers The Garden and Indianapolis rapper F L A C O.
It’s been a wild ride for Fat Tony. A few highlights: four Houston Press Music Awards, partnerships with Vice and Volcom, a DJ residency in Mexico City, and more SXSW sets than you can count on two hands. These days Obi resides in L.A., where he makes music and hosts “Thrift Haul”, a “competitive fashion show” on Super Deluxe that you’ve got to check out. I was lucky enough to talk with him over the phone recently about his busy year, the joys of thrifting, and the importance of staying true to yourself.
INTERVIEW WITH FAT TONY
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity*
PETER (HIGHLARK): According to your Instagram, 2017 was the best year of your life. What made it so great?
FAT TONY: I’m at a point in my life where I know myself the best and I feel the most comfortable I’ve ever felt with myself. It’s more clear than ever what I want — not just in my career, but in my personal happiness. I’m with a woman right now that makes me really happy, I’m living in [L.A,] a place that’s really productive for my career. I feel like with my art I’ve gotten to the point where I know what to say right now. My last album took me a couple of years to finish because I kept going back and forth with what direction I wanted to go in. I felt like I wasn’t being the most honest I could be with my music. And now I’m at a point where I know exactly what I want to represent, which is more of my outlook, more of my opinions, more of my feelings — overall I just want to make more personal statements with my music and open up myself more.
PETER: You dropped your fourth studio album, MacGregor Park, in August of last year, and followed that up with a tour in the fall. Has the album received the reaction you were hoping for?
FAT TONY: Yeah! I was really surprised because I hadn’t put out a record in a while. I was lucky that it was well-received and got on the top 10 hip hop albums of the year on Bandcamp — Houston Press loved it too, it was their favorite album of mine so far. More than press, I had a lot of fans writing to me and telling me they loved the record. It felt like a big relief, to finally get it out.
The tour was great too. The tour before the album came out I went on the road with this band called The Garden. They were awesome to go out with — that’s probably my favorite tour that I’ve ever done. After the album came out I did a co-headlining tour with this artist F L A C O who I felt like was a kindred spirit. Him and his boys were really fun to hit the road with.
PETER: You’ve got a new show on Super Deluxe that’s all about thrifting — it’s hilarious. How did you get started with that and how has it been going?
FAT TONY:They approached me with this show idea and I made some alterations to it. I introduced the idea of there being a guest judge and I tweaked some of the concepts of the show. I’m a writer on it as well as a host and it’s great that I get to explore my love for vintage clothes somewhere. I’ve always been into thrifting and vintage fashion but only as a hobby; I never thought I’d get to make a performance out of it. It’s also a way I can collaborate with more than just music folks: we have comedians, we have actors, we have people from different backgrounds on the show.
PETER: You’ve been in the rap game for a decade. What lessons have you learned along the way?
FAT TONY: My outlook has evolved into finding what I want out of everything. I saw this great quote on Twitter one day where this guy said “if you can do you forever, you’ve made it”. I look at that as saying “if you can decide what kind of projects you want to to take on and if you’re able to be honest in all of your work, then you’ve made it”. That’s the pinnacle of success for me: being myself and honing my talents in several different ways.
PETER: Throughout your career, you’ve worked hard to grow your brand by collaborating with media companies and artists (such as A$AP Rocky, Kool A.D., and Bun B). Do you feel you’ve gotten the credit you deserve to be getting?
FAT TONY: I don’t feel like I get the exposure that I have deserved. I still find there are a lot of people who are just finding out about me for the first time now. But part of that’s a blessing because I’m not burnt out, no one’s sick of me yet, whereas a lot of people get a lot of attention their first crack at it. Maybe their first time at it wasn’t the best representation of themselves. Maybe they weren’t putting their best foot forward. And then they’re stuck the rest of their career being seen as a has-been. I feel lucky I’ve been around for so long that I’ve learned a lot and gotten to expose my art to new people time and time again.
PETER: What’s next for Fat Tony?
FAT TONY:Right now I have an EP out called Snak Pak. My group Charge It To The Game, we’re putting out a new album on April 27 called House with a Pool. I have a new Fat Tony albumthat’s coming out this fall and I’m going on tour in the fall too. I’m feeling great about 2018 because much like last year and the year before it, I’m doing something new.