Fat Tony

Smart Ass Black Boy

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After the release of his debut album, 2010's RABDARGAB, underground Houston rapper Fat Tony offered fans a dollar if they reviewed the album. Send Fat Tony a review, he sent you a crisp dollar, and even if that's a press-making gimmick in an industry plagued with such things, it's a clever and charming one, too. Combine those qualities with a laid-back, warm, Andre 3000-styled flow, some golden age swagger, plus a never-ending supply of witty lyrics, and you've got the appeal of Smart Ass Black Boy, Fat Tony's first high-profile release. Production is skillfully handled by longtime collaborator Tom Cruz, who lays inventive electro and/or soul under the rapper, all of it memorable and some of it -- the brittle stutter of "Sleepover" -- quite stunning. Tony is the one that makes it all sound effortless, rattling off observations about his neighbors and the great "Hood Party" ("Even white people know it's a good party"), including being perplexed by "Bonnie and Mike, who, like, lived here all their life/And still don't know how to use a hookah." That cut features Despot along with former Das Racist member Kool A.D., while good friend Old Money joins Tony for "BKNY," a woozy, infectious highlight that feels like the party is peaking in slow motion. Wonders never cease as the feel-good "Frenzy" combines tiny synth bleeps with dancehall delivery and motivational weekend talk, then there's the sobering closer "The More Things Change (The More They Stay the Same)," which proves this Smart Ass Black Boy can be so much more, offering a musical African-American history lesson with special mention going to the Watts Riots. Slim enough, the man looks like he'd be swimming in any T-shirt sized above Large, but one listen to this effervescent and rich album and it's obvious why this Tony is dubbed Fat.

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