Aside from the fact he spells his name entirely in lowercase and all of his songs entirely in uppercase, the first thing I noticed about tobi lou on “BABYCAKES” is that he’s all fucked up.

I don’t mean tobi lou the person is fucked up. Did you get that twisted? My bad. He’s all fucked up because he’s BEING fucked up. For whatever reason this otherwise cheerful song is accompanied by a clip where suit and tie wearing thugs are punching him in the face until he’s left black and bruised, spitting blood from between his teeth, and then waterboarding him for good measure. I mean WHY THOUGH? I get that it’s a way to make his album “Non-Perishable” stand out amongst a very crowded field, so congratulations to him on breaking through, but it’s definitely not the kind of image I would have associated with such a bouncy sing-along track. At least when he talks about elephants in “MEANINGLESS” there are actual elephants in the video. That I get.

The longer I spend listening to tobi lou and not looking at his visual performances, the more I realize we’re now living in a post-Juice WRLD, post-XXXTentacion world. tobi lou is taking the template they put down, working within it, but simultaneously seeking to reinvent it. I’d say tracks like “WIDE Open” featuring Jean Deaux are what would happen if you fused Juice or XXX’s styles with that of Kendrick Lamar. He sounds like he’s trying to make songs that are bops, but also emo, yet still feel cool and breezy. It’s quite remarkable how well he pulls all of these elements together into a cohesive whole without completely losing the plot.

Perhaps tobi lou sums it up best himself with his bars on “Hurry-Up Offense.”

“I know I’m nice, you ain’t gotta admit it
Fuck all that hatin, you sound like a critic
That boy be snitchin like he playin quidditch
Please, do not park there or you’ll get a ticket”

It might be even more remarkable that lou co-produced the song along with ​Matteo Woods & LEJKEYS, and they all deserve credit for a song that goes in its own lane. Speeding up, slowing down, falling apart and following none of the so-called rules of music, nothing about “Hurry-Up Offense” actually feels rushed. Time and again on “Non-Perishable” tobi lou and his producers seem perfectly content to come straight out of left field with whatever shit they feel like. In a rap field full of formulaic rappers with the same topics and styles, tobi lou doesn’t just feel different — he IS different. He might be “Busy” but he’s not too busy to be interesting.

I haven’t been struck by my first time listening to a rapper like this in a minute. What’s even more astounding to me is that he had no Wikipedia entry (at least as of this writing) so I had to do the legwork outside of it to find out he’s Nigerian born, Chicago raised, and if his birthday is correct (November 3, 1988) he’d be in his mid-30’s by now. FFS why haven’t I heard of tobi before now then? Where has he been hiding? I think it’s about time we all started paying more attention to him because “Non-Perishable” is a much needed breath of fresh air.

tobi lou :: Non-Perishable
8.5Overall Score