Ronnie Watts – better known by friends and fans as Phat Kat – fell in love with the written word at an early age. Growing up in Detroit meant he was surrounded by music, both at home and in the streets, which aided in developing his talent.
Phat Kat began writing rhymes in high school and before graduating had produced his first song. He would later meet J Dilla and form the group 1st Down. They would go on to sign with Payday Records in ’95 and released their first single, “A Day Wit’ the Homiez.” Not long after, the label folded and the duo disbanded but would remain friends and work together again on Phat Kat’s Dedication to the Suckers EP, as well as several Slum Village releases.
In 2004, Phat Kat would release his first full-length album The Undeniable LP on Barak Records, which featured guest appearances from artists including Dwele and Obie Trice. The following year, he left Barak Records and signed with Look Records, which released his second album Carte Blanche that featured collaborations with Young RJ, Black Milk, J Dilla, and others in 2007.
Whether it’s touring across Europe or collaborating with fellow hip-hop artists like Guilty Simpson, Elzhi and Casual (Hieroglyphics), he stays on the grind. Fans can expect his new album, The Rededication to the Suckers, to drop this summer and should stay tuned for a number of other projects he’s working on.
Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble got to speak with the hip-hop hustler on his beginnings in the business and posed a question from one of his fans about the possibility of a full-length release from the “All Madden” crew.
What’s your earliest memory of hip-hop?
Earliest memory of hip-hop…wow. Like, two o’clock in the morning was a video show called Soul Beat that used to come on in Detroit, and they used to play the early videos. That was the first time I saw Whodini’s “The Freaks Come Out At Night” video. I was done. I was done after that.
Did you grow up in a musical household?
I mean, I always grew up around music. My uncle was a DJ. I used to sit around and watch him DJ and just go through all the old records and look at the covers and just enjoy the music.
Where did your career in music start?
About eighth grade, that’s when I realized I could do this for real. I was always a writer. I was always in creative writing classes and stuff like that. And then when hip-hop came long, I just incorporated my writing skills into music form, and I always loved music, so it was like a perfect marriage.
Who were your early influences?
I loved Soul music. I always mention Soul music. I grew up on it. I mean, this is Motown, so it’s everywhere. As far as the whole rap thing, I was heavily influenced by the greats – KRS-One, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane. You know, all the greats. Kool G Rap. I was influenced by a lot of different genres of music.
How do you feel your Detroit roots influence your style?
Detroit was always heavily techno-influenced, so just living there gives you an edge because it’s just a grimy city. But as far as the influences I had from here, the whole techno sound, you had artists before us – groups like A.WO.L. and the Rap Mafias. I was influenced by a lot of cats. By me liking all different styles of music, I just had to take what I was influenced by and incorporate my own style.
How did you meet J Dilla?
I was always a solo artist. Me and Dilla met at a spot called the Rhythm Kitchen. That was like the Ground Zero of Detroit hip-hop. That’s where it all began at. You know, because people in Detroit really weren’t feelin’ shit like that. So, we were kind of like outcasts. People would hear the stuff that we were doing and be all, “Ah, man. That’s cool, but that shit sounds like New York, man.” That’s what we used to always get.
But yeah, we met at the Rhythm Kitchen and just formed a camaraderie there. We started hanging out, and I started meeting different cats that had the same agenda. But from there, like I said, we formed a camaraderie and just started creating music together. Like I said, I was doing music before I met him. So, when we met up at the Rhythm Kitchen, I let him hear some of my stuff, and he was like, “Dang!” He was trippin’. So, we just linked up like that.
Your first full-length album The Undeniable LP dropped in 2004 with releases including The Quiet Bubble and Carte Blanche in years following. When can fans expect a new Phat Kat album?
Well, the new album is done. It’s a double EP. It’s called The Rededication to the Suckers. You forgot about that one. You forgot about the Dedication to the Suckers that came out in 2000 and before that, there was the 1st Down record with me and Dilla, which we signed to Pay Day in 1995.
In the past, you’ve collaborated with artists Black Milk, Elzhi, Dilla, Guilty Simpson. Are there any artists you hope to collaborate with in the future?
I like finding new producers because the new producers are the more hungry guys that have something to prove. So, I just like discovering new producers. Like, with the new record, I’m working with an up-and-coming producer from the UK. He produced both versions of the Rededication to the Suckers. He about to shock a lot of people.
So, a fan wants to know if you, Elzhi, and Guilty will ever do a full-length together.
(Laughs.) That’s so funny! We’ve been getting that for a minute now, so we talked about it on this last tour – the “All Madden Tour” we did back in the winter. It’s definitely in the talks. Me and Guilty, we on board. We just gotta make sure Elzhi’s on board.
So, maybe if we put it out there enough, it’ll happen.
Yeah, definitely, if the fans start requesting it. But I’m featured on Guilty’s new record that’s coming out this summer, too, and he’s on my new record and so is Elzhi. So, we’re all working.
Do you have any other projects in the works that you want to talk about?
Yeah, definitely. I might as well let the cat out of the bag. Me and Casual from the Hiero crew, we’ve got an album that’s done that’s coming out this year. We’ve got a group called Ron Jon Bovi. Yeah, that’s crazy. I’ve got another project that’s coming out, a 7-song EP that I recorded with a drummer/producer named DJ Dister.
Do you have any other plans for the rest of 2015? Are you going to tour?
Yeah, definitely. I go back out on the road, and I’ll be in Europe in July doing a festival run. I’m doing a lot of European tours. That’s what I’ve been doing.
So, I’m guessing you like it.
Yeah, I’ve been in Europe for the most part. That’s why people haven’t really heard from me.
I’ve heard fans over there appreciate the music more than they do here.
Oh my goodness. Yeah, because in the States, we’re spoiled over here. Over there, it’s like a treat to them. Like, “Hey, guys! That’s like a treat!”
Is there anything else that you’d like to add or promote?
Just promoting the new record, Rededication To The Suckers. Get ready for that. It’s going to shock a lot of people. I’ve got the official Phat Kat page on Facebook, and I’ve got @Ronnie Euro on Twitter and Instagram.