Nseobong Okon-Ekong discovers, Tobi Lou, a potential Nigerian superstar in music, who worked daily in America as an Uber driver so he could have free time for studio sessions to create and record music
We do not yet know him in Nigeria. Let me explain that. At least, not many know him for who he is. True, he was born in Lagos, but he has lived the better part of his 29 years in the United States of America. However, that relative anonymity is about to change as Tobi Lou goes full throttle with his music career.
As stardom beckons, he is set to join the league of Nigerians in the Diaspora like Jidenna and Wale who are living their dream as celebrity artistes. The rapper, singer-songwriter and producer, bought his first microphone at 13 years and hooked it up to his computer to record his voice. That was when he began to take music more seriously. Previously, he remixed songs for his classmates by tweaking the lyrics of popular songs to make his name fit seamlessly into it. Of course, his appreciating classmates got a huge kick out of it.
His parents, Olaronke Champion and Yomi Adeyemi have supported him every inch of the way as he developed his interest in music from a youthful pastime to a maturing songwriter and producer. His emerging career has witnessed a few twists. He started out playing the Cello. Along the line, he stopped playing to concentrate more on sports in High School. Although, he does not officially play any instrument now, he is able to figure out how to play melodies on a piano.
The claim about Tobi’s rising fame is still being made in a hush, but not a few are sticking out their necks and are willing to place a bet on Tobi’s potential to turn the table in his favour. It is a huge compliment that his style is being compared to Drake. The official video of his song, ‘Game Ova’ on YouTube which was uploaded about one month ago has garnered close to 2000 subscribers and still counting; with close to 58000 views. ‘Game Ova’ also attracted so much attention that there is a KRS remix of the song.
The comparison to Drake may be cheering, but if anything, it challenges Tobi to work harder. So far, he has been consistent, sticking to the same style of RnB and slapstick rap in tracks like ‘Hopefully’, ‘New Bish’, ‘Txt Me’, ‘Pretty Please’ and ‘A.R.O.K.’
For now, he is not desperately concerned that his music has not hit the mainstream of the American music industry. In a society where competition is stiff, he is only too happy for the kind of attention coming his way. His approach seems to be working for him. He said, “I think my only strategy is to keep making undeniably, good music and to stay consistent with releases. I think ultimately if a product is good enough, it will find its way to the people. Whether that’s from word of mouth or the right person jumpstarting my career. I’m very religious and I believe God takes care of all things in due time. I truly believe that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Tobi is expected to pump out more singles to increase the possibility of releasing a full body of works later in the year. While his songs may not have charted yet and none of them sound like great pieces to dance to, but there is no denying the incredible feel-good sentiment and smooth sex-appeal in his voice. These factors combine with his great personality to create a good aura around him and his works. With the frequency of unambiguous reference to sex in the lyrics, it suggests that Tobi is not totally able to escape the prevailing influences in that genre of music. He said, “I have recorded material and I produced it along with many different co-producers. It was produced in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Germany, London, and Jamaica within the past four years. I’m releasing my first full length project in the fall of 2017.”
Explaining where the influence to his music comes from, he said, “I grew up listening to almost all genres. That’s reflected in my music. I do a hybrid of singing/rapping. I think Kanye West and Kid Cudi were big influences in my early years of creating music. I also used to love Biggie a lot. When I was younger I basically took in whatever I heard on the radio or saw on MTV. I could be into a Backstreet Boys song on one day and the next day be listening to Blackstreet.”
The consistent sounds in the background of all his tracks are melodious and pleasant to the ear. The dropping beats hit home with that bouncy texture that blends well with his voice to complete the carnal atmosphere. This is his thumbnail take. “I would describe my style as playful but real. I can get really emotional in my music but I can choose to do it over a light-hearted beat. I like the juxtaposition of mixing opposites or things that one would not think to put together. I’m wildly imaginative; and I think that’s the thing that carries me through most of my music. I make music that can be enjoyed from a little kid all the way up to a grandparent. Everyone should listen to my music.”
Tobi hints on the possibility of expanding his style to attract and grow his Nigerian fan base. He said, “I would definitely agree that there is something called Nigerian pop, and it’s great. It’s rhythmic, it’s the kind of thing that comes on and you can’t help but to want to move. The melodies are very bright and it’s that “put a smile on your face and dance” type (of) music. It’s very upbeat which I like a lot. A lot of current my music isn’t that upbeat so it’s something I look forward to doing with my future songs.”