Arts and Entertainment

Tobi Lou and The Creative Mind

Nigerian-American singer-rapper Tobi Lou creates an inviting universe filled with all the things he loves.

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Tobi Adeyemi, better known under the moniker of tobi lou, is a Nigerian-American hip-hop artist with a unique talent for world building. With a playful style developed from both nostalgic ‘90s cartoons and K-pop aesthetics, Lou combines whimsical visuals with what he calls “happy [EXPLETIVE]” musical dualities in order to create and expand his Tobi Lou universe.

Lou first caught mainstream attention in late 2019. His track “Buff Baby” (2018) on Spotify immediately stood out to many with its reference to the dancing baby Finn clip from the popular cartoon “Adventure Time” (2010-2018). The lyrics—simultaneously cheerful and self-deprecating—paired themselves with a strange, dancing figure reminiscent of the beloved cartoon. TikTok feeds soon became flooded with an abundance of the “Buff Baby” dance.

Before music, however, Lou played baseball semi-professionally in the Minor Leagues and planned on pursuing the sport further before an injury in Mexico cut his dreams short. “I thought, ‘Damn, this is really my last game.’ But in that moment, I knew that I would do music next,” he said in an interview with V Magazine. A year after his injury, Lou moved to Los Angeles and began working with director Glassface, whom he met on a Kanye West forum under his original musical name, Wonda. He gained initial buzz with early singles like “New Bish” (2016) and “Game Ova” (2017).

One of Lou’s main appeals is his unique marriage between wild, provocative imagery and versatile music. His early works were heavily inspired by the big names of hip-hop: The Notorious B.I.G., Pharrell, Timbaland, and Kanye. He also cites “Hey Ya!” by OutKast as one of his favorite songs, and its powerful influence in his work is evident. The song’s basis, “You don’t want to hear me, you just want to dance,” follows the same grit and aggression covered by a happy melody found in Lou’s tracks like “Darlin’” and “TROOP,” the latter featuring Smino.

One of Lou’s other major inspirations is animation. “Not only did I grow up watching cartoons, but I [also] still watch that [EXPLETIVE],” he said in an interview with COMPLEX Magazine. He thanks Goodnight Meesh, his current album cover artist, for creating the Little Lou character that appears on most of Lou’s covers and in his fully animated music videos. Lou hopes to create a cartoon himself in the future, reminiscent of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988), blending cartoons and reality.

Lou is constantly exploring his creative potential. His most recent EP “Lingo Starr” (2020) is actually a six-minute song broken up into three parts. “I wish I could make all my songs 10 minutes long,” he admits. “[But] I know that not everyone wants to go on that journey.” The live music video is striking and extremely entertaining. In one shot, Lou runs through the streets of L.A. handing out Black baby dolls. In another, he dons clear butterfly wings that catch aflame and transform him into a dragon. The visuals are fun and playful, while still incredibly well produced, complimenting the sweet but weighty melody.

“Lingo Starr” specifically touches on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, topics that Lou has included throughout his discography. “I try to continue the conversation even when there’s nothing about it in the news. People are taking down systems of oppression, and we’re all becoming our own dragon now,” he said.

Throughout all of his work, Lou is tireless. His great energy and the limitless possibilities his imagination fosters allow Lou to develop and explore his own sense of self through music. While he is still rising in popularity, he has never stopped using his platform to create wonderful and inviting worlds inhabited by childhood nostalgia and bright pop aesthetics. Like he says, “We’re all dealing with real [EXPLETIVE]. But even when dealing with real [EXPLETIVE], you’ve still gotta have a sense that anything can happen as if your life is a [EXPLETIVE] cartoon.”