MUSIC MAKERS: Fat Daddy Has Been
By: Brandi Mellinger
“Has been” isn’t a very flattering title. Kind of like conceited (oh, you meant “confident?”) or aggressive (code word for “persevering”), it just doesn’t sound like anything you’d want to be.
But Fat Daddy Has Been went ahead and made it an official part of the band’s name. And the musicians aren’t afraid of using the same term often used to describe celebrities whose success is behind them.
Ironically, the eight members of the Wilmington, Del. band aren’t “has beens” at all, but are instead musicians who have had much individual success in a series of other projects and are simply combining their efforts to form one very popular —and large — musical act.
“The original incarnation of the band dates back to the early 2000s. We were all involved in our own projects and decided to join together just to have some fun on the side,” said front man Marcus “Marchitect” Slade.
His hip-hop group, “The 49ers,” has had continued success in the United States and worldwide and is planning a tour in Japan in November.
“We ended up writing songs and the vibe was so good it turned into something. We started making underground CDs and playing at local festivals and open mic night events,” he said. “We went through some changes as the years went on with some members leaving, but the original core of the band stayed the same. We then added a three-piece horn section and that’s the Fat Daddy Has Been you see now.”
Completing the eight-piece act are drummer and percussionist Donny Merrill (who “sits in now and then with various projects,” Slade said), guitarists Mike Gilley (a producer) and Steve Bailey (who plays with the Pepper Band), bassist Adam Beck (also a solo artist), trumpeter John-Paul Jones (who plays with the New Kings of Rhythm) and saxophonists Andy Abrahms (also in New Kings) and Brie Allen.
Most also have full-time jobs, ranging from executive chef to music teacher. “Basically, we are keeping true to how we got the name in the first place — a bunch of ‘has beens’ with a dozen CDs out,” Slade said, laughing.
Together, the musicians create a sound that combines hip-hop, soul, reggae, ska and rock. And whether it’s the beat of the music or the sheer excitement of seeing that many people on stage at once, working together to produce a seamless sound, Fat Daddy Has Been is capable of making any music fan smile.
Led by a dreadlocked Slade and his light and engaging lyrics (think Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes), the band has a good time on stage, no matter the venue and that attitude is contagious.
“Eight people can be a lot to work with, but traditionally musically, people have always had to collaborate. Look at every orchestra or big band, and eight people seems small,” Slade said. “Practices are usually fun because we are all friends, just clowning around and handling business. Usually someone comes to the table with an idea, maybe something as simple as a riff. We all expand on it to write the music.
“We try not to lean too far in any one direction, but at the same time, we want to give you the signature Fat Daddy sound. We try not to go so far over your head you can’t relate, but we also want to give you more musically than the average band.”
Fat Daddy Has Been has released three albums — its self-titled debut CD, “Who Wants Seconds” and most recently, “Cannot Kill My Music”) — and performed everywhere from Philadelphia to South Africa. The band has also shared the stage with a handful of well-known acts, including Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige, The Toasters and Rusted Root, and earned numerous awards — 2009 Best Hip-Hop Group (WSTW Hometown Hero Award) and Best Alternative Band by Delaware Industry (Delaware Music Awards, 2007 and 2008), among others.
“The overall goal for the band is to have fun. Being successful, putting on a great live show — these things are fun for us. I think that’s why we strive to practice hard and be as technical as we can be on stage. It feels good when it feels right,” Slade said. “So if you see us having fun, that means we are working hard. We are working really hard to have a lot more fun.”