Houston Hip-Hop Ambassador Fat Tony Brings US Rappers to Mexico City With New Club Night

Photo by Andi Flores

Culturally, Mexico City and Houston are lightyears apart, but geographically, an hour and a half flight can bridge the gap. This is an ideal situation if you’re a promoter looking to make an impact with a monthly shipment of rappers, and those are exactly the intentions of Texas rapper Fat Tony, who’s launching his monthly CDMX club residency Function.

“They’re neighbors!” he told Remezcla of the two countries, a few hours after touching down in Mexico City the day before the second edition of Function. “Both cultures influence each other. It’s only right that these artists have a space to meet and share ideas instead of admiring each other from afar.”

For obvious reasons, Mexican emcees and producers haven’t been able to flow back and forth across the border – a flexibility that, in Puerto Rico for example, helped create reggaeton. Tony can’t change border politics, but he is pairing hip-hop artists from each side of the line at Function. This week, Das Racist alum Kool A.D. is headlining, with support from Mexico’s Yoga Fire and California vocalist Cult Days.

Function is a unique opportunity for artists who have built their career north of the border to connect with audiences back in their ancestral homelands. Mexican-American Houston rapper Dat Boi T headlined the first edition of Function in June. He shot the video for “Like A Dream,” a song that also features Tony, on site at his Function performance and throughout his Mexico City trip. (It’s anyone’s guess how the two dodged security guards long enough to record shots of them kicking it on the pyramids at Teotihuacán).

Tony (aka Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu), makes a good hip-hop ambassador. Low-key and likable, his lyrics range from the raunchy to the goofy. He’s been in the game since 2010’s RABDARGAB, but his music has always been an offbeat fit for the town that is one of the epicenters of Southern hip-hop. From his first trip, he was interested in what Mexico City had to offer by way of creative collaboration.

Mexico City saw Fat Tony for the first time in 2015 at Festival NRMAL, and then again at a Hip-Hop League DF afterparty for Material Art Fair. “Both events opened my eyes to the city’s enthusiasm for hip-hop,” he says.

Fat Tony can’t change border politics, but he is pairing hip-hop artists from each side of the line.

It’s pure hijinks when Tony plays with his DJ and fellow Houston emcee Ill Faded, the kind of funny hip-hop that you don’t see too much in Mexico City’s scene. Their sets bring to mind rap game Vegas lounge singers, complete with banter, the occasional Prince cover, and rounds of drinks ordered to the stage. That refusal to take themselves seriously on stage may be why hip-hop fans in the Mexican capital keep coming back. The boys are show business, so if they don’t get you with the verses, they’re coming for you with the charisma.

The duo was invited back to play Festival Marvin, a one-day, multi-venue event hosted by Mexico City music publication Marvin. Tony helped curate that day’s stage at Pata Negra, a bar with locations in the Centro Histórico and Condesa neighborhoods and a go-to spot for outsiders looking to dip their toes into Mexico City nightlife. Chilean reggaeton-trap artist Jamez Manuel and his Flow Latino back-up dancers joined the Marvin lineup, as well as Odd Future collaborator Speak, a California transplant that currently calls Mexico City home while he’s working on his new album.

Soon after, the magazine announced Tony’s monthly residency at Pata Negra’s Centro Histórico spot. His new event was focused on what it meant for him to be in the Mexican metropolis. “Function is all about bridging the gap between two neighboring countries who should mingle more often,” says Tony. “Especially in each other’s cultural inventions and appreciations.”

“The language barrier is the most exciting element they bring to my work.”

That bridging isn’t just happening on stages – Fat Tony’s clocking in studio time with Latin American artists in Mexico City as well. He’s spent time on each of his visits in Mexico City’s Panoram Studios, recording upcoming songs with Jamez Manuel, and rock band Beta and punk darling A.J. Davila.

“The language barrier is the most exciting element they bring to my work,” Tony says of this new crop of Mexico City collaborators. “As a rapper and songwriter, words and phrasing are very interesting to me and hearing the way songwriters here word things in Spanish offers a fresh take on familiar sentiments and ideas.”

Photo by David Casarrubias
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Future Function guests will run the hip-hop gamut, from the “experimental to the mainstream to the hilarious to the serious and more,” as he puts it. That variety is apparent in the names he dropped as party previews: he says he’ll be bringing dissonant noise rapper B L A C K I E and Fade to Mind’s P. Morris, a Los Angeles producer who has worked with Feist, Kelela, and Le1f in addition to working on Fat Tony’s last EP Look.

Fat Tony once wore a dog suit to dry hump in a video, so it’s no surprise that another one of Function’s future bookings is Houston parody rapper Chingo Bling. A viewing of Chingo’s Chicano re-dos of “Return of the Mack” and “Hotline Bling” should leave little doubt as to why he’s now touring as a stand up comedian. Only time will tell how those jokes play with audiences in the old country, or what impact Function will end up having in U.S.-Mexico rap relations.

The second edition of Function goes down on July 28, 2016 at 9 p.m. For more information, click here.