The major labels are crumbling. The deficit soars. Your neighbor came home with SARS. Teenage youth are more armed than Ted Nugent. There will never, ever, be a new episode of "Friends". Clay out-sold Reuben. Odds are you are about to enter another four years of Bush-brand terror. Not to worry, though. Rjd2 has a new album.
On his breakout solo debut, Deadringer, Rjd2 sent listeners on a musical foray into instrumentalism, feasting on styles both old and new, and in the process creating a sound that’s emerging as one of the most interesting and exciting new voices in instrumental music. In a genre filled with ambient spacemen and droning techno fromage, Rjd2 brought a sense of song structure and vitality that was sorely missing, harkening back to a time when instrumental groups like Booker T. and the MG s got radio play (no joke). And the accolades rolled in. From industry luminaries like Chris Blackwell, to members of Radiohead and The Strokes, to ?uestlove of The Roots (who nominated Dead Ringer for the prestigious Short List awards in 2003), to DJ Shadow, Rj soon became a favorite of those in-the-know. Dead Ringer was an incredible success globally, appearing on many a year-end list, including Spin’s Top 40 Albums of 2002. In ’03, he followed up the success of his debut with The Horror, an EP of B-sides that played closer to an entirely new album than a collection of leftovers, and cemented Rjd2 as one of music’s most talked about new artists. Touring from Japan to Amsterdam, Rj caught wreck with a dizzying 4-turntable reconstruction/reconfiguring/reinterpretation of the album for fans worldwide, sharing the stage with the likes of DJ Shadow, El-P & the Def Jux crew, David Lynch, The Roots and Prefuse 73, amongst others.
While Rj soon became the name to drop in hipster circles, he made his bones in the underground, playing a major role in that mid-west power surge better know as Columbus hip hop. After setting it off in 1998 with the mighty Mhz crew on Bobbito Garcia’s legendary Fondle Em Records, he caught the attention of El- P and in 2000, he locked in with the Definitive Jux camp, and soon after made his DJX debut on Def Jux Presents I, co-starring with Company Flow, Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock. Then came the now classic "Good Times" white label 12-inch, and the rest has been indie hip hop history. Over the past few years, Rj’s profile as a producer has grown immensely as he’s clocked time on the boards producing or remixing Mos Def, Massive Attack, El-P, Aceyalone, Polyphonic Spree, Elbow, Cannibal Ox, and others, wielding a versatility rarely seen in music today. His prolific nature has brought him the unique accolade of ’freelance producer/remixer extraordinaire’ in Urb Magazine’s Best of 2003
issue, amongst others. As one half of the duo Soul Position, he’s the ultimate team player, taking a back seat to his MC, Blueprint, and letting him do the talking, while RJ’s music keeps the heads nodding. Their 8 Million Stories LP was received in 2003 to rave reviews and continues to nod, and turn, heads. ---------
2004 brings a new, self-titled album, a more focused and cohesive effort than Dead Ringer, while still maintaining the vitality and soulfulness that made his debut so enjoyable. Like a modern day Quincy Jones in the abstract, RJ truly orchestrated his new record, creating a multitude of new songs from all angles, writing music and lyrics, arranging vocals and melodies, auditioning singers and even experimenting with a vocoder. He cut out any fat or filler, and in an industry virtually afloat on the concept of the guest appearance, the album features none (well, maybe one). It’s strength instead lies in the meticulous programming, lush instrumentation and solid song arrangements. In many ways, an artist’s sophomore album is when their true colors are shown (or exposed), and when their real career begins (or begins to end). In the words of Jimmy Castor, it s just begun.
Fat Tony stands at the forefront of new generation of young rappers who get it themselves—a DIY hustler who's built his burgeoning career on a foundation equal parts smarts and swagger. The Houston MC owns the mike with a casual confidence, workmanlike in his delivery whether laidback or lyrical, embodying a new brand of enlightened Southern that's as likely to tip back some lean on your front porch as sit down and school you on Dadaism. Through his simmering solo work and boundary-busting collaborations with Das Racist and A$AP Rocky, among others, Fat Tony has already launched a legacy.
As a first-generation Nigerian-American raised in his city's historic Third Ward, heritage has always been important to Fat Tony. One of his earliest memories is of a parade of black cowboys riding down the local main street on MLK Day, blaring the good doctor's speeches over zydeco tracks. His childhood home was filled with records—King Sunny Adé and Jimmy Cliff from his father's collection, his mother's jazz and soul, Granny's gospel. He watched countless hours of music television as a kid, got his first drum kit at 8, and pummeled it to pieces shortly after seeing Nirvana on MTV.
Fat Tony became a key player in the Houston music scene as a young teen. Inspired by the independent spirits he looked up to—from the Ramones and the Germs to UGK and Slum Village—he began throwing
shows at local venues and friends' houses. He booked bands of all types from all over, hand-made flyers and mailed them to addresses nabbed from the student directory. Meanwhile, he toured regionally and
earned a rep as a fierce performer, eventually racking up three consecutive annual "Best Underground Hip-Hop" awards from the Houston Press while studying communications at the University of Houston.
In 2010, Fat Tony self-released his debut album, RABDARGAB, a sharply stylish set named after a local literacy campaign from his youth: "Read a book, do a report, get a buck." In keeping with the theme, he offered to send a dollar bill to anyone who listened to the record and wrote it up. (He wound up sending out $27.) Shortly thereafter, Das Racist reprised and rapped over the Murs-featuring "Luv it Mayne" for their Sit Down, Man mixtape, and legendary screw DJ OG RON C offered his "chopped up, not slopped up" version of the record, SCREWDARGAB, in 2011.
A veteran at 24, Fat Tony comes to Young One Records knowing the two most important principles of creativity: 1) no matter where his music takes him or what others may say, he alone is responsible for the quality of his work, and 2) in the man's own words, "It's good to be good." With that in mind, he has two full-lengths poised for 2012. First up is Double Dragon, a Cuban Linx-style rapper-producer pairing that finds Fat Tony's go-to beatmaker Tom Cruz sharing mike duties. Second will be Smart Ass Black Boy, which will no doubt be aptly named. -Christopher Martins