“Bitch I’m From Chicago”: tobi lou Breaks The Ice With First Full Length Album Release
Don’t let all that glitter and shit fool you….
You’ve never encountered an artist quite like tobi lou. On first glance, it’s easy to make assumptions about the emerging South side raised, afro-puff sporting rapper; but you’d likely be wrong. Though child-like and whimsical in appearance (and sonically), tobi lou’s artistry is nothing to play with.
Growing up in Chicago by way of Nigera, tobi was heavily influenced by the sounds of Kanye West, Common and Chance the Rapper (to name a few) and what influences you can’t hear in his music, you see in his visuals.
In fact, the key to his art is all about aesthetics. His lifelong love affair with cartoon animation is intertwined in almost every video he’s released. From his ode to the artistic styling of Murakami/Kanye in the visuals for the Smnio assisted single “TROOP” to recalls of Adventure Time in “Buff Baby” from his older projects, tobi has a knack for seamlessly intersecting animation with real life in a way that’s iconically his own.
His obsession with the visually appealing doesn’t stop there. Its captured in everything from the boldness in eclectic style, the orations in his lyrics and even in his refusal to capitalize his name on the internet.
Even though still in the infancy of his career, he’s unabashedly candid and sure of himself as an artist and he should be. With a massive cult following that breaches the boundaries of age , a resume of visuals that have already amassed millions of views on the internet and an eye-opening perspective on life and the world around him, tobi is not just an artist to be experienced. He IS an experience.
Fans and family alike got a taste of the tobi lou experience during the release party for his first official album, Live On Ice.
Hosted at an ice skating rink on the Northwest side of Chicago-because DUH! , tobi invited fans of all ages to try their legs on the ice while getting an exclusive listen to the 21 track project, accompanied by free merch and his favorite hometown delicacy -Giordano’s Pizza.
We got a chance to sit with tobi to chat about the new project, his love for animation and the duty he feels to give back as a budding Chicago icon.
NG: You just had your Live On Ice release party today. With 21 tracks, do you consider this a mixtape or is this an album?
tobi: I’m going to tell the truth- it was a mixtape. But as soon as I saw someone say something about rappers calling their project mixtapes because they’re scared to call it an album, I was like, “Fuck it then. It’s an album.”
NG: So we can be the first to exclusively confirm that this is tobi lou’s FIRST album?
tobi: Yea! It’s everything. It’s a mixtape. It’s an album. It’s a journey, an odyssey, an audio book. It’s literally everything. It transcends everything before it.
NG: Historically your projects have only been a few tracks. Why was this your longest?
tobi: It was time to enter my name into the hat. I woke up one day and realized that I’m not looking up to the same people I used to – I’m looking up to myself now. In this day and age, if you’re not a big artist they play it safe. They wanna do an EP. I’ve already done that. I did a lot of that last year but I feel like now’s the time to strike and I’m in a position where I can’t really lose because not enough people know me TO lose. So I can unload all this right now and see what happens with it. Let the world play with it.
NG: Speaking of winning, you tweeted that you were finally happy Apple Music and Spotify changed your name to lowercase? That seemed like a huge win for you. Why was that such a huge accomplishment?
tobi: I’m a real aesthetic person and I just hate the way my name looks capitalized. It doesn’t look good. If I see Kanye West’s name capitalized it looks good. But my name, I look at it and be like, “ It looks ugly. I don’t want to listen to that artist. I don’t wanna click on that name.” When its lower case, it just like “oh what’s this?” You know? It just looks fire.
NG: A lot of your videos are all about the aesthetics as well, especially the way you incorporate cartoons and digital animation with real life. Where the inspiration for this come from?
tobi: Cartoons are a big part of my life still today. I feel like a lot of people grow out of them but as I grew older, they started teaching more and more about life than sometimes real shows did. There’s so much gold hidden in cartoons that people miss. Back in the day I was watching Hey Arnold , random shows, anime, Adventure Time . There’s so much trippy shit that goes beyond the realm of what you think an animation can show you. So I use it because I like it. I believe in it. And I see what magic is in it.
NG: Finally, how important was it to have this event here in your hometown?
tobi: I feel like I’m just now getting to the point where I can do shit that matters for the people. Whenever you get a platform its about what you do to give back. Coming out of Chicago, I really like Chance the Rapper. I think he’s a great musician, artist, rapper, everything. But one of the most amazing things about him was how much he was doing for the city while not waiting until he got super rich. He was always giving back along his journey as he was rising. So I just feel like that’s my job: to make people happy – to help them get through things and to be there for them. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
Listen to snippets of Live On Ice below: