'Naturally, his live performances breathe to a sentiment where honest connection through music made for the everyday makes a day spent with Tobi Lou one of the best.
Evan Dale // Eric Laufer // Sep 23, 2019
Getting to the Larimer Lounge early proved to be a failed game plan. After a little rosé-driven tardiness at the pizza place next door, even arriving 20 minutes after doors opened left us pushed from the stage amidst a swarm of diehard fans ecstatic to see Tobi Lou. But dedication is the age-old sign of a great show, the Larimer Lounge is too intimate to have any bad viewing, and Tobi Lou was undoubtedly born to be an inclusive showman.
All things considered, the bubbly Chicago star on the rise is still relatively new to the game. His debut project, Live on Ice dropped this summer to much anticipation in the wake of constant single and EP releases over the past couple years. But even in consideration of his relative youth to the mainstream hip-hop circuit, the energy his following brings to a show is almost as charismatic and excitable as he is. There are few rappers more successful in delivering genuine positivity and relatability to their music but having the skillset and personality to convey that on stage is something else entirely difficult to achieve.
The atmosphere bubbled over with the intensity an intimate hip-hop show always should, but that intensity was being driven by a very different identity than what frequenters of hip-hop audiences are used to. There was no shoving. There were no fights. There were no mosh pits or aggressive reactions to those maneuvering the room. Instead, there were ‘excuse me’s’, collected conversations amongst strangers, and a whole of of dancing.
A lot of the energy was owed to Femdot. Another Chicago hip-hop artist, he began the show with conversational crowd connection rarely explored by an opening act. And he backed it up with lyrically-endowed bouts and anthemic choruses leaving the hall brimming with light and anticipation.
By the time Tobi Lou stepped out to an audience already chanting his name, it was electric. And that electricity, even during Tobi Lou’s ensuing series of uplifting monologues, never faltered. That dedication to our protagonist’s very presence did nothing but further affirm his showmanship – a necessary step – because if there were any questions about Tobi Lou live, they existed the arena of just how he would maneuver the depth of his canon. Live on Ice alone is 21-track marathon. Beyond it, three EP’s and numerable hit singles ensured that not everyone in the wide-ranging stylistic crowd would hear their favorite track that night. And for any performer, particularly one so new to touring, that’s an early hurdle to overcome.
But Tobi Lou didn’t stumble. Instead, he led his obsessive fanbase to positivist pandemonium where unending interaction, intimacy, and genuine connection left everyone in the room with the sense that they had just made a new friend. And it seemed as though Tobi Lou felt the same. In constant gratitude for the support, he delineated his appreciation for intimate venues when compared to his recent stint in the summertime festival circuit. And why wouldn’t he prefer a show like this one?
Tobi Lou’s music explodes with the kind of positivity and relatability that has made the antics of artists like Chance the Rapper, Skizzy Mars, and Dave B loveable beyond a traditional hip-hop audience. Naturally, his live performances breathe to that same sentiment where honest connection through music made for the everyday makes a day spent with Tobi Lou one of the best. The evening was mostly concert, but part comedy show; mostly hip-hop but part fun-loving dance-party. It was reflecting of Tobi Lou’s music which is already reflecting of his naturally laid-back, hilarious, and inviting demeanor. And that alone would have been enough.
But the audience – as is almost always the case with a low-production hip-hop show – is often what separates the great from the good. And a sold-out small hall so dedicated not only to the music, but to the underlying meaning behind Tobi Lou’s music, made for one of the most collectively enjoyable hip-hop shows possible.
It should be mentioned that Tobi Lou is amidst one of the biggest come-ups in hip-hop. Akin to artists like SAINt JHN and Cousin Stizz – not in stylistic lane, but in growth – Tobi Lou stands as one of hip-hop’s next generational leaders, grasping the bubble rap baton from Chance the Rapper and bringing his own take to the positivist, relatable lane. So, having the opportunity to see him at a particularly small venue is an opportunity that probably won’t be around for much longer. If you want to catch him in an environment more fitting of his approach than any other, you better do it soon.