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Fat Tony, ‘Smart Ass Black Boy’ (Young One)

Fat Tony / Photo by Jessica Lehrman
SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Label: Young One

Exactly what kind of Smart Ass rapper is Fat Tony? Judging from his new LP’s title track, he’s the kind who reps Pythagoras, Buster Keaton, and longtime supporter Bun B in the same stanza. The sort who’s indifferent about his male fanbase, but imagines the ladies appreciating his style with a hearty “Holy cow, wow!” The type whose amiable troublemaking is undercut by the lingering melancholia of true-life travails, like an unexpected pregnancy. An MC who, ever since he and producer Tom Cruz dropped 2012’s stupidly clever, ponderously goofy, totally charming, slightly overstuffed treasure trove Double Dragon, is now “double swaggin’.” Or perhaps the Houston hometown hero should speak for himself: “My status is comparable to the honorable uncles and fathers before us who kept order.”

Hear, hear. Tony’s friendship with Das Racist would be obvious even if they hadn’t borrowed “Luv It Mayne” from his 2010 debut RABDARGAB: He shares their affinity for casual hedonism and hyper-referential wisecracking as coping mechanisms. Hence, now “I Shine” becomes a grim-but-gregarious syllable-cramming meditation on societal ills, including marriage inequality (“I swear it tickles me pink / How they think that they can tell somebody who they can marry / I bet they wouldn’t yell that shit at Katy Perry”) and racial tension (“I feel a little bitter when some people say ‘nigga’ / But I feel a little better when I’m in Susan’s Jetta / Gettin’ head”). In the stupendous soured-romance parable “Never Let You Go,” he’s so pumped at the prospect of 24/7 chicken-and-rice that he’s willing to hang with his fiancée’s friends, “even the men.” The deeply affecting “Father’s Day,” a spiritual cousin to Earl Sweatshirt’s “Chum,” still manages to be sly: Despite the generational and cultural gaps that wreak havoc between them, Tony sees his Nigerian immigrant dad in himself “from my earlobes to my elbows to my genome.”

Das Racist’s Kool A.D. is in the house, by the way, conflating Drake and Tea Partiers on gentrification banger “Hood Party.” He and nerdy spazzmaster Despot are the only guests capable of matching wits with our protagonist — even Tom Cruz, who contributed respectable bars to Double Dragon, barely feels present on the lowlight “Creepin’.” Good, then, that he mainly sticks to constructing post-NES FlyLo-meets-Timbo gurgle-thump Adult Swim synth beds for Tony’s dexterous drawl, ever the Elton John to our host’s Tim Rice. Smart Ass Black Boy is another insane yet oddly mellow entry in their increasingly impressive catalog, subtler and more assured than RABDARGAB, but more wide-awake than Dragon. It feels like a cartoon, but it’s grounded in real-life minutiae — trolling for women in Brooklyn, wondering where your God is during race riots, purchasing Groupons, offering a prospective lover your toothbrush, and exhaling with relief when your mistakes end up working out. You know, regular-guy stuff.