It seems strange that I’ve gone this long in my writing of the AOTW column and have yet to touch on hip-hop. It’s strange in that, during my teen years, hip-hop music dominated my headphones. It was all I really listened to. I mean, that and Papa Roach. Prior to the ipod, traveling anywhere involved me lugging around two “100 count” CD binders. God forbid I go anywhere without access to my entire music library. Those binder pages contained the likes of Notorious BIG, Eminem, Nas, The Wu Tang Clan, Dr. Dre, N.W.A., The Beatie Boys, and my personal favorite, Method Man. Now that’s a murderers row of rappers right there. You’ve all heard of those guys before, and if you haven’t, then you’ve most likely been living in a cave in some far off land for the past twenty years. In which case, welcome to our society. Ever since I took over The AOTW, I’ve tried to make it all about exposing you guys to something you may not have heard before. So this week I chose to write about a guy who, for the most part, has spent a majority of his career off the grid. He once flirted with fame, but has survived on the outside. That man is Fatlip.
It was 2004 when I was first introduced Fatlip. I was given a copy of the DVD The Best of Spize Jonze. It featured some of Jonze’s most visually stunning music video work. However the video that stood out most to me was the video he did for Fatlip’s first single titled What’s Up Fatlip? The video is a trip. Shot in the streets of LA with little to no concern for production value, Fatlip takes you on a tour of his world.
The fact that video wasn’t a treat for the eyes forced me to really listen to Fatlip’s lyrics. While a good amount of hip-hop focuses on getting money, girls, fame, and fortune, on this song Fatlip was casually rapping about living the life of a broke loser, with no game, no plan, and being kind of okay with it. For the first time in a long while, I was hearing hip-hop music that I could actually relate to. It actually caused me to reflect on my own life. As it turns out I too was a broke loser with no game plan. With that in mind, I drove the streets of Seattle, listening to this constantly for nearly a year.
I wanted to learn more about the guy. Turned out he came onto the scene with the group The Pharcyde. After their first album they began touring with A Tribe Called Quest, and in 1995 with the release of their second album Labcabincalifornia they scored their biggest hit with the track Runnin. On these records, Fatlip’s rhymes were fast, comical, and often ventured into the grotesque. In my opinion, it’s pretty clear that he’s the most talented MC of the group. Despite his talents, tension between Fatlip and the rest of the crew began to rise. With his newfound fame, Fatlip found some of those pitfalls that so many before him had found, most notably cocaine and ecstasy. Partying all night became the norm. The rest of the group could only take it for song long and soon booted him from the group. Fatlip quickly announced he would be starting his solo career. That was all back in 1995. I found him in 2004 and he only had one song. The hell had he been doing? Biding his time? I don’t get it. So much talent and in ten years he releases nothing? Not even a shitty cameo on a Little Kim record? Give me something!
Finally in 2005, he gave his fans, at least the ones that still remembered him, his first solo album titled The Loneliest Punk. One would think that I was elated when it was released, but no. You see I have the attention span of a hummingbird. When I couldn’t find him in 2004, I basically stopped thinking about him altogether. I wouldn’t get my hands on that album until 2008. I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I called my college roommate Ryan Skut to get the real story. But he was hung over and couldn’t remember. He did tell me about a 40ft rope swing that he had gone off yesterday though. That sounded pretty cool. One way or another, he got me a copy of the album. I really wish I remembered more from college.
I popped it on and was consumed by it. Despite being gone for as long as he was, it didn’t seem Fatlip had lost any of his edge. The guy could still flow; his voice was commanding, and his lyrics raw. It was as refreshing it was back in ’04. While I loved the lack of production on What’s Up Fatlip, The Loneliest Punk’s slick beats and artful mixing didn’t gild the lily in any way. Listeners were reintroduced to the Fatlip of old. This time without all the outside drug issues, so that was a bit of a plus. It took ten years, but the man made a damn fine party record. The songs for the most part are upbeat and fun, while his lyrics remain true to life. Today’s Your Day, which features the smooth voice of Jurassic 5’s own Chali 2na, is my favorite track hands down. The song is a banger. It’s vibrant, aggressive, and downright funny. The chorus features the raucous screams of Fatlip posing the question to us all, “Today’s your day babe, wacagonedu?” It’s that kind of song everyone is desperate for come 3AM when the party is in desperate need of a resurrection.
While much of the album is filled with fun jams, it’s the contemplative Writer’s Block and The Story of Us that stick with me most. Fatlip returns to rhyming about all of his personal issues, many of which got in the way of him releasing The Loneliest Punk. Most rappers don’t touch on the dark aspects of their lives without glorifying them in some way. Fatlip just seems to lay it out there with an “it is, what it is” attitude that you just don’t hear often enough. His songs are honest and honesty is often taken for granted in the hip-hop world. Things aren’t always as they seem. For example, Tupac used to rap about Thug Life, and the dude went to Julliard for acting. Today, Rick Ross is rhyming about slinging kilos, and homeboy was a prison guard. Then there’s Fatlip. Guy lives with his mom, got kicked out of his own crew, and is heart broken and poor. That life is all he knows, so he fearlessly raps about it. Why should he have fear? Life is, what it is.
In this man’s opinion, The Loniest Punk was definitely worth the wait. It took him ten years to release but hey, good art takes time. Hopefully Fatlip won’t take another ten years to release an album. Even if it does, I’ll wait.
Author’s Note: If you dig his music, Spike has bits from a documentary on Fatlip that you can find here