Sound ‘Round: Fat Tony / The Rough Guide to Salsa de Puerto Rico

A Texan and Puerto Ricans in it for the long haul

Fat Tony – MacGregor Park (self-released)

Anthony Jude Obi is the next great rapper you’ve never heard of but has every right to grab your attention. His intellect is keen, his rhymes nimble, his compassion and humor served in equal measure. Before Hurricane Harvey dumped 275 trillion pounds of water on his native Houston, he spent the preceding years earning his keep in the city’s Third Ward. This eight-track mixtape, released a month before Harvey’s biblical torrent, is an ode to the city that made him and a love letter to youthful innocence. The best track here combines both sentiments, wherein a drunk Tony hits up Texas-based burger chain Whataburger with his sweetheart (“Me and my girl at the drive thru / And you know I got fries, too”). The setting is purposely juvenile, but these aren’t the musings of a misty-eyed romantic, rather a 28 year old who understands the pros of being pragmatic. He settles scores with fists instead of guns, gives a cop the benefit of the doubt and proselytizes the societal benefits of legalizing chronic. He’s heady no doubt, but his heart wins the day on the sanguine title track in which ordinary charm defeats everyday drudgery at his favorite H-Town hot spot. Flooding be damned, there’s still no place like home. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Drive Thru” / “MacGregor Park” / “Ride Home”

Various Artists – Rough Guide to Salsa de Puerto Rico (World Music Network, 2003)

The title is misleading. While this 63-minute compilation is muy salsa grande, the music’s Puerto Rican heritage isn’t always directly imported. By my count, at least five of these 13 acts originated stateside and were raised in the Bronx by immigrant parents. Another is Cuban and another still is Dominican. Geographical particulars notwithstanding, salsa is an uncontainable feeling, an assembly line of supple grooves, delicate textures and an alluring streak of romantic fatalism. That the track list is so cosmopolitan reflects the unifying power of music as well as Puerto Rico’s complex relationship with the United States — a relationship exacerbated 14 years after the album’s release by Hurricane Maria and Trump’s inability to comprehend human suffering. And while ordinary schmucks like you and I pick up the slack in rebuilding efforts, play these songs to celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit. After you’ve donated to relief efforts, start with Eddie Palmieri’s buoyant piano inflections before migrating to Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe’s irresistible fiesta. After relishing Jimmy Bosch’s warm alto and even warmer trombone, play the whole thing front to back. When you’re finished, donate some more and give the music another spin. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Tirandote Flores” / “Todo Tiene Su Final” / “Muy Joven Para Mi”

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