tobi lou is A Force to Be Reckoned With

The Nigerian-born musician talks about his career and his latest EP Lingo Starr.

In July, the Nigerian-born musician tobi lou released his new EP titled Lingo Starr following the news of his hit song Buff Baby that was recently certified Gold. In roughly six minutes, Lingo Starr, which consists of three tracks, takes listeners on a ride through tobi lou’s mind, with extraordinary visuals and introspective lyrics allowing viewers to witness his evolution as an artist and capturing his thoughts surrounding racism in America and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Check out the Lingo Starr music video and an exclusive interview with tobi lou for VMAN below!

VMAN: Could you introduce yourself to readers who might not know you?

tobi lou: My name is tobi lou and my Instagram says I’m a scientist, but I’m an artist and I make music. You usually never meet people who say that they’re a scientist, but in some way, everyone is a scientist by experimenting and crafting new things, and we’re always pushing boundaries in some ways.


VM: Where are you from and how would you describe your upbringing?

tobi lou: I’m Nigerian and I was born in Lagos, but my family came to the south side of Chicago when I was one or two years old. My upbringing was cool I moved to the suburbs later on, and I played a lot of sports and hung out with my friends. I always try to reflect on my previous years to figure out what was going on during that time because everything just flies by.


VM: What was the pivotal or eye-opening moment that led you to pursue a music career?

tobi lou: It was a weird moment for me. I played semi-pro baseball and it was the third game of the season. I pulled my hamstring earlier on and baseball is really cut-throat, so I couldn’t say that I was hurt. In my last game, I hit a home run and as I was running the bases, I thought, “Damn, this is really my last game.” But in that moment, I knew that I would do music next because I always planned on doing both. Now that baseball was gone, I had to figure out how to get my music started.


VM: How would you describe your music for new listeners?

tobi lou: In the fewest words, my music is happy and extra sad. It embodies what most of my music is because we’re never fully happy. The norm is constantly a fluctuating state between happiness and brief moments of sadness.


VM: What are some of your music inspirations?

tobi lou: In the beginning, I was into really rap-y stuff and really pop-y stuff. I liked B.I.G., Will Smith, Tupac, and Nsync. Timbaland intrigued me on another level and then when Kanye came out, I knew that I wanted to pursue music. I like not only enjoying the music but also appreciating the art of it and figuring out what’s going on with the sounds.


VM: You recently released your new EP Lingo Starr, which is broken down into three parts (Return of the Dragon, Strikes Back, and Drunkenmaster). What inspired you to make it into three parts?

tobi lou: Lingo Starr is actually one long 6-minute 8-second song, but when I start a song, I have a habit of taking an idea and it keeps becoming new songs even though it’s still one song. For this EP, I wanted to deliver it in this way so fans can listen to whatever part they like most or they can listen to it all the way through. 

I wish I could make all of my songs 10 minutes long because I have so many ideas, but I always stop myself because there’s too much “scientific work” going on. I know that not everyone wants to go that journey because not every meal can be Thanksgiving, sometimes they just wanna snack on something.

JACKET: designed, handmade & styled by Avary Lauren PANTS: by Yohi Yamajoto Y-3 styled by tobi lou SHOES: by CHANEL x Pharrell NMD Adidas styled by tobi lou PHOTO: Stay Neutral

VM: There is a lot of strong imagery in the music video. Could you explain the meaning of some of them?

tobi lou: Sometimes when I do something, it’s not always symbolic like the cart full of Buff Babies. It was a crazy idea I wanted to see come to life because I wanted to bring back the “kid at the grocery store” concept that’s exciting and fun for everyone to see. Funny thing, I passed out some of the Buff Babies to some kids in the cart before I shot the clip and we had to fill up the cart with pillows to make up for the ones we lost.

On the other hand, the butterfly and the dragon are very symbolic because we all are going through stages in our lives. At some point, we have to ask ourselves: Am I still trapped in this cocoon? Am I not spreading my wings and taking chances? It’s important we identify where we are and continue our evolution so we don’t remain stuck. The butterfly turning into a dragon alludes that evolution doesn’t stop because you can be anything you want. It forces you to take on the world and become stronger.


VM: Lingo Starr also touches on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. What thoughts would you like to share on the movement and how does the topic of race tie into Lingo Starr and your music in general?

tobi lou: I’m an empath and I can feel so much pain in the world at all times. There comes a point where you can’t take it anymore and you have to do something about it. When the BLM movement resurfaced during the lockdown, I was trying to figure out what I could do as a musician and with my platform. I decided that rather than creating a new song about the topic, I used my platform to spread the information I was learning. 

But outside of recent events, I always talk about Black issues like police brutality in my music because we’re in a war and things like this are always happening. 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.


VM: How long have you been working on Lingo Starr and how did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your creative process?

tobi lou: I made Lingo Starr in February but we didn’t get to shoot the video until June. We had to film with a small group with no more than five people. It was the most tiring experience because we had to film and then I had to bulk edit the clips so they had time to add the FX effects to the video. It took a lot of time, but I couldn’t have done it without Glassface, Stay Neutral, Goodnight Meesh, Avary, and just my tight-knit group  that helped execute this safely.


VM: What are you working on now and what are your future goals? Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

tobi lou: Right now, I’m working on the album and more visuals. It was actually supposed to drop a month ago but with everything going on, it was delayed.

SHIRT: designed, handmade and styled by Avary Lauren VEST: designed, handmade & styled by Avary Lauren SHORTS: by Comme Des Garcons styled by tobi lou SHOES: by Adidas styled by tobi lou PHOTO: Stay Neutral
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