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FAT TONY – SUNDAY, 12/16/18 @ 4:00PM

“Fat Tony says a pair of trips this year to places he’s never been before changed his life.

The Houston-born rapper spent a week in Paris in May for a “performance camp” run by acclaimed Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales, writing original music and performing for crowds.

“(Paris) was really tough, but I really learned a lot,” Tony says. “It really showed me that there is no end to the lessons you can get as a musician.”

And he’s recently returned from a week in Jamaica, a trip that was “purely leisure” with his girlfriend and friends. It was a rejuvenation and preparation for what looks to be a busy several months for the Third Ward native.

His fifth full-length album, “10,000 Hours,” has a Sept. 28 release date. He’ll return to Paris this month for a Fashion Week party with Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director. And his tour kicks off Sept. 27 in Canada and runs through November.

Before that, though, Fat Tony comes home for a Friday show at Satellite Bar.

“Man, I miss the diversity,” Tony says of his hometown. “And I miss the food.

“I love getting a good banh mi because it’s hard to get those out here (in Los Angeles), and they are super-overpriced. The other day, I swear, I saw a $7 banh mi. You got me all the way f—ed up. That just goes against every inch of my fiber.”

Tony, whose full name is Anthony Obiawunaotu, was on an upward trajectory even before he left Houston in 2016 for Los Angeles. He’s a smart, funny and thoughtful performer who draws from the city’s rap traditions while frequently turning them inside out. His last two full-length solo albums, 2013’s “Smart Ass Black Boy” and 2017’s “MacGregor Park,” earned national attention. He scored a viral hit in 2016 with “Dame un beso,” a collaboration with Houston tropical dance collective Bombón, and hosted monthly hip-hop parties in Mexico City.

His current track, though, has a different feel and sound. It plays like the precursor to a real moment — the culmination of so many years of hype and hustle.

“I think I’m busier than ever. I used to travel, like, once every couple of months. But now it seems like damn near every week I’m busy doing something,” he says. “And it’s cool because I’ve started doing stuff that’s more than music.”

At the top of that list is “Thrift Haul,” a game show he hosts for Super Deluxe, a multimedia entertainment platform. “Thrift Haul” is a “competitive fashion show” featuring comedians, rappers, singers and YouTube personalities vying to put together the best themed thrift-store outfit.

Like his music, Tony says it works because it draws on his own love of ’90s fashion, from overalls to vintage T-shirts to faded jeans. There are currently a dozen episodes online, with plans for many more.

He says moving to Los Angeles, which he calls his “workspace,” opened up possibilities beyond music.

“I started to meet more people in that world. Just seeing the way that they operate, how it can be an extension of what I do,” he says. “I was always interested in doing more than one thing, which is why I’m all over the place as a musician. I like to make my own music. I have my other group, Charge It to the Game. I also DJ.”

The music, of course, is still front and center. “10,000 Hours” is his most adventurous effort to date, an autobiographical affair that includes a multitude of local references while still beautifully expanding his sound. There’s even a country song, “Got It Out the Mud,” which he says was inspired by an acoustic version of the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses” and his father’s love of the genre.

(And, no surprise, it’s more country than most of what’s currently on radio. Listen above to the premiere.)

Tony has a strong partner in producer Hev1n (Lucas Gorham), previously of acclaimed Houston group Grandfather Child, who also worked with The Suffers’ Kam Franklin on her recent solo EP.

“Lucas was always a guy I looked up to as a musician. He was one of the first guys I ever saw play a real concert. I grew up with his little sister,” Tony says. “It fed into this album naturally. This was purely based in friendship, where I think my best s— comes from.”

He previewed the album last month with “Texas,” a fiery track that plays on his punk roots and pays homage to Le Tigre and Devo. The lyrics shout out Selena and Solange, Pimp C and ZZ Top, alongside rails against the NRA, Greg Abbott and SXSW. It’s a perfect example of Tony’s unique appeal.

“My whole story is about going against the grain. I’m always going for what feels the most honest to me,” Tony says. “I’m just naturally going to not do what’s regular. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

“This album is just about me being myself and just having fun. Every album is like that. But I think honestly, as time goes on, I feel more like myself every year.” – Joey Guerra (Houston Chronicle)

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