Nigerian Rapper Tobi Toun Adresses Socio-Cultural Issues Line After Line
It’s always about the message for Tobi Toun. Above the melodies, fame, and name, and his growing social media presence, this creative introvert is more concerned about the emotional state of his listeners than anything else. It’s what makes him different from every other CHH artist and rapper. This is probably the reason he studied communications in school; to know how best to reach out to more people and to do it the right way too.
“It has always been media and music, Itty,” he said, offering me water. “I studied Mass Communications. I’ve always liked the idea of communicating and putting ideas together.”
He had just beaten me in a game of cards. He let me know seven rounds in a row that I suck terribly at every kind of game and sports entertainment and I had only three wins to try to counter that notion. It was ten rounds of Tobi Toun being his highly intelligent self and being so without any stress.
His intelligence is very evident in his music and charisma. His outlook, tweets, poems, and rap verses almost always carry a sense of melancholic intelligence that tells that he learns a lot from life. It’s this very ability of him to express his art in many different ways that has people almost confused as to who he really is.
“I’ll just say Tobi Toun is a rapper, poet, and sometimes a singer. I sing, but I don’t front that as my brand,” he said.
His latest project, Spoken Words EP has been gathering a lot of numbers and most of the feedback it has gotten are people confessing how relatable every track of the poetry complication EP is. Tobi believes it’s because of his songs, poems, and rap verses reflect his emotions per time.
“What I aimed to achieve with the entire EP was that people would listen to it and find some calm. In the sense that everything is happening everywhere. You know, you are listening to this EP, that album, this and that everywhere. So I wanted something that people can listen to and remember that they actually have their own challenges which we forget while we go about our daily activities.”
“I wanted something that people can listen to and remember that they might be going through something, but kind of reflect through it and address it right there and then. To recognize it and find a solution to it immediately.”
There has been a struggle between two Twitter parties as regards the term “Christian creative.” One party says ‘I’m a Christian that creates’ and the other says ‘I’m a Christian creative’.
I feel like it is just stress, to be honest. I feel like the labels are only existent in people’s minds. So it’s not like I go around saying I’m this or that. I just create and then people just want to differentiate you from somebody else or another class of creators. And so they’ll say ‘oh, these are Christian creatives and these are secular creatives’. I think it’s stress.
So you are trying to say that your content might not be stereotypically Christian?
My content is Tobi Toun. My reason for creating music and poetry is for expression. My art basically expresses how I feel per time. You know when Lecrae put out ATWT, people were like ‘oh, this is not the typical Lecrae’ because Lecrae would typically just come out and be teaching or preaching. And then he came out to do something that was Lecrae, and people were kind of thrown off.
I just want to do what Tobi Toun is. So wherever it is I am mentally, or whatever is happening in my life, I will reflect in music. And I think it’s more of an influence of poetry that is swimming into my music because poetry makes no sense when it is forced. Poetry is what you see, feel, and perceive. When you try to make it out of what isn’t existent, it basically makes no sense. So that’s what I’m trying to do in my music. I’m just being myself.
And that’s why I say the Christian creative tags for me are just stress. I mean, it’s okay if you see me like that, that’s fine. But, I’m not going around trying to fit into any boxes. I’m just doing my thing and hoping it blesses you.
So the originality you mentioned, is that where “Safer in the Dark” came from?
Yes, yes. And “Hearts,” “Don’t Get Lost,” and pretty much everything on the EP.
So your music is a reflection of what you experience per time?
Absolutely. It may not be me. It may be people around me or happenings around me. Basically the realities around.
Tell us about Spoken Word EP.
Spoken Word happened within three weeks. The entire EP. It wasn’t supposed to be an EP that would go out initially. I wrote different poems and tried experimenting with actually recording poetry. You know on this side, it’s like there’s a lot of spoken word performances all around, but nothing people can listen to per time. I was trying to create something that is poetry, with some music, that people can have on their devices and listen to at any time – just like they listen to songs. “Beautiful” is very old. I made it last year.
“Don’t Get Lost”?
“Don’t Get Lost” was me talking to myself. Just looking into the mirror and seeing someone who is sad and letting him know that, you know, this is what is, really. You have to accept it and heal from the pain.
“Say No To Rape”?
There was a period earlier this year when so many people were coming out on social media and speaking up concerning rape. That period, I didn’t want to say anything because everybody was already speaking. There were some confusing tweets that I saw too. I saw one where somebody said something like ‘you are not even glad he liked your body enough to rape you’. And I’m like, how could somebody feel like this?
I spoke to a friend of mine a few days ago and he said we should always try to see life from the eyes of other people. So regardless of who you are, there must have been something that contributed to your school of thought, even if you are bad. So I was like, ‘how did this person get to the point where they felt like raping somebody was not a bad thing?’
So I wrote a verse and was about to write another one and I was like ‘Nah. I don’t want to do this alone’. So I hit Seyi and we did it together.
How does it all make sense to you at the end?
The people who listen. When I get feedback like, ‘this EP keeps me going‘, it helps me know that I’m fulfilling purpose. It would just be me making music if there were no feedbacks. But I get them – lot’s of them – and I’m grateful that God uses my music to bless people.