TOBi's New Album 'Still' Channels Toronto, Yoruba Culture, Rebellion and, Yes, His Mother

TOBi's New Album 'Still' Channels Toronto, Yoruba Culture, Rebellion and, Yes, His Mother
Photo: Anthony Gebrehiwot
"I gotta remember who I came with, I gotta remember who held me down," says TOBi. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter and rapper, born in Nigeria and raised in Brampton, now carries Toronto on his back — "the stories and the hearts of the people in the city [are] with me where I go." They provide the roots of his debut album, Still.
"I call this shit is post-traumatic growth," TOBi states on the LP's intro, "Growth." It's a statement that launches an album-length journey of self-discovery, one that shows exactly where the artist is at today.
"There was a couple of events that triggered me to get into that space, and the thing is [that] I didn't explicitly address it on the album and there's a reason for it, too. I [want] to give myself the time and the space to address it — I may not even ever address it in this medium; I may address it in another medium. But there's definitely an event that was significant enough to warrant this album to be made," he notes, enigmatically.
"I felt like I wanted to start the album with a phrase that would dictate the overall mood of the whole project, so thematically where my head was at, where my heart was at, post-traumatic growth," he continues. "It [represents] both sides of trauma: there's before trauma and there's after trauma. Your life is changed and you choose where you go from there."
For the past two years, TOBi has been set on recording a project that challenges ideas of modern masculinity, societal issues and addresses his own coming-of-age experiences.
"This project was cathartic for me — I needed to get it done in order for me to branch out and spread my wings, know what I mean? I didn't want to limit myself to a sound for this project, because this is my first full-length. I wanted to explore all the avenues that I could as an artist [...] because I feel like there's so many sonic landscapes I could live on [and] so many different genres I could live on, so why don't I bring those into my world for this first project?"
TOBi drew inspiration from his Yoruba culture to stitch it together. He also brought in a special guest: his mother.
"I didn't bring you to Canada for you to be shot, please come home," she urgently says on "Shot Me Down." It's the plea of an immigrant parent that many first-generation kids have heard before.
"I'm from a tribe that has like 40 million world members, but for me, it's also self-preservation. I need to retain these things that I was rooted in before I was adapted into this colonialist mentality and assimilation… it's integral for my survival and thriving. That whole theme is so important because we've had that convo 30-plus times — and it's not just me and her, there's so many mothers and parents who've had that convo as well. In order to have an authentic story to myself, I needed to put that aspect on there."
Though he describes himself as an "over-thinker," TOBi's every move is calculated to be the best version of himself — and it's an ongoing process. It's his post-traumatic growth, after all.
"There's a lot of things [to take away from the album], but the most important thing that I can think of right now is being true to your story, be true to your identity and always leave room for growth."
Still is out now courtesy of Same Plate Entertainment/Sony Music.