Winner of the Houston Press Music Award’s Best Underground Hip Hop award from 2008-2010, Fat Tony’s been steadily building a rep as one of the more unique and talented young MCs out of post Swishahouse H-town. On his newest LP, Smart Ass Black Boy, the 25-year-old teams up with longtime producing partner in crime Tom Cruz. Smart Ass Black Boy is decidedly weird, and has its fair share of curveballs, but the albums gels in a way that was missing from their previous efforts RADARGAB and Double Dragon.
The album’s got a song about everything and no songs about nothing. Laced with humor, light social commentary and self-reflection, Far Tony’s lyrical presence seems wise beyond its years at times and adolescent at others. Tony’s got a knack for witty hooks, and these are the moments where his humor shines brightest. On “Creepin” Tony flips a Jay-Z classic breakup song into the juvenile yet hilarious “Can’t see me coming out her thighs, so I gotta make her man cry.” On “Hood Party,” Kool A.D. plays a similar trick on Drake, rapping “All I care about is money and the city that I’m from/That’s dumb/Isn’t that exactly like the Tea Party Platform?” Fat Tony’s lackadaisical attitude is his most endearing quality, and his delivery is as candid and unpredictable as Tom Cruz’s production, pandering to rhyme and rhythm schemes at his convenience.
The album’s two singles, “BKNY” and “Hood Party,” are the most accessible records on SABB. The rest are growers, best suited for headphones or solo cruising. While every track doesn’t necessarily hit the sweet spot, Tom and Tony are confident enough in themselves and their formula (or lack thereof) to translate the project into a compelling musical experience. At a time when concept albums are the trend, Smart Ass Black Boy is a fine example of how to make a smart, cohesive album without a clear-cut narrative to guide the listener along.—Nick De Molina (@odmod)