Tobi Lou's Live on Ice is a Marathon Debut of Telling Stylistic Range
Evan Dale // Aug 13, 2019
It’s not necessarily that Tobi Lou’s debut album, Live on Ice, has been a long time coming. The positivist star exploded from the bubbliest of hip-hop floorboards only over the past couple of years, bringing in tow a barrage of short, telling singles, projects, and music videos. In 2018, his trio of EP’s, Tobi Lou and the Moon, Tobi Lou and the Loop, and Tobi Lou and the Juice all brought with them a steadily refined sound and a wider audience. By the time 2019 came around, Tobi Lou went international. Now, he’s primed for stardom, consistently producing contagious yet humorous projects, always complimentedby his relatable antics and even further fueled by a trio of singles en route to the release of Live on Ice. Everyone in hip-hop has been waiting with bated breath. But, nobody would have expected that his debut would carry with it more tracks than his entire canon leading up to the point of release. Only including two singles from his 2019 run, and no inclusions from prior work, Live on Ice – at 21 tracks – is a marathon of brand-new music.
At first, its length might seem a bit out of place. How could a young hip-hop artist in the modern perfectionist era be sitting on so much content so early on in a career? But, when exploring his catalog and its ungodly prolificity, it’s not too hard to see that almost a year removed from any EP release Tobi Lou was always on pace to drop a monster debut.
Per length, there are probably some opportunities missed. A clever storyteller, Tobi Lou’s debut album could have been something of the fun-loving antithesis to a project like Good Kid m.A.A.d City where our protagonist lugs his audience on a vibrant story of his upbringing as a Chicago lover-boy and videogame nerd turned neon fashion youth hip-hop icon. And though something in such an arena would have done well to leave a substantial mark as a debut, perhaps that’s not what Tobi Lou has ever been after. Live on Ice is substantial – albeit for other reasons.
Foremost, it’s inviting of the kind of wide-reaching audience that has been defined by an affinity for everything from his bubble-rap charisma to his unmistakable humor to his potent lyricism. Tobi Lou is a man that wears many hats, so Live on Ice naturally turns many heads.
The sing-songy, emotion-ridden transcendentalist is the make of a modern rapper, carefully straddling eras of hip-hop and R&B influence while folding them into something altogether modern and largely new. The positivist explorations of hip-hop have, of course, always been around (eras were driven by The Sugarhill Gang, The Fresh Prince and Outkast) but only recently has the styling made a comeback and never has it been so popular. Thanks in large to fellow Chicagoan, Chance the Rapper, explorations of lovestruck art school dropouts – Chance, Kyle, Tobi Lou – trying to find their way are the definition of digestible mainstream hip-hop in 2019.
And Live on Ice is a keystone addition to that catalogue. Tobi Lou’s one-of-a-kind vocal delivery and affinity for existing in the world of his own animated reality leave Live on Ice aesthetically Nickelodeon. Bouncy, quirky keystrokes merge with heavy basslines on nearly every track, bringing to mind effervescent visions of Rugrat adventures and somber images of Hey Arnold’s neighborhood on a rainy day.
Lyrically, Live on Ice is a keen exploration into Tobi’s wide emotional expanse. Love, lust, family, and friends define the majority of his thematic discourse, inviting relatability into every step of its runtime. And in that ambiguous emotional relatability exists Tobi Lou’s genius as an everyman of positivist hip-hop and pop-consumable post genrefication. Live on Ice is exactly the kind of debut album he was always bound to release.