Tobe Nwigwe brings the ‘SWAT’ on Tour to Maryland
Chances are strong you’ve heard of Texas Native Tobe Nwigwe, or “Tobe from the SWAT” (South West Alief Texas) by now, but if you haven’t, you should.
Starting from the ongoing #getTWISTEDsundays series and inclusion in the 2018 BET Cypher, Nwigwe has enjoyed a meteoric rise in a relatively short time, and for good reason.
Nwigwe has been recognized by mainstream and CHH figures alike, to include Dave Chappelle, Erykah Badu, Black Thought, Lecrae, and more.
His “Tobe from the SWAT” tour stopped at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland where DMX played just the night before. Flashing lights and smoke machines set the mood for what felt more like a familial house party than a concert, with throwback jams from the ’90s and early 2000s on the sound system.
The DJ warmed up the still trickling crowd, the room steadily swelling with ‘Ouu’ hoodies and long socks with slides. Everything from ‘International Players Anthem’ and ‘Love of my life (An Ode to Hip Hop)’ to ‘Juicy’ and ‘Drop it like it’s Hot’ fueled the crowd’s two-step. This was a mature crowd which smelled of both cocoa butter and earthy herbs wafting with spirits and spirit.
As the billowing smoke clouds began covering the stage like a mist blanketing a mountain peak reached, the crowd began to respond to the call and response of the DJ. The show was starting.
Without any cue or preparation, we went from chill house party straight to hurricane as Tobe took the stage. From the moment Nwigwe, a former football standout stormed the stage the buzz that had been brewing elevated to a full-on roar from the crowd.
The amount of energy Nwigwe brought with “Tabernacle” could have been a show in and of itself. The first song ended with applause that sounded more like a clap of thunder than hands coming together. If you didn’t know any better the applause was so loud it could have been the end of the set.
Of course, it was only the beginning.
Taking a moment to greet the DMV crowd, sweat was already dripping from the man’s beard and it was only the start of his setlist.
“The energy you give is gone be the energy you receive,” Nwigwe said as he launched into his next song, “Jockin.”
The crowd rocked to the song, getting deep into the bass and groove.
Nwigwe took to the mic before the next song, “I don’t got fans I got family. That means y’all cousins” he said as the instrumental for “Day Ones” started, followed by 100k.
Luke Whitney’s runs on vocals sent waves of “ooh’s” and “whoo’s” rippling through the crowd, but when Fat, Tobe’s partner, and wife came out, you could hardly hear her verse over the drowning elation of the crowd.
After a long series of “Fat” chants from the audience, Tobe resumed, “Aight, go sit’cho butt down somewhere, your cousins [the audiences] gone handle the slack.” Fat, who is eight months pregnant, absolutely killed it.
The next chunk of the setlist included a mix from his albums The Originals, and More Originals, and his latest project 3 Originals to include “Murder,” “Caged Birds,” and Reality.
In her first time on stage, LaNell Grant, Tobe’s producer, and DJ, hit the mic with as much energy as Nwigwe did at the show’s start.
In something I have yet to see in any concert, Grant brought out her laptop and a drum pad to create instrumentals on the fly. The two instrumentalists (a drummer and keyboardist) sharing the stage added to Grant’s fire as Nwigwe rapped three songs back to back to back over the insane sonic journey.
Things slowed down a bit ‘for the lovers’ with “I Choose You,” a duet with the namesake of the song in “Ode to Fat” that sounded like they were falling in love all over again, “Wavy” and Wavy’s unrecorded sequel “Hydration” (which was named as such because “Wavy part 2 sounded wack”).
After the brief lull, the energy cranked back up on high with “Prosper,” with David Michal Wyatt on vocals, and Tobe rapping with the same hunger for the beat he did at the shows beginning.
After performing “Shine” with the crowd near the end, Tobe took a moment to tell a story of his life growing up in a Nigerian home that had the sweat soaked and the raspy-voiced audience laughing before capping the show with “I’m Dope.”
Overall, the music resonated deeply with the crowd, and the themes of hope, community, and purpose were expertly weaved throughout the show in brief story bits and song titles like laces tieing fresh Adidas.
While there was certainly uplifting and inspirational themes, Tobe’s music attracts such a wide audience because of its realness and ability to get into mature themes without vulgarity or glorification, and its artistry that is a callback to authentic hip-hop among many things. Make no mistake, this is music for mature people.
Tobe didn’t just say his supporters were family, but it looked like a family, one of the most notable points being that the supporting cast was given ample opportunity to shine in his music, his videos, and on stage.